ECMC Foundation’s program-related investment portfolio makes catalytic investments into nonprofit and for-profit ventures that seek to generate both social impact and financial returns.
Spotlight: How PRIs Can Accelerate Equity-Driven Solutions
Nonprofits and other engines for social good need resources to put their ideas into action. Grants have long been the primary tool for those seeking funding for their work, but as the scope of the change we need widens, philanthropy needs more tools at its disposal to seed and support equity-driven solutions.
Since 2018, ECMC Foundation has deployed nearly $12 million in program-related investments (PRIs) to complement our grantmaking in College Success and Career Readiness. These Education Innovation Ventures (EIV) investments have allowed the Foundation to tap into the creative power of nonprofit and for-profit companies working on college persistence and success, alternative postsecondary education financing, career exploration, upskilling and training, and equitable hiring initiatives.
Changemakers with ideas that can most effectively address inequities are often closest to the issues, but furthest from the capital needed to address them. More often than not, the promising solutions that go underfunded are led by women and people of color. Although equity-driven investments have always been part of EIV’s approach, our investments in recent years reflect an even more intentional and explicit focus on solutions driven by women and people of color.
EIV investee Ruthless for Good Fund invests in founders of color and women who have innovative ideas to improve higher education and the workforce. The Fund specifically seeds entrepreneurs with lived experiences who intimately understand the root causes of the problems they aim to address. By providing patient, long-term capital to early-stage, mission-driven ventures that have limited access to outside capital, PRIs not only fill a void in the market, but they can also realign the market to advance equity.
PRIs can also supercharge the impact of our partners by providing project-needed resources that would otherwise be hard to come by. Through our investee HBCU Brilliance Fund, a project of the nonprofit CDFI Reinvestment Fund, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) can receive loans for campus improvements as well as other investments that enable their growth and sustainability. HBCUs have long been underserved by philanthropy, government, banks and other private lenders—a history that continues to affect access to needed capital. The HBCU Brilliance Fund opens up access to capital for the kind of improvements that sustain the future health of these important institutions.
ECMC Foundation has seen how the higher education and workforce sectors are deploying new tools to meet this moment of transformative change. Through PRIs, ECMC Foundation is expanding its own toolbox to advance equitable solutions that benefit us all.