This past week, Community Forward Fund CEO Derek Ballantyne had the opportunity to present a workshop at the Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) 2013 Conference in Winnipeg, which brought together 191 organizations from across Canada. The theme of the conference this year was “Inspiring Smart & Caring Communities,” and Derek’s presentation was an “Impact Investing Toolkit: From policy to deal flow.” We’ve asked Derek to share his thoughts on the workshop, and he was kind enough to oblige.
The CFC Conference is a highlight for me because it’s such a rich opportunity to meet with peers to explore common issues and stay on the cusp of innovations in our field. Not long ago Governor General David Johnston challenged Canadians to build and support initiatives to strengthen our communities, and CFC has taken that challenge as a rallying call. This challenge is an opportunity for community foundations to invest in social impact outcomes. I believe that the work of the Community Forward Fund is one of many critical elements in the development of a smarter, more efficient way of financing non-profit and charitable activities in the post-2008 economic environment. I was excited when CFC extended me an invitation to share that work at the conference.
I presented with three leaders in social investment whom I respect a great deal:
- Brian Toller, Community Foundation of Ottawa
- Paul Gibel, Hamilton Community Foundation
- Carman McNary, Edmonton Community Foundation
Our workshop was designed to walk the audience through the basics of the impact investment model from policy formation through to delivery. Each of us took a different tack to the central theme. I was particularly interested in Paul’s presentation on the Hamilton Community Foundation strategy to move over time, most of its multi-million dollar endowment into impact investing. As Ontario’s oldest community foundation, HCF’s shift away from traditional money management shows how the social finance movement is changing the way nonprofits can do business.
Brian and the Community Foundation of Ottawa are a valued partner of CFF, and his presentation concerned how CFO became aware of the opportunity we presented, and how they came to their decision to work with CFF to enhance their support of local charities through an initial million dollar commitment. The Edmonton Community Foundation has come independently to the same conclusion, and Carman walked the audience through the Foundation’s bold and innovative approach to structuring a new lending fund to accelerate impacts in that community
For my part, I wanted to emphasize to the audience that CFF is committed to making social finance accessible. Many organizations are very interested in the possibilities of triple bottom line investing (see our previous post), but they’re intimidated. They feel like they don’t have the resources or expertise to access this financing, or that there are too many provincial or national borders dividing them from investors. I talked about how loan funds like CFF make that possible, even for small organizations. We’re an intermediary who can be trusted, and we have a proven track record of targeting community organizations of all sizes, such as Centre3, the Elora Environment Centre and THEMUSEUM in Kitchener.
Among the audience, we had representation from across the spectrum; large, medium and small organizations, dedicated to arts, and social services, and the environment. The impression I got was that roughly half came in to the workshop already interested, and the others out of simple curiosity; it’s my hope the workshop was able to convert some of the latter camp! In any case, there was a lot of interest from the people we spoke to after the presentation, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Community Forward Fund ends up doing great work with some of them in the near future.