My move to New York City for the summer introduced me to new sights, amazing events, and adventures everyday. From one bustling hub to another, I soon embraced the fast-paced energy around me.
But everyday I also bore witness to issues, challenges, and injustices of a caliber I had never seen before. For a city that boasts the glitz and glamour of go-getters, it harbors extreme, deep-seated poverty. I was inspired to learn what is being done, what isn’t being done, and what I could do differently to make an impact. Inspiring Capital gave me the chance and resources to do something of consequence this summer.
I was linked to Inspiring Capital through fellow Davidson wildcat Alex Hanken ’12, their Strategy and Operations Associate. Inspiring Capital supports long-term sustainability within nonprofits by being both purpose-and-profit-driven. They pair top MBA candidates and undergraduate students to consult for nonprofit clients throughout the country. Throughout the summer, the Inspiring Capital team also hosts training sessions and welcomes an impressive rotation of speakers from across the social impact sector. Earlier this summer, we heard from Youth INC, Robin Hood Foundation, and Davidson graduate Morgan Tarrant ’13 from Bloomberg’s ESG Data Division. We investigate social enterprise models and strategies, impact investing, and entrepreneurial finances. In this training space, we learn, debate, and further develop what it means for an organization to make an impact, which we then translate into our client-projects.
I am fortunate enough to have been paired with the Greyston Foundation, located in Southwest Yonkers. Greyston is the country’s leading social enterprise since 1982, providing low income individuals and families with job opportunities and support services. Through the practice of Open Hiring™, Greyston employs individuals, regardless of background or work experience, to make brownies at their bakery. Greyston’s successes are unmistakable: producing 4.6 million pounds of brownies for Whole Foods and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, earning $13.4 million in sales, and employing 144 individuals. Greyston provides green spaces and nutrition education through their community gardens; affordable housing and treatment for homeless individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS; early education in their Childcare Center; and job training and workforce development. Their core competencies are far and wide, as they find the best ways to reach underserved populations, yet they face an interesting challenge.
The social sector has evolved, and funders want to see an organization’s impact reported in a concise, quantifiable way. My team was charged with creating a framework for Greyston to analyze the impact of its support programs (housing, childcare, community gardens, and workforce development).
This process has been particularly interesting to me, as my previous experience in the social sector focused exclusively in fundraising and advocacy. With my non-profit projects on Davidson’s campus, I always considered impact in anecdotes rather than in metrics. I raised money and awareness for a good cause, and that’s what I reported out on. I know now that mindset is not sustainable, especially with nonprofits that need funding. Organizations like Greyston, who are finding solutions to complex problems of poverty, need to understand and share their impact in a standardized way, to improve current and inspire future success within the sector.
I thought that at the close of program I would reach a conclusion as to which kind of social impact is most effective. Instead, Inspiring Capital has introduced me to many different impact opportunities in New York and inspired me to continue exploring change-making processes. When I return to Davidson this fall, it will be with a more nuanced understanding of my strengths as a change-maker and with fresh ideas about how I can work with nonprofits and other social enterprises moving forward.
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