The Fortune Society: Building Better Futures Through An Innovative Approach to Housing Development Opportunities

PRESS RELEASE – Organization teams up with FJC to create a Donor Advised Fund to support new supportive housing developments in New York City

Finding housing options to support the successful reentry of formerly incarcerated people back into society is no easy task. Homelessness remains a significant challenge for those coming out of prison and jail – especially here in New York City.

That’s why The Fortune Society, a nonprofit organization that empowers homeless, formerly incarcerated individuals and their families to build better futures through supportive and affordable housing, is working together with FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds (FJC) – to create a fund that will enable The Fortune Society to initiate these complex housing development projects.

For more information on this initiative, please visit our FAQ page.

The initiative bridges people across a vast array of inequality – some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers and New Yorkers whose wealth allows them to set aside funds specifically for philanthropic purposes – in Donor Advised Fund accounts.

Nonprofit organizations face a significant gap in available financing relative to for-profit companies. While they want to be entrepreneurial, they can’t raise equity in the same way as private companies. The Fortune Society, which wants to develop more supportive housing options for its target population, often faces challenges moving quickly to initiate these kinds of projects. To have a competitive chance, the organization must pull cash from its operating budget to cover pre-development expenses. At the same time, wealthy individuals have significant resources invested in stocks and bonds, hedge funds, and philanthropic assets.  

“This opportunity creates a solution to meet an urgent social need,” said JoAnne Page, CEO of The Fortune Society. “We currently do not have a source of ready money that can be put down up front for housing development. This collaboration would be a lasting solution to this problem.”

FJC, a sponsor of Donor Advised Funds, is providing a structure where multiple individuals who support The Fortune Society’s mission can pool their philanthropic dollars together to help the organization cover the pre-development costs to initiate these capital-intensive housing projects.

“The Fortune Society and FJC are collaborating to demonstrate how these individuals can provide the kind of catalytic “equity-like” capital that nonprofits can use to move major real estate development projects forward,” said Sam Marks, CEO of FJC. “This effort will harness large capital commitments from public and private sources to help the organization fulfill its mission.” The revolving nature of the fund is intended to give The Fortune Society the resources it needs throughout the life of the fund to act aggressively in pursuit of mission-critical real estate development opportunities and finance up-front costs. The goal is to recycle these philanthropic dollars multiple times for multiple initiatives, and to leverage the money along with other resources to create a long-term impact.

The DAF sector has grown rapidly in recent years, but also come under criticism for aggregating philanthropic capital without quickly deploying it. This initiative showcases the flexibility of DAFs and the creative ways they can be used to advance an organization’s mission.

“FJC has creatively enabled individual DAF account holders to be meaningful partners in mobilizing resources to create desperately needed affordable housing,” said Gary Hattem, the former Head of Global Social Finance at Deutsche Bank. He joins Theodore Huber and A to Z Impact as some of the first donors of this initiative.

At the end of a five-year term, all the funds will remain charitable by the conversion to flexible DAF accounts, which can be deployed as grants to nonprofits as the donors see fit or remain with The Fortune Society for use as the organization deems necessary for its critical work.

“This kind of revolving fund will allow The Fortune Society to finance up-front costs related to mission-driven affordable housing projects, giving the organization a chance to act quickly and nimbly when opportunities arise,” said Page. The Fortune Society is currently in the pre-development stage as a first venture of this fund through the proposed Just Home initiative, a project to house New Yorkers with complex medical needs after they leave jail on the campus of NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi in the Bronx. Donors are excited about the prospect of seeing the fruition of the work live on for generations to come.

For more information on this initiative, please visit our FAQ page.

About The Fortune Society

Founded in 1967, The Fortune Society has advocated on criminal justice issues for over five decades and is nationally recognized for developing model programs that help people with criminal justice histories to be assets to their communities. The Fortune Society offers a holistic and integrated “one-stop-shopping” model of service provision. Among the services offered are discharge planning, licensed outpatient substance abuse and mental health treatment, alternatives to incarceration, HIV/AIDS services, career development and job retention, education, family services, drop-in services, and supportive housing as well as lifetime access to aftercare.  For more information, visit

About FJC

FJC is a boutique public charity that offers a diverse menu of philanthropic services to a range of stakeholders. With over $380 million under management, its over 1,000 accounts include Donor Advised Funds (DAFs), fiscal sponsorships, collective giving accounts, revolving funds, and many other philanthropic vehicles. FJC acts as an intermediary between the financial services sector and the nonprofit sector, enabling nonprofit organizations and their supporters to focus on their missions, rather than be burdened with the details of operations and compliance.


‘Foundation Review’ Journal Publishes Reflection by FJC CEO Sam Marks on DAFs and Impact Investing

Reflecting on best practices by FJC and its imaginative donors, FJC Chief Executive Officer Sam Marks wrote “Donor Advised Funds and Impact Investing: A Practitioner’s View”, which was accepted for publication by The Foundation Review in their December, 2022 issue focusing on impact investing.  The journal is the first peer-reviewed journal of philanthropy, written by and for foundation staff and boards. 

The article provides a brief overview of FJC’s origin story and the establishment of its Agency Loan Fund as a bespoke impact investing vehicle, which allows participating donors to invest in a pool of loans to nonprofit borrowers that help them bridge cash flow and achieve their missions.

Marks also highlights some of the innovative transactions FJC has executed with its donors, including a 0% interest revolving line of credit for Brighter Tomorrows, the refinancing of the Tenement Museum’s mortgage, accounts that allow foundations to participate in crowd-sourced small business loans, and the recently closed revolving fund for the Fortune Society.    

“In the end,” Marks writes, “the potential for DAF sponsors to accelerate impact investments may also come from their ability to aggregate not just dollars but inspiration.”

Read the full article here.

Photo copyright Ben Krueger, courtesy of The Fortune Society

FJC and The Fortune Society Inspire An Innovative Use of Philanthropic Dollars

Safe, Affordable Housing with Services is Focus of FJC’s First-Ever Multi-Donor Revolving Fund

What are the goals of FJC’s Revolving Fund for The Fortune Society?

FJC, a boutique sponsor of Donor Advised Funds, has arranged a fund that will empower The Fortune Society, a nonprofit serving vulnerable New Yorkers coming out of incarceration, to scale its housing development work. People re-entering society from prison are overrepresented in the homeless population, and supportive housing (affordable housing with services) has proven to be an effective strategy to keep vulnerable New Yorkers stable and out of crisis systems (like homeless shelters, hospitals, and jails). The initiative will help The Fortune Society double its housing portfolio over the next five years.

Specifically, the fund will:

  • Support people coming out of prison with stable, permanent supportive housing and services;
  • Provide The Fortune Society with the capital necessary to invests in its future and organizational growth by doubling its real estate portfolio over the next five years; and
  • Allow FJC to demonstrate how Donor Advised Fund (DAF) accounts can be put to work for maximum impact, thereby helping them be more creative with their resources and support a greater number of people in need.

How are funds in the Fortune Society Revolving Fund different from other Donor Advised Fund accounts at FJC?

The Revolving Fund has been funded with philanthropic capital with a specific intention to help The Fortune Society act entrepreneurially to expand and scale its mission.  The goal is to use the same dollars multiple times to initiate multiple projects, preserving the capital for donors to recycle again for philanthropic purposes.

A typical Donor Advised Fund (DAF) account at FJC provides recommender privileges to donors regarding how the philanthropic dollars in their accounts are invested for growth or deployed as grants. With the Revolving Fund, donors have agreed to “lock up” their funds for five years, to allow The Fortune Society to use them to advance their mission to expand their portfolio of permanent supportive housing for people coming out of incarceration.  This agreement is documented in a simple Memorandum of Understanding between the donors and FJC. 

The participating donors have agreed to allow The Fortune Society to draw on these funds as needed, as loans at 1% interest, instead of the typical ways funds in DAF accounts are used (i.e. granting funds out, or investing them for tax-free growth to make grants at a future date). At the end of the five-year term, The Fortune Society will repay the loans, and funds will return to the donors’ individual DAF accounts.  These loans are documented in a loan agreement between FJC as lender and The Fortune Society as borrower.

Who is The Fortune Society?

Founded in 1967, The Fortune Society has advocated on criminal justice issues for over five decades and is nationally recognized for developing model programs that help people with criminal justice histories to be assets to their communities. The Fortune Society offers a holistic and integrated “one-stop-shopping” model of service provision. Among the services offered are discharge planning, licensed outpatient substance abuse and mental health treatment, alternatives to incarceration, HIV/AIDS services, career development and job retention, education, family services, drop-in services, and supportive housing as well as lifetime access to aftercare. 

Developing, owning and operating housing is core to Fortune Society’s work.  Low-threshold access to supportive emergency, transitional, and permanent housing is provided at their congregate facilities, The Fortune Academy (“the Castle”) and Castle Gardens, along with their Scatter-Site Housing program.

What is supportive housing?    

Supportive housing is affordable housing with onsite services that help formerly homeless, disabled tenants live in dignity in the community. Supportive housing came into being in response to the homelessness crisis in New York City in the 1970s and is the most humane and cost-effective solution to ending homelessness for vulnerable people: individuals and families dealing with mental illness, trauma/abuse, addiction, and chronic illness including HIV/AIDS.

Supportive housing is permanent and affordable: All tenants hold leases and pay about a third of their income in rent. The residences are owned and operated by nonprofit organizations and are accountable to their city, state, and federal funders. Because supportive housing either replaces a blighted building or lot, it jump-starts neighborhood renewal. Because it provides 24-7 front desk coverage and other      security features, supportive housing frequently contributes to increased community safety. As a result, studies have shown that supportive housing increases property values. For more about the cost effectiveness and impact of supportive housing, see these great resources at The Supportive Housing Network.

Depending on the site and service contracts, supportive housing is made available to vulnerable populations who are disproportionately represented in the homeless shelter system: such as people who face substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, serious persistent mental illness, veterans, and—in the case of The Fortune Society—people re-entering society after incarceration.

Why does The Fortune Society need resources from a Revolving Fund?

Nonprofits face particular business challenges when launching entrepreneurial activity. The ownership and governance structures of nonprofit organizations don’t allow them to raise equity.  As a result, when nonprofits need to fund the earliest and most risky pre-development stage of a real estate venture, they must fund pre-development expenses from rainy day funds, if they exist, or else pull cash from their operating budget.

To scale its work in developing supportive housing, the Revolving Fund will provide The Fortune Society a dedicated source of capital that can be used to initiate these time-intensive, critical projects.

The total development costs of a typical supportive housing development may run into the tens of millions of dollars, depending on size, which is financed through a combination of private financing and federal, state, and city subsidies.  To secure these resources, The Fortune Society incurs significant soft costs during the pre-development phase, which can run in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. These costs include deposits to secure sites for acquisition, feasibility studies, environmental reviews and architectural design work.

How will The Fortune Society repay loans and replenish the Revolving Fund?

Fortune Society will replenish the revolving fund when their affordable housing projects secure construction or permanent financing, or bridge loans from more traditional financing partners.

The federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) is the principal subsidy for affordable housing development, and the New York City region receives an allocation of LIHTC through its housing finance agencies NYS Housing & Community Renewal (HCR) and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD).  These resources are supplemented by tax-exempt bond financing, grants from other public and private sources, and traditional bank financing. In addition to these capital sources, nonprofits must secure service contracts from other city and state agencies.

The Fortune Society has a long track record of securing these sources, as well as the necessary public approvals from community boards and other elected officials.

Is there a risk that loans won’t be repaid? 

No investment is risk-free.  FJC mitigates this risk by working with The Fortune Society to fund activities that have a high likelihood of repayment, on real estate projects that have already secured significant public approvals and/or soft commitments of public resources.  The primary motivation of this fund is philanthropic (and at 1% interest, the loans are being made available at below-market interest rates).  Nevertheless, this project will be deemed successful if the loans are repaid and the donors have the opportunity to recycle them for other philanthropic purposes. 

The loans made from The Revolving Fund are general recourse obligations to The Fortune Society, meaning that if the real estate projects in the early planning stages don’t go forward (the primary source of repayment), The Fortune Society is still “on the hook” to repay them (the secondary source of repayment).  The Fortune Society is in a strong financial position, and has never failed to repay any debt obligation on time.

Working on behalf of its donors, FJC will make all efforts to recover the full loan principal in the event that things do not go as planned.  In the remote possibility that a loan recovery becomes impossible, FJC will convert to a grant any portion of the loan deemed to be uncollectible.  

We have worked closely with donors to understand the risks involved in this Revolving Fund.  Our expectation is that every dollar dedicated to this effort will be used multiple times to initiate multiple projects and then returned to donors’ DAF accounts so they can be redeployed as grants. 

What happens at the end of the 5-year term?

At the end of a 5-year term, funds will be returned to the initial donors’ DAF accounts.  The account holders will then have the flexibility to recommend their funds be granted to the nonprofits of their choice.

Where does the initiative stand now?

Four DAF account holders at FJC have joined this effort, including Gary Hattem, Theodore Huber, A to Z Impact, and an anonymous donor. As of this writing (5/15/23), The Fortune Society has drawn $400,000 to cover pre-development expenses on two projects:

  • Just Home Project is an innovative housing initiative that will provide permanent, supportive housing with services for medically complex homeless New Yorkers returning after incarceration. Residents of this project suffer from medically complex issues that require constant medical attention. The project is a partnership with the NYC Health + Hospitals Corporation and will be built on City-owned land at the Jacobi Medical Center (Bronx, NY).
  • Illegal Hotel Conversion. Redevelopment of “illegal hotel” to supportive and affordable Single Room Occupancy (SRO housing at 258 West 97th Street in the Upper West Side. The completed project will have 59 supportive housing units and 25 affordable units. The project was the subject of a New York Times article “From ‘Illegal’ Hotel to Housing for the Homeless on Upper West Side” (3/28/22).

Funds will be used to cover architectural services, environmental reviews, consultant fees, and staff management costs.  It is anticipated that over the next year, these projects will close on pre-development or construction financing that will enable The Fortune Society to repay the loans and draw on the fund again for other projects in their supportive housing pipeline.

Photo credit Maria Baranova, courtesy The In[HEIR]itance Project

Incubating, and then Financing, a Growing Nonprofit Theater

This summer, FJC closed a $50,000 loan to the nonprofit The In[Heir]itance Project, to assist the theater organization’s growth while it waited for committed foundation grants to be paid. The loan represented a satisfying “second act” in the relationship between FJC and the nonprofit, which had previously been incubated at FJC as a fiscally sponsored project.

“It’s always great when one of the programs that ‘graduates’ from FJC’s fiscal sponsorship can become one of our borrowers,” says Laura Hoffman, Program Manager of FJC’s Fiscal Sponsorship Program. 

“Our organization wouldn’t exist today without the mentorship, guidance, and incubation time we received from FJC when it served as our fiscal sponsor. Having [the lending] relationship endure after we left the nest is not only reassuring, it’s an exciting next step in our maturation as an organization.”

Jon Adam Ross, Co-Founding Artist & Executive Director

The In[HEIR]itance Project works with intergenerational, intersectional, and interfaith communities to build relationships across divides through collaborative theater projects inspired by shared cultural touchstones. They are currently beginning work in Memphis on the fifth play in a series exploring Exodus narratives across the United States. Previous stops in the playmaking series included projects in Harlem, NYC working with formerly incarcerated New Yorkers, Omaha working with recently resettled refugees, Cincinnati working with the Black and Jewish communities to explore the rituals of Exodus (resulting in a Juneteenth Seder ritual performance), and in Coastal Virginia exploring displacement and white flight.

Hoffman recalls that Co-Founding Artist and Executive Director Jon Adam Ross joined FJC’s fiscal sponsorship program in 2015.  The initial proposal projected a three-year initial project of modest ambition. (The original budget was $50,000 per year).  During its period as a fiscally sponsored project, FJC acted as the 501(c)(3), receiving charitable contributions on the organization’s behalf and acting as a fiscal back office. 

Over time the organization grew into a national arts organization of artists, scholars and activists that could bring people together to listen, learn and collaborate to create theater. Since beginning operation in January of 2015, In[HEIR]itance Project artists have led projects in over a dozen cities around the country, engaging over 10,000 community participants, paying over 170 local artists, and partnering with more than 400 partnering organizations, institutions, and schools. The In[HEIR]itance Project received its 501(c)(3) status in 2020, and it has been operating independently since.

“It’s always great when one of the programs that ‘graduates’ from FJC’s fiscal sponsorship can become one of our borrowers.”

Laura Hoffman, Program Director, Fiscal Sponsorship Program, FJC

The loan came at a critical time for the organization. In the summer of 2020, the pandemic, along with the national awakening that occurred in response to the murder of George Floyd, created a surge in demand from community partners for collaborations with the In[Heir]itance Project.  The organization has a 27-city waiting list of project inquiries, and they have had to scale up quickly while maintaining the high quality of their collaborations and productions.  With philanthropic commitments in hand but payments expected later in the year, the organization was in need of some working capital to bridge the timing gap. FJC made the bridge loan from its Agency Loan Fund, an impact investment vehicle that pools together funds from donor accounts and makes loans to nonprofits.

“Our organization wouldn’t exist today without the mentorship, guidance, and incubation time we received from FJC when it served as our fiscal sponsor,” says Ross. “Having that relationship endure after we left the nest is not only reassuring, it’s an exciting next step in our maturation as an organization. And we are so grateful.”

As Homeless Shelter Prepares for Renovation, A Timely Loan Bridges a Critical Service Gap

Crown Heights, Brooklyn—A $2.5 million bridge loan from FJC will ensure the continuity of services at the St. John’s Place Family Center, a 97-unit Tier II shelter for homeless families, as the nonprofit owner embarks on City-financed major renovations.  The project is a collaboration between Urban Resource Institute (URI) and Settlement Housing Fund.

The loan was necessary to bridge a timing and cash flow gap between when URI was to take over providing services to the families at the shelter, and the formal registration and execution of a contract from the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS), which will enable payment for the services.  “If we hadn’t figured this out, it would have been incredibly disruptive to the families at the shelter,” explains Alexa Sewell, President of Settlement Housing Fund, which had owned and operated the site since the 1990s.  Without the cash flow necessary to maintain continuity of services, St. John’s Place would have had to close down and move 97 families elsewhere, reducing the number of temporary apartments available during a time when homelessness remains at staggering levels in New York City.  With the loan in place, URI can continue running the shelter without interruption as the organization waits for city payments to begin.

“St. Johns offers us the opportunity to impact even more adults and children, and the continuity provided by the financial arrangement allows us to do so without adding to the trauma of the families in residence.”

Nathaniel M. Fields, Chief Executive Officer, Urban Resource Institute

Approved and closed within 8 weeks of initial application submission, the loan required both speed and creativity from all parties.  While URI as the service provider needed to borrow the funds, it was the property owner, Settlement Housing Fund, that posted collateral.  This unique risk-sharing arrangement between the two nonprofits helped the FJC’s credit committee get comfortable approving the loan.

Settlement Housing Fund has owned the three buildings that comprise St John’s Place since the late 1990s.  The organization has operated the buildings as a Tier II shelter over these decades.  As part of its recent strategic planning process, Settlement Housing Fund’s leadership determined that the shelter would be best run by a specialized and scaled homeless services organization.  Settlement Housing Fund identified URI as their partner, a $98.3 million organization founded in 1980s that is now the nation’s largest provider of domestic violence shelter and services and a leading provider of shelter and programs for homeless families. URI shelters across New York City can accommodate some 2,200 adults and children every night, and innovative programs for prevention, intervention and direct services for domestic violence and homelessness reach 40,000 people a year.

“URI is committed to transforming the lives of vulnerable populations across New York City with comprehensive programs and services as well as shelter,” stated URI CEO Nathaniel M. Fields.  “St. Johns offers us the opportunity to impact even more adults and children, and the continuity provided by the financial arrangement allows us to do so without adding to the trauma of the families in residence.”

The St John’s Place Family Shelter represents one of the first capital rehabilitation project under the Purpose Built Shelter program of the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS). The goal of the city program is to provide capital resources and long-term contracts to enable nonprofits to own and operate Tier II shelters, which provide temporary housing to families while they seek affordable permanent housing solutions.

Discussing innovative and responsive uses of DAFs on the EPCNYC webinar: Mark Cohen (FJC), Sam Marks (FJC), Dolores Kordon (Brighter Tomorrows), Hank Snyder (JP Morgan, moderator), and Annie Polland (The Tenement Museum)

Innovative, Revolving Uses of DAFs Featured in Webinar

Leaders of two nonprofit organizations whose urgent financial needs were met by innovative FJC donors were featured on a webinar hosted by the Estate Planning Council of NYC (EPCNYC), titled “Multiplying your Impact: Innovative Approaches to Revolving Philanthropic Dollars”.  The nonprofit Executive Directors, Annie Polland of The Tenement Museum and Dolores Kordon of Brighter Tomorrows, were joined by members of FJC’s leadership, CEO Sam Marks and Chief Legal Officer Mark Cohen, who described the foundation’s role executing the transactions.  The event was moderated by Henry Snyder, Executive Director of JP Morgan’s Private Bank, and a member of EPCNYC.

While most holders of Donor Advised Fund (DAF) accounts use their philanthropic funds for grants, the webinar highlighted cases where donors identified financing gaps in the organizations that could be addressed with solutions that combined philanthropic intent with investment strategies.

“We’re trying to inspire more of our donors to approach philanthropy in this way, and bring new donors that are inspired by examples like these.”

Sam Marks, Chief Executive Officer, FJC

In the case of Brighter Tomorrows, a domestic violence nonprofit serving women and families on Long Island, the donor was solving for a cash flow problem.  As Ms. Kordon explained, the majority of the organization’s work is funded with government contracts.  These contracts, typically administered through the state or county, are notoriously slow to pay even during normal times and are typically paid on a reimbursement basis.  During the pandemic, when the needs of clients for shelter, food, and emergency assistance were at an all-time high, the public agency offices administering payments on the contracts were also facing major capacity issues.  “Payments slowed to a snail’s pace,” Ms. Kordon lamented. “With the pandemic came all sorts of additional emergency costs, and we had to still keep the lights on and pay rent.”

Enter Sandy Wheeler, one of Brighter Tomorrows’ most steadfast donors.  Ms. Wheeler worked with FJC to deploy $100,000 in her DAF account as a 0% interest revolving line of credit.  This cash resource allowed Brighter Tomorrows to continue meeting the urgent needs of clients, even in the face of slower contract payments.  In the year since the loan was closed, the funds have been fully drawn, repaid, and drawn again. “I can’t say enough about the importance of having a donor provide this resource,” says Ms. Kordon. “It was a godsend for us.” 

“I can’t say enough about the importance of having a donor provide this resource. It was a godsend for us.”

Dolores Kordon, Executive Director, Brighter Tomorrows

FJC facilitated a more complex transaction with The Tenement Museum, a vital organization that has been researching and telling the stories of immigrant New Yorkers for the past 25 years. In the early days of the pandemic, the organization faced significant financial distress, as documented in an New York Times article, “A Museum Devoted to Survivors Faces Its Own Fight for Survival” (April 24, 2020). The article noted that 75% of the museum’s revenue came from earned income, reflecting admissions and gift shop revenue of its 285,000 annual visitors.  As a result of the pandemic their visitors (and attendant revenue) had dried up, but the museum carried significant fixed costs due to its mortgage, which cost the museum $585,000 per year.

One of FJC’s donors read the New York Times article and reached out to inquire whether he could refinance the museum’s mortgage with funds in his DAF account.  Upon further conversation with the Museum’s leadership, it was revealed that the mortgage was in the form of a tax-exempt bond, issued by the City of New York through its Build NYC Resource Corporation, a division of the NYC Economic Development Corporation.  In coordination with the donor, FJC purchased the bond from the bondholder, and amended the terms to interest-only at 1% per year, reducing the museum’s annual debt service payment from $585,000 per year to $80,000.  “We are paying $2.5 million less out of pocket for debt service over these five years,” explains Ms. Polland. “This has bought us time to figure out how we manage through this pandemic year, but it also freed us up to think of creative ways to operate.” Ms. Polland noted that the museum has been able to develop distance learning modules that have engaged students virtually from as far away as California.  She also noted its new exhibit focusing on a Black family and a walking tour called “Reclaiming Black Spaces,” which explores sites connected with nearly 400 years of African-American presence on the Lower East Side.  “The Museum is not just pausing,” she said. “We’re taking on new and addressing the questions important to this country.  How does learning our history help us move forward?”  The Museum’s new programs and strong emergence from the pandemic were featured again in the New York Times this month, a story that Ms. Polland describes as a “bookend” to the previous year’s story on the organization’s distressed financial picture.

“We are paying $2.5 million less out of pocket for debt service over these five years. This has bought us time to figure out how we manage through this pandemic year, but it also freed us up to think of creative ways to operate.”

Annie Polland, Executive Director, The Tenement Museum

Mr. Cohen explained that after five years, FJC intends to sell the bond back to the bond market, and will aim to recoup the $9.5 million face value of the bond for the donor’s account.  These funds can then be recycled as grants or additional loans or impact investments.

The moderator Mr. Snyder noted that customized transactions like these do not appear to be standard offerings at most DAF sponsors.  Mr. Marks noted that philanthropic lending and impact investing are more common at the more sophisticated, professionalized foundations and that FJC had a long history of applying best practices from philanthropy more broadly to their DAF account holders.  “We’re trying to inspire more of our donors to approach philanthropy in this way,” says Mr. Marks, “and work with new donors that are inspired by examples like these.”

Image courtesy of Center for Effective Philanthropy

Center for Effective Philanthropy Highlights FJC Revolving Funds

The Center for Effective Philanthropy has published a blog by FJC’s CEO Sam Marks titled, “Stretching Dollars without Straining Donors: The Case for Revolving Funds.”  The blog post features a donor’s innovative use of a DAF-like account at FJC to support the nonprofit Southern Environmental Law Center’s pioneering anti-pollution litigation work, as well as additional applications of revolving funds.  An excerpt is below.

At FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds, we have worked with imaginative donors to structure revolving accounts (essentially, variations on Donor Advised Fund accounts) with a goal of empowering nonprofits to take on significant campaigns and projects. Such arrangements can be incredibly catalytic, giving nonprofits the confidence to move forward on complex projects while mitigating financial risk. Also, by prioritizing activities with a high likelihood of recovery, these structures create the potential for donors to amplify their impact, revolving their funds so that the same philanthropic dollar can have multiple impacts on multiple projects. 

A case in point is our work with the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), a 35-year-old nonprofit organization active across six states.

As impact investing becomes further mainstreamed among foundations and holders of Donor Advised Funds, imaginative donors should consider recoverable grants and revolving fund structures as an additional tool in their continuing philanthropy.

To achieve their mission, SELC uses a broad array of law and policy approaches including strategic litigation which can be expensive and resource intensive.  Enter an anonymous donor at FJC. The donor worked with FJC to create an account where charitable grants to SELC are deposited and from which SELC can draw funds specifically to pay for direct litigation expenses (like expert fees) in potential fee-recovery cases. Periodically, when SELC wins a case and recovers attorney fees, they make a deposit back into the FJC fund to replenish it in the event of future need. To date, SELC has drawn approximately $1 million from the revolving fund to pay for professional experts and other direct litigation expenses. With an incoming payment of fees recovered from SELC’s landmark Atlantic Coast Pipeline litigation, SELC will have redeposited some $270,000 back into the fund. 

As impact investing becomes further mainstreamed among foundations and holders of Donor Advised Funds, imaginative donors should consider recoverable grants and revolving fund structures as an additional tool in their continuing philanthropy. A fundraising campaign around this type of fund may engage donors that wish to invest in the organization’s growth and capacity while simultaneously compelling donors who would find value in seeing significant, multiple impacts over a long period of time as a result of a one-time gift.

For more information about revolving funds and how SELC put this unique resource to work, read the full blog post at Center for Effective Philanthropy.

Donor’s Revolving Fund Finances Energy Efficient Shelter For the Homeless

Through a revolving account at FJC, a donor passionate about the environment has provided financing to create a state-of-the-art transitional shelter for New York City homeless families, through an innovative philanthropic partnership with the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC). 

The donor has created a revolving account at FJC that NYCEEC can use to cover critical project activities like energy modeling, feasibility analysis, design drawings, and land-use approvals.  These costs are reimbursable when construction financing closes, allowing funds in the FJC account to be redeployed for NYCEEC’s future worthy projects. 

NYCEEC will use the capital to fund early-stage predevelopment work on the adaptive reuse of a former nurses’ residence on the Greenpoint Hospital campus in Brooklyn. The renovated building will provide state of the art temporary accommodation to 200 of New York City’s most vulnerable residents.  The shelter is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification.  Savings in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional construction are projected to be 384 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

The shelter is a component of the $212.7 million redevelopment of the Greenpoint Hospital campus, in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  The redevelopment project is the culmination of years of advocacy by a consortium of neighborhood-based organizations, led by the nonprofit St. Nick’s Alliance.  The development will also include apartments for extremely low-income and very low-income residents and seniors, a community facility, and a network of new open spaces to connect the campus to the surrounding neighborhood. A partnership between St. Nick’s Alliance, Project Renewal, and Hudson Companies was designated by New York City to redevelop the site, which has been primarily vacant since 1982 when the Greenpoint Hospital was closed.

Philanthropic capital from FJC will fund over one-third of NYCEEC’s $1.3 million predevelopment loan. “We allocate capital from a range of public and private sources for projects like this,” explains Jay Merves, NYCEEC’s Director of Business Development. “Many of our capital providers put geographic or other restrictions on the use of their capital, so the flexibility of funds from the FJC donor is vital in allowing NYCEEC to provide financing for clean energy projects in underserved communities.”

Photo courtesy of Brighter Tomorrows

FJC Facilitates Donor Loan to Support Families Facing Domestic Violence

It took the collective efforts of a number of people to get it done: a committed donor, a philanthropic advisor, and the staff at FJC. All parties worked together this spring to close a $100,000 cash flow loan to Brighter Tomorrows, a nonprofit working with victims of domestic violence to provide shelter, counseling and legal advocacy to New York’s Suffolk and Nassau counties as well as New York City and the Tri-State area.

The process began with Sandy Wheeler, a longtime donor to Brighter Tomorrows. Over time, Ms. Wheeler developed a trusted relationship with Dolores Kordon, the organization’s Executive Director, who often lamented the difficulties she faced running an organization that relied heavily on state contracts that were typically slow to pay. “It seemed like the chronic cash flow challenges of Brighter Tomorrow could be creatively addressed with philanthropy,” said Ms. Wheeler.

The Wheelers spoke to their philanthropic advisor at a large financial institution, who made the introduction to FJC. “The Wheelers already had a Donor Advised Fund account, but the sponsor wasn’t really set up to originate loans,” their advisor explained. “We appreciated that FJC had the track record and infrastructure to make this proposed loan happen, and quickly.”

Within a few weeks, staff at FJC worked with the Wheelers to open and fund a new DAF account, review Brighter Tomorrow’s financials, and prepare the legal documents with terms customized according to the Wheelers’ wishes. Among other features, the loan carries no interest.

“Brighter Tomorrows is so grateful for this intervention by FJC and the Wheelers,” says Ms. Kordon. “Particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when cash was tight due to many competing programmatic demands, having the Wheeler’s loan to bridge our day-to-day expenses provided us the flexibility to be responsive to the families we were serving, like distributing food cards and helping clients pay rent.”

Photo credit: Ken Teerer, courtesy of SELC

2019 Year in Review: Revolving Funds for Legal Impact

Imaginative FJC donors have created specialized accounts that allow for revolving funds for recoverable expenses, so that nonprofits can recycle grant funds on an ongoing basis.

In 2019 organizations focused on criminal justice reform and impact litigation were particularly active users of these resources, putting nearly $1 million in aggregate to work for their missions. These organizations included: the Government Accountability Project, was able to represent whistleblowers exposing abuses of public trust throughout the federal government as well as corporate employees within the banking, energy, food, and health care industries; the New York Civil Liberties Union, is bringing an important voting rights case to challenge violations of the federal Voting Rights Act; the Southern Environmental Law Center, which has reached a settlement with a private company that will result in the largest coal ash cleanup ever in America; Brooklyn Community Bail Fund secured the freedom of 23 immigrants held in ICE detention and at imminent risk of deportation, and reunited them with their families and communities.