As founding director of a non-profit in the Middle East, I learned a lot of lessons. But one of the most important was that money is not enough. It takes so much more than funding to establish an effective organization capable of making sustainable change. The connections we got through our founder’s network of friends, family, and colleagues, advice and training from a wide range of partners, and especially the incredible energy and talent of our local and international staff were invaluable ingredients of our success. Unfortunately, it was a lack of financial capital that held us back from replicating our proven model at the rate I would have liked to in difficult communities around the Middle East.
Motivated by this experience, I enrolled in an MBA program to learn more about how established finance tools could be applied to non-profit (or ‘for benefit’) ventures to help them grow once they’ve identified a model that works. Indeed some are already being used in creative ways, such as social impact bonds (in the UK first, and more recently launched by Goldman Sachs in partnership with the city of New York and factoring funds. At Columbia and London Business Schools, I studied strategy, organizational design, entrepreneurship, and marketing as well as finance, knowing that money’s not enough.
Antony Bugg-Levine’s piece in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (Winter 2013) captures the perspective I’ve developed through experience and study. He defines complete capital as "a framework for recognizing the complete set of perspectives and capabilities required to address complex social challenges." The four components of complete capital are financial, intellectual, social, and human resources that are each integral parts of any effective solution, including socially minded ventures looking to improve their community in one or several dimensions.
Such a holistic approach to supporting ventures is exactly the strategy taken by the most successful venture capital and private equity firms to create value in their portfolio companies. It is the work that I’m passionate about doing to help socially minded increase their performance and reach. And so, my firm, Inspiring Capital, engages partners who recognize the benefits (and costs) of this approach and are willing to invest in as many of the four dimensions as they can, providing their money, expertise, connections, and talent. In this way, we cultivate ventures that improve their communities while also generating financial returns to reward the people who make the work possible, whether staff, advisors, or investors, enough to keep them productive and engaged.