Complete Capital Initiatives
An Integrated Approach to Advance Social Solutions
In our era of greater need and increasingly uncertain resources, many of us in the social sector know that we need to bring all the resources we can muster to address the issues we care about. But our system and business structures are often too siloed to enable coordination. How can we bring resources together—whether tangible or intangible—to address the underlying causes of poverty or violence? And what resources do we need to promote solutions that last more than a few months or years?
Complete Capital is a framework for harnessing all the elements needed to promote sustainable social solutions. Most social change requires a combination of financial, intellectual, social, and human capital directed towards solving a problem. In practice, however, these elements are rarely coordinated in a systematic way. As a result, social solutions are often slower than necessary, difficult to replicate, and poorly understood.
In our Complete Capital Initiatives, we begin by asking what challenge we seek to address, rather than what tool, such as a grant or loan, we want to use. By organizing around a well-defined systemic or organizational problem, we can coordinate a comprehensive set of resources and capabilities.
We first work with mission-driven organizations, funders, social sector leaders, and other experts to identify a problem they seek to address. Applying our 30 years of financial and advisory experience, we then partner with multiple stakeholders to develop and deliver targeted services to a group of organizations or a community within a limited timeframe. Over the course of the Initiative, we track the practices and results to systematically capture what is and is not successful.
A Closer Look at the Four Components of Complete Capital
Financial Capital: Pooling the Right Kinds of Money
Most mission-driven organizations know that money isn't 'one size fits all': it's a combination of the amount, restrictions, terms, and availability—among many other factors. Yet no one financial investment or structure is multifaceted enough to address an organization's full spectrum of needs. The resources of a single funder acting alone may not always be sufficient to fully support an individual organization or solve a social problem. As a result, leaders struggle to cobble together multiple sources of funding, which adds to their management challenges and often leaves the needs of the underlying enterprise under-funded.
NFF provides a range of financial options, which include loans and grants, that can align funders and organizations around a shared financial strategy—ultimately a far more efficient use of limited resources. We also assemble different types of capital from a variety of sources, leveraging investments to maximize the impact beyond what a single grant or loan alone would be able to achieve.
Human Capital: Advice or Support from the Right People
Mission-driven organizations need people that have specific skills, combined with a passion for social good. On the program side, organizations know the human capital required to deliver services. Internal operations, however, are often constrained by lack of money and must be supplemented by consultants with specialized expertise in finance, communications, fundraising, research, and more. In Complete Capital Initiatives, we deliver and coordinate operations-related consultants that organizations need to overcome a specific business challenge. We also help staff develop new tools and skills so that they are able to sustain and enhance the work long after the Initiative is over.
Social Capital: Leveraging & Building the Right Networks
Success often requires changes beyond an organization's direct sphere of influence. But many organizations struggle to engage beyond their existing networks. To help develop new partnerships and share expertise, NFF facilitates conversations among stakeholders and organizes events (on and off-line) for organizations, community leaders, and funders. Grantees, funders, and stakeholders leave Initiatives with a shared understanding of the considerations and components to organizational success and collective impact.
Intellectual Capital: Understanding & Sharing What Works
Tracking the progress that participants make in realizing change is critical to evaluating the success of a Complete Capital Initiative. By capturing, analyzing, and sharing data with discipline and consistency, we are better able to recommend systemic improvements and replicate what works. In Complete Capital Initiatives, we also share what we learn with the public through articles, publications, online tools, webinars, conferences, and more.
What Does a Complete Capital Initiative Look Like?
Complete Capital Initiatives all aim to help stakeholders understand and initiate more comprehensive solutions. However, they come in many forms. In broader Initiatives, we partner with many organizations, stakeholders, funders, and community members. In deeper Initiatives, we develop long-term partnerships and engage clients over several years. There is no right size or structure. Every engagement is different depending on the challenge that is being targeted, the funding available, and the capacity of the different stakeholders. NFF's overarching goal is to leverage the successes and lessons we learn from these Initiatives, magnifying social impact by developing increasingly broad and deep engagements. Below are a few examples.
When grants are not enough:
creative alternatives to support healthy communities
In 2011, The California Endowment (TCE) initiated a 10-year, $1 billion Complete Capital program designed to improve health in 14 communities across the state. Built on a foundation of research and conversations with stakeholders in education, health care, poverty, and more, TCE's program provides grants to organizations working to improve employment opportunities, education, housing, neighborhood safety, environmental conditions, and access to healthy foods. The goal: to create places where children are healthy, safe and ready to learn.
From the outset, TCE sought to provide a spectrum of financing options that combined grants, program-related investments (PRIs), and a holistic set of advisory services intended to strengthen their grantees. NFF was selected to manage a portion of the multi-year PRI program, which aims to deploy up to $75 million over 10 years. In the early years of the Initiative's implementation, NFF and TCE staff observed that many of the grantees lacked the capacity to take on debt offered by the PRI program. In response, NFF is providing financial training and capacity building workshops to help grantees assess their own financial health, ability to take on debt, and long-range capitalization needs. TCE continues to dynamically evolve the structure and scope of their program in response to the needs of both grantees and the communities they serve.
the under-recognized sparks of community revitalization
There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the US. More than 70% have budgets under $500,000. These small organizations – community centers, creative outlets, and sources of food, shelter, and clothing – are an extremely influential and often overlooked force for social impact, particularly at the local level. They are also the first to falter in times of economic crisis. To address this unique challenge, NFF developed the Capital & Capacity for Economic Recovery (CCER) Initiative, specifically designed to aid small nonprofits working to promote economic development in the Greater Philadelphia area. Funded by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the program provided grants, advisory services, and financial training to a cohort of 22 grassroots and community organizations working towards neighborhood revitalization, job training, homeless services, and more.
As a result of CCER, participating leaders' financial skills rose dramatically. In a survey of program participants, the percentage who reported fluency in using financial statements and planning tools increased from 23% to 77%, and the percentage of respondents able to articulate their financial and resource needs to supporters jumped from 27% to 86%. NFF continues to refine what we learned from the CCER Initiative through publications, articles, and incorporation of its lessons into our Advisory practices. To learn more about the CCER program, click here.
Helping performing arts organizations evolve in an era of change
Funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Leading for the Future initiative set out to help 10 artistically outstanding performing arts organizations strengthen their business in a shifting environment. NFF provided grants and advisory services to help each organization change in response to environmental challenges, such as the erosionof audience and the impact of technology on live performance, while developing models of sustainability that can be used by arts organizations nationwide. Each participant had access to up to $1 million of Change Capital, a type of capital designed to help organizationsimplement transformative change while planning for long-term financial sustainability. Participants, funders, and consultants also took part in events and other opportunities for networking and information exchange.
In addition to clear evidence of both programmatic and financial success for the participants, this first national experiment in applying NFF's principles around Change Capital has resulted in a rich center of knowledge about the ways our sector can overcome mis-capitalization. Beyond publications, webinars, and other content, the Initiative has contributed to fundamental changes in NFF's Advisory practices. In future Initiatives and our ongoing work, we hope to build on these lessons and change both nonprofit and grantmaking practices in the field at large. To learn more about LFF, click here.