Echoing Green's Impact Investing program stems from our long history of selecting, seeding, and supporting social entrepreneurs. In 2011 we began providing recoverable grants to Global Fellows with for-profit business models in order to recycle investment capital from their ventures to support future generations of social entrepreneurs.
"Impact investments are investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. Impact investments can be made in both emerging and developed markets, and target a range of returns from below-market to above-market rates, depending upon the circumstances." Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN)
Our network of search partners aids us in attracting an average of 3,000 applicants per year. Each application is read by our staff, sector and regional experts, investors, and established Fellows from previous years. Using our Fellow selection criteria, which prioritize applicants with transformative social impact potential, we choose less than 2 percent to become Echoing Green Fellows each June. We select for an entrepreneur's leadership ability and dedication to the issues being addressed, combined with business model feasibility.
While nonprofit Fellows are awarded grants, for-profit Global Fellows receive recoverable grants, which are designed to be risk tolerant and inexpensive capital. As these Fellows' businesses achieve certain valuation or revenue thresholds, it triggers payback. If the organization does not hit the thresholds, then they do not pay us back. These conversions only occur when the resulting dilutive impact on the organization is around 1 percent.
The Social Entrepreneurs' Fund (TSEF), which has bought the recoverable grants from us since 2011, was established by impact investors aligned with Echoing Green's mission to support the growth of mission-driven organizations. TSEF is a separate legal entity that also provides follow-on impact investment to Fellows and other early stage for-profit social entrepreneurs.
Communicating the Need
Echoing Green is one of the few seed funders for social enterprises. Through regional site visits and thought leadership, we are spreading urgency around this lack of appropriate capital, and are encouraging others to join us and also provide follow-on investment.
Contributing Data & Knowledge
We're sharing what we've learned from our over twenty-five year track record of finding, selecting, and supporting successful social entrepreneurs. By contributing Fellows' funding stories, applicant trends, and innovative models of seed-stage investment, we hope to inform and increase the flow of early stage impact capital.
Connecting with Stakeholders
We're connecting with impact investors and stakeholders around the world to increase our ability to help Fellows seeking or receiving impact investments. The impact investment market is fragmented, so we invite impact investors into the Echoing Green community to learn about and collaborate on emerging investment opportunities, challenges, and trends.
Our Snapshot of 2015 For-Profit and Hybrid Applications offers a glimpse into emerging trends in our social enterprise applications. Please view the 2014 Snapshot of For-Profit and Hybrid Applications here.
This set of profiles illustrates how for-profit, nonprofit, and hybrid social enterprises have secured seed and early stage philanthropic and investment capital to build their organizations—including advice and perspectives on fundraising, negotiating, and blending capital from the entrepreneurs and funders.
This article was published by Cheryl Dorsey and Min Pease on the Skoll World Forum blog.
Trends in Seed-Stage Social Entrepreneurship: The Importance of Investing in Emerging Social Entrepreneurs to Build Family Economic Security
This essay was published by Cheryl Dorsey and Min Pease as part of Aspen Institute's Bottom Line: Impact Investing for Economic Mobility in the U.S. Report.
This article was co-authored by Echoing Green and researchers from Harvard Business School as part of the first large-scale quantitative study of early-stage social entrepreneurs.