Prosperity, Sisterhood, and Honeybees

Two years ago, in my work as founder of Honeybee Capital, I was trying to describe investing that is truly connected to the world, to the people, to the products and entities that provide meaning and value to our communities. The language I needed was elusive. I examined terms used in the various “integrated health” indices for economies, but Gross National Happiness, while a great broadening from Gross National Product, did not quite hit the mark. Sustainability is also a wonderful term, but I was aiming to describe something even more than that. A type of investing that is regenerative and renewing, thoughtful and full of (dare I say it?) joy.

Prosperity – that is the word that truly describes what I sought.prosperity_opportunities This is a term with both depth and breadth. Prosperity is defined as “to thrive or succeed in a healthy way.” That little word “healthy” is so important – it nods to a more complete view of success, one that includes physical, mental, emotional, and economic well-being; one that extends beyond the individual to include whole families and whole communities. Another layer of meaning is found in the root words – Latin terms for “hope” and “fortune” are, quite literally, the roots of prosperity. So Prosperity is success, yes – but it’s healthy success, broad-based and full of hope.

It was right around this time that I met Prosperity Catalyst, the nonprofit, and Prosperity Candle, the sister enterprise that serves as product marketing specialist. Siiri Morley, the Executive Director, presented to the Pipeline Fellowship, a women’s angel investor training network, where I was a member. So right from the start, we were united by the idea of women helping other women. Actually, much more than that – women investing in other women, and in their prosperity.

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Prosperity Catalyst does not come by its name lightly – it earns that name every day, in the work of all who are connected with the group. The organization trains women to run their own businesses. Prosperity Candle, the sister organization, provides the direct link to the market for the Catalyst’s women to sell their creations, ensuring that all of that training and production is both useful and use-able. With this model, Prosperity links locally-focused training and business leadership to broader global markets. This is not an isolated process of training for training’s sake, but a strategy that melds strategic and tactical. Plus, the candles are so beautiful! Siiri and her team helped me to plan the first-ever corporate gift for Honeybee Capital, a beautiful beeswax candle.

The light from those candles is lovely, steady and clear – but it is nothing compared to another sort of light I see coming from Prosperity Catalyst. The most important element I have come to appreciate in this organization is a subtle one: it’s how their program and the people involved are modeling leadership in a powerful and different way. Siiri and the entire Prosperity Catalyst team demonstrate leadership that is bold and attention-grabbing – while also service-oriented and nuanced. They are effective and efficient – and still deeply human. They are determined and devoted – while embracing flexibility and creativity. This is the kind of leadership I want to see in the world.

For all of these reasons, I am delighted to be able to support Prosperity Catalyst. I hope you will join me.

katherineKatherine Collins is Founder and CEO of Honeybee Capital, and author of the forthcoming book, The Nature of Investing.  After a long and successful career in traditional equity management, Katherine set out to integrate her investment philosophy with the broader world by traveling as a pilgrim and volunteer, earning her MTS degree at Harvard Divinity School, and studying the natural world as guide for investing to add value in an integrated way, beneficial to our portfolios, to our communities, and to our planet.  

See more about Katherine’s work at www.honeybeecapital.com or follow her on Twitter @honeybeecap.

 

Our Young Selves: Learning, Serving and Celebrating

With the new school year approaching, I’m thinking about fresh starts—for my 15-year-old daughter and for me. She and her peers seem interested in volunteering, but I wonder if it’s more about building a college résumé than offering community service. A study last year reports that the Millennial generation (roughly ages 18-29) actually volunteers and donates more than any previous one. The trick is connecting a young person to a community need that resonates, prompting a lifetime of service and an enthusiasm for giving back.

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The Young Woman’s Guide is a nice start. Aimed at women and girls ages 15-35, YWG provides educational opportunities, partners mentors/mentees, and works on a global scale. I also love DoSomething.org, a site devoted to helping those 25 or younger (nearly 2 million at last count) to “kick ass on causes they care about.” (If, like me, you’re “old” by their standards, their Old People FAQ gives us some ageless guidance on how to start volunteering.)

A recent Women 2.0 article underscores the urgency of training young women to give, contribute, and lead. Now at 40% ownership, women are anticipated to launch a full 50% of the 9.72 million new businesses expected in the U.S. by 2018. That’s just five years from now. Maybe my daughter won’t be thinking about finding a job but, rather, becoming one of the many women creating a company of her own.

These are exciting times for women, young and “old” (ahem, over 26).

 

Young Women Funding Social Impact

Catalytic Women gathered in San Francisco in June to hear three experts talk about engaging younger women who are defining their own ways of giving back. While I may not be of this generation, it was such a treat to hear from them and to feel their energy. This is my favoriate audience for our work – the enthusiasm, creativity and optimism is absolutely infectious.

Our panelists were, likewise, three dynamic young women:

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Lana Volftsun

Lana made clear some of the obstacles for giving that younger donors face:

  1. Affordability. So many images of “philanthropy” are of older donors, often men, making very large gifts. This is ironic for 3 reasons: women make most giving decisions; the cumulative impact of individuals giving at modest levels now can be so much more significant than a single, large legacy gift; and few of us see ourselves as able to make million dollar donations.
  2. Knowledge. With over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S., thinking about finding the best fit is downright daunting. It can be hard to know where to start.
  3. Impact. We all want to know that our dollars, at whatever level of giving, make a difference. Sounds so simple, but it’s not.
Erin Geiger

Erin Geiger

I’m a big fan of the “dumb question” – I find it opens dialogue by making it OK for others to admit not knowing it all. Erin answered mine: What is the definition of a Millennial? And, as expected, lots of others jumped in to ask their own questions. None were dumb.

Millennials are between 18 and 25 years old. Next Gen seems to have a broader interpretation, including Gen X and Gen Y. Panelists agreed that these latter tags relate more to life experience and association than to quantitative standards.

We heard other illuminating answers to words commonly used in discussing social impact. Not surprisingly, these answers led to some of the vehicles that young women are using to engage as donors and social investors.

  • Microfinance is a platform, a portal, between those of us interested in making smaller gifts (or loans) and those living in poverty without access to banks and traditional financial resources.
  • Crowdfunding is an online platform where many people can support a single project.
  • A giving circle is the reverse: a group where many people work collaboratively to find one or several organizations to support.
  • Impact investing creates both a return on investment (ROI) and a positive social and/or environmental impact.
  • Impact considers a company or organization’s ability to create positive benefits that are social (e.g. provide jobs or affordable housing) or environmental (such as sustainable land use or clean energy).

Affordability

Leigh Moran

Leigh Moran

Leigh shared Calvert Foundation’s philosophy of changing the way that capital flows: it is not mutually exclusive to raise money from investors and to deploy it for social impact across the global. Their Community Investment Note allows an individual to invest as little as $20 in creating a financial and social return.

One Percent Foundation has the goal of mobilizing Millennials to give just that: 1% of their income. This September they will launch new giving circles – and Catalytic Women is excited to be partnering with them.

Knowledge

Younger donors aren’t the only ones struggling with learning about options for impact and building financial confidence in how to fund change in the world around us. As Leigh put it, one of their goals is for Millennials to see themselves as investors. By offering ways to invest in causes that are a person’s passion, through initiatives like WIN_WIN_RGB_2inches-1Women Investing in Women (WIN-WIN) and Engaging Diaspora Communities, Calvert Foundation is exploring ways to engage some of the largest groups of potential funders: young adults, diaspora communities with a common origin in a geographic region, and women.

Camp Start Up, Kiva’s summer program launched this year in partnership with Independent Means, provides financial education to young adults and inspires social entrepreneurship. At either end of the spectrum – extreme poverty or extreme wealth – it can be difficult to discuss money.

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DoSomething.org is the largest network in the U.S. educating and mobilizing teens for social impact. Why wait until we feel that we have enough to give? All the better if we can start that education earlier (or, in my case, help my daughter build her financial confidence and impact).

Impact

One participate asked, If an investment can be made in either a nonprofit or for-profit enterprise, what’s the difference between an investment and a donation? As more giirs-logohybrid options become available, this line seems to blur. Perhaps the larger question is, does it matter? Yet the metrics used to evaluate social impact, such as Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS) and IRIS, are a good place for us to create awareness about impact in any kind of funding for social change.

Storytelling is a powerful way to engage and create impact. One young woman told of a call from her alma mater telling her she was a VIP among alumni donors. She wondered how this could be, with the modest amount that she gave. Yet others were giving less; to them, she was an example of action and impact.

Act

How can young women fund social impact? Their options are available to us all. Here were some of the many possibilities that emerged from the conversation with our experts:

  1. Invest a small amount and get hooked. Put as little as $20 into a Community Investment Note through Calvert Foundation or take $25 to start a lending team with Kiva.
  2. Tell your story. Even better if you tell your story in your own voice – take a video on your phone and post it to Facebook or LinkedIn.
  3. Connect with others around giving. Join a giving circle to meet other women who give, or bring a giving circle – like One Percent Foundation or Catalytic Women’s giving circles – to another group, like a professional network.

Catalytic Women has resources on all the above. Just email me at melanie@catalyticwomen.com and we’ll point you in the right direction for making your own, personal impact in your own way.