The Longtime Community Impact team leader will transition to the Investments team to support new investment portfolio project.
Carrie Jo Short will soon be taking on a new role at the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation. After serving as a member of our Community Impact team for nearly 30 years (the later as a leader), she will be joining our Investments team as Director of Community & Impact Investing.
While this may seem like a drastic career change, Carrie Jo has been working with the Investments team for years to create financial growth opportunities for nonprofits.
We recently sat down with Carrie Jo and Chief Investment Officer Shannon O’Leary to discuss Carrie Jo’s new position, what it means for donors and nonprofits, as well as what it means for the future of the Foundation’s work.
What led to the creation of this new role for Carrie Jo?
Shannon: It started with F. R. Bigelow Foundation's mission-aligned impact investment portfolio, which Carrie Jo has been a part of since the beginning.
Donors, particularly younger donors, really want to see their assets being invested in not just a socially responsible way, they want to see how their investment assets drive returns that can complement their grantmaking goals. We want to be more intentional and active in identifying those opportunities for specific organizations, so Carrie Jo’s new job is to come to the Investments team and help us develop a thoughtful, equitable program where we're using our investment assets to enhance the grantmaking work in a much more intentional way to support community.
Carrie Jo: We’re looking at how we can bring all of our assets and resources to the community. I’m really excited to formalize and create structure around some things that I have been doing more informally for years with below-market-rate loans to nonprofits.
Why is it important to be more intentional about this work?
Shannon: We see a very strong partnership between this work and the Community Impact team as they work on adjusting how we think about doing grantmaking in a more impactful way. There are often organizations that come to us and apply for say a $50,000 grant but sometimes the right solution for that nonprofit isn't a grant. Maybe it’s a $50,000 grant and a $500,000 loan that gets them to a scale where they can attract funding from much larger nonprofits than the community foundation.
How else do you think the work of the Community Impact team will tie into the Investments team’s work?
Carrie Jo: I've worked on the grantmaking side of our work for nearly 30 years now. If we could grant ourselves out of the issues that our community faces, we would have done it a long time ago.
We'd like to make sure that access isn’t limited to folks who happen to have a more sophisticated understanding of how money can work coming out of the Foundation or have the right connections, confidence and comfort picking up the phone to say, ‘you know, we've got this opportunity, will you help us?’ We have yet to figure out a way to broadly get equitable access, and that’s a large part of this vision.
Shannon: The Foundation wears two hats. We’re a grantmaking organization, and we’re also an investment organization. With Carrie Jo’s added expertise, we’re working on a project to deploy catalytic capital that will be designed to address the social capital gap.
What is catalytic capital?
Shannon: We envision catalytic capital as a new portfolio of investments in the community. It’s looking at creating a triple bottom line, which is strong financial returns, strong community impact and enhancing the grantmaking that we're doing.
What we're trying to do with our catalytic capital project is make those things all work together, more efficiently. A grant is an investment. It is an investment in community and its return is 100% social return. A low interest rate loan is also an investment. It is an investment in community for a social purpose, but it's also a financial investment because we anticipate the return of those dollars with a low interest rate. And, as we have already learned with our existing work in impact investing, we can drive strong market-rate portfolio returns that also have material social benefits in the community.
Carrie Jo, what do you think you'll miss about your previous role as you step into this new one?
Carrie Jo: I don't think I'll be missing anything because I'll get to keep the best and most gratifying part of the work I do and continue to have a grantmaking portfolio in addition to figuring out how to engage the rest of our grantmaking team in this new work. I'll still work with many nonprofits because they are often the most likely to be able to be in a position to receive dollars like this, and then do good work in the community.
What are you most excited about doing in your new role?
Carrie Jo: Believe it or not, at some point, I'm going to move beyond my full-time paid employment with the Foundation. I want to take the learning, knowledge and experience that I've gained over these years and pull them all together into something that can be leveraged for the benefit of community.
It's like a perfect alignment of the planets to be able to design this new community investment resource and create something that will be beautiful and powerful for this community that knits perfectly into our new strategic plan.
What do you think this work means for the future of the Foundation?
Shannon: We’ve had a great opportunity to learn and experiment with competitive and financial return investments that also have a social return. We want to have our money go out, earn a return that can sustain a 5% spending policy and offset inflation over the long term, while still achieving that social return.
What we’ve learned with the F. R. Bigelow Foundation portfolio is that we can do all those things and when we do them together, the end result can be tremendously powerful for the nonprofits and our community more broadly.
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