Community Wealth Blog

When you hear the word “investor,” what do you picture?

When I ask most people this question, they describe a white man in a suit (or, if in Silicon Valley, maybe khakis and a button down shirt) in a fancy office spending every work day combing through pitch decks, executive summaries, and due diligence and barking tough questions at terrified entrepreneurs.

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A new report by Mary Ann Beyster, president and trustee of the Foundation for Enterprise Development (FED), published by the Fifty by Fifty initiative of The Democracy Collaborative, examines the investing landscape for potential opportunities in employee ownership. The report, Impact Investing and Employee Ownership, reports on the results from six months of research, showing that the opportunities for impact investors to support employee ownership are limited, but that an investing infrastructure is beginning to emerge across asset classes. 

I started helping mission-driven entrepreneurs raise capital almost ten years ago.  My clients have collectively raised almost $20 million, with amounts ranging from $150,000 to $4 million.

About two years ago, I was compiling a list of the clients that I had helped to raise money.  At that time, I could honestly say that every client that I had worked through the whole process with (i.e. if I excluded those that changed their minds and didn’t complete the process) had met their fundraising goals.  Some took longer than others, but all of them had eventually reached their goals.

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Read more and see pictures from our event Advancing the Anchor Mission of Healtcare, hosted on December 12th and 13th in Washington, DC. The convening brought together health system leaders to reimagine the role of healthcare in creating community health and well-being. 

The Democracy Collaborative today introduced the second in a toolkit series Hospitals Aligned for Healthy Communities, to help health systems use their hiring, purchasing and investing power to improve the health and well-being of underserved communities and communities of color.

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Want to use Conversations on Community Wealth Building in a reading group?  Want to give a copy to every member of your city council or your credit union's board?  We're making five-packs of our new book collecting a decade's worth of interviews with key community wealth leaders available at a discounted rate of 35% off the cover price:

Order now

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The worker-owners of Real Pickles in Massachusetts raised $500,000 through a direct public offering (DPO)—a fundraising vehicle similar to an initial public offering in that a business can advertise the offering openly and can accept non-wealthy investors. However, DPOs require substantially less in legal costs, are targeted at stakeholders such as customers and neighbors, and are able to raise up to $1 million.

Pioneering the sale of preferred shares to impact investors, the 120-member worker-cooperative Equal Exchange has been able to raise $16 million. Preferred shares are a form of equity with limited voting rights; the stock price does not rise over time and investors instead enjoy a stream of dividends. Read more in this excerpt from our report, Strategies for Financing the Inclusive Economy.

In March 2015, the Brooklyn-based online handicrafts marketplace Etsy became the largest certified B Corporation to sell shares in an IPO; it is one of only a few to do so. Etsy raised $267 million.

The Democracy Collaborative report, Strategies for Financing the Inclusive Economy, illustrates how the New Belgium Brewing Company took a significant step toward remaining independent, toward sharing wealth with employees—and toward sparking a trend among other craft brewers.

Here at the Democracy Collaborative, we were incredibly excited when the Movement For Black Lives announced their policy agenda last month, underscoring the need to develop real systemic solutions to the drivers of systemic racial inequality in America (and honored to see that our work on building more inclusive local economies had found its way into a few pieces of this collaborative mosaic of transformative policies assembled by an incredible nationwide team of scholars, activists, and policy advocates). After studying and discussing the program internally, The Democracy Collaborative has decided as an organization to formally endorse the M4BL policy platform, not because we necessarily agree with every single detail of every recommendation, but because we believe it is an important contribution to a vital national conversation, and should be a key starting point in the urgently needed efforts to find policy solutions that address both the police violence inflicted with tragic regularity on too many individual Black lives, and the larger systemic violence inflicted on Black communities by an inequitable economic system. Below, our Community Development Associate Nicole Brown delves deeper into the structure and significance of the M4BL agenda and its connections to our work.
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