While community foundations are traditionally known for grantmaking to nonprofit organizations, The Columbus Foundation also utilizes low-interest, flexible loans to provide catalytic capital to projects that benefit the community. Often referred to as social impact investing, it’s a promising tool that carries two objectives: to create social impact and to generate financial returns on the capital invested, with the hope of redeploying funds into new investments. Unlike most traditional grants that generate a social return but no financial return, impact investing is designed to achieve both.
“We are committed to using innovative vehicles to invest in projects and initiatives that positively impact our community,” said Douglas F. Kridler, President and CEO of The Columbus Foundation.
CCAD’s Welcome Center and design studios, located on the corner of Broad Street and Cleveland Avenue.
One of The Columbus Foundation’s earliest social impact investments was a $3.43 million loan to the Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) to help fund the acquisition of the former Byers Building in downtown Columbus. The building, located on the corner of Broad Street and Cleveland Avenue, now houses the CCAD Welcome Center and design studios, providing CCAD with a prominent public presence and an inspiring creative space for students, faculty, and staff.
Similarly, The Columbus Foundation provided a $2 million low-interest loan to Campus Partners for Community Urban Redevelopment for the restoration and renovation of a collection of vacant buildings, now known as Grant Commons, in Weinland Park. Through the loan, The Columbus Foundation provided support to help with the overhaul of 23 buildings—more than 90 units total—along East 11th Avenue from Grant Avenue to North Fourth Street. The collaborative effort brought back to life a group of historic buildings that had long been forgotten, creating a fresh new gateway to Weinland Park.
Regardless of the vehicle through which impact investments are made, social impact investing has become an increasingly important philanthropic tool for community foundations. As Chris Donovan, JD, CFRE, CAP®, Associate Director for Donor Services at The Columbus Foundation, shared, the Foundation is exploring additional ways to expand its impact investment offerings, including options that directly engage donors.
“By helping close financing gaps, social impact investing has the power to help organizations seed, scale, and sustain projects that support our region,” said Donovan. “The Columbus Foundation looks forward to continuing to work alongside our donors to ensure that their charitable giving is doing the most good in our community, whether through traditional grantmaking, impact investing, or other ways of giving.”