Wisconsin foundations, faith-based investors and socially-motivated funds and individuals have been among the nation’s leaders in impact investing, including through investments in the state’s strong Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), such as Invest in Wisconsin funds that target capital to underserved communities and populations. Examples of Wisconsin’ leadership include:
Bader Philanthropies long made program-related investments in Milwaukee communities and helped to launch Generation Growth Capital, an African American-led private equity fund that invests to strengthen regional businesses, support new owners of color and retain community jobs when original founders retire.
Greater Milwaukee Foundation has spearheaded a program of lending to support small and growth businesses including investing through catalytic neighborhood real estate projects, such as the Sherman Phoenix, a model for healing a city through positive economic and social returns in communities of color. It is partnering with Alchemy Angel Investors and others to increase access to capital for growth businesses led by entrepreneurs of color.
Incourage has committed to aligning 100% of its assets to its mission of co-creating an inclusive, adaptive and sustainable community. Incourage’s investment in Wisconsin Rapids’ Tribune building spearheaded a resident-driven community accelerator that will house the Partnership for Sustainable Communities through a partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Incourage created the Wisconsin Shared Stewardship Equities Fund (WSSEF), which invests in companies headquartered in the state or employing Wisconsin workers. An active owner, Incourage votes proxies and engages with WSSEF companies to promote positive environmental, social and governance practices.
Wisconsin’s Faith-Based Investors were early leaders of community investing and shareholder advocacy (see below).
Socially Motivated Individual Investors spearheaded the creation of many of Wisconsin’s CDFIs, which later attracted regional and national bank, corporate, foundation and faith-based investors.
Wisconsin has 22 CDFIs across the state, whose lending activities reach every county. Source: Invest in Wisconsin
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
Leveraging grants and loans, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) provide financing and technical assistance for small business development, affordable housing, healthcare, and other community development projects.
With the help of local Impact Investors, Wisconsin’s CDFIs have provided over $2 billion in loans since 2005, often to low-to moderate income households, small businesses, affordable housing developers and non-profit organizations providing a range of health, education and human services, as well as environmental preservation and cultural activities.
INCUBATORS AND COMMUNITY ACCELERATORS
Accelerators offer a springboard for emerging entrepreneurs and increase local job opportunities, innovation, and economic development.
In Milwaukee, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation helped develop the Sherman Phoenix – a high-quality space for small businesses-of-color offering diverse foods, wellness services and cultural activities.
In partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Incourage is developing the Tribune building to house regional environmental sustainability, entrepreneurial, maker and community activities for local benefit.
In partnership with American Family Insurance, gener8tor has launched several accelerator programs, including gBeta Social Impact in Madison to provide a platform for emerging nonprofits and for-profit companies with a social impact focus.
A view of the interior working space at the Sherman Phoenix building.
The exterior design for Incourage’s Tribune Building
SHAREHOLDER ENGAGEMENT AND CORPORATE COMMUNITY STEWARDSHIP
Investors across Wisconsin have leveraged their investments to support mission-aligned businesses and engage companies that impact Wisconsin communities.
Incourage is working with leading partners to build a national coalition of place-based investors that engage with publicly traded corporations to ensure responsible business practices at the community level.
The Oneida Nation leveraged more than $60 million in assets to exert influence over companies impacting the land, equal employment opportunities, and other environmental concerns effecting tribal lands in Wisconsin.
Faith-based communities are leveraging their assets to support companies and movements that align with their values and priorities.
Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment has been a trailblazer in working with corporations to ensure that stakeholder as well as shareholder interests are protected. While grounded in the values of Seventh Generation’s member organizations, the work also stems from a practical conviction that business leaders who choose to serve the common good build more profitable businesses over the long-term.
Through its members, the Wisconsin Council of Churches has invested $480,000 to Community Development Financial Institutions across the state.