106.7 Lite FM's Nina Del Rio interviewed CEO Sam Marks on Get Connected, the station's public affairs show.

FJC Takes to the Airwaves in Radio Spot

Earlier in November, FJC’s CEO Sam Marks was a guest on Get Connected with Nina Del Rio, New York City’s 106.7 Lite FM’s weekly talk show featuring NYC’s influencers, experts, and vibrant non-profits.

Del Rio interviewed Marks about his background and the world of Donor Advised Funds, as well as the creative ways that FJC puts philanthropic resources to work. 

He spoke about FJC’s Agency Loan Fund, an impact investment vehicle that allows donors to invest some or all of their accounts in a pool of loans to nonprofits, so that funds are actively supporting nonprofits even before they are disbursed as grants. He cited capital grants and contract receivables as payments FJC’s loans typically bridge. “We do a lot financial intermediation, during these timing gaps for nonprofits,” said Marks.

He also spoke about innovative transactions with nonprofits like The Fortune Society and the Tenement Museum. 

From the interview:

People typically think, my philanthropy is to make grants to help an organization hit their goals to operate in the black for the year. But you could also use philanthropic dollars to help organizations be more entrepreneurial and take on more exciting projects that will help them grow and expand their services.

The nonprofits we work with understand the challenges that their businesses face, whether it’s cash flow issues because of late payments or a dearth of capital to take on new, exciting projects.  The nonprofits really know where their gaps are.  The challenge for us is finding donors with the imagination to put their philanthropic dollars to work to fill those gaps. If we could get more of our donors to think about, while the dollars are with us, how they could be invested for the benefit of nonprofits, we could really help nonprofits worry less about where their next dollars are coming from. We could go to the heart of what makes these nonprofit businesses challenging.

You can listen to the whole interview at this link.

Inside Philanthropy: Using DAFs Creatively to Solve Nonprofit Problems

We invite you to read this guest essay by CEO Sam Marks published in Inside Philanthropy.  The article suggests that “this is a time to experiment with deploying philanthropic dollars more strategically to help nonprofits address those issues more effectively and spend more effort on mission-critical work.”

The essay recommends that donors look beyond grantmaking for their philanthropy and consider other approaches to using philanthropic capital.  Examples cited include the revolving predevelopment fund FJC arranged for the Fortune Society, and the refinancing of the Tenement Museum’s mortgage through a DAF investment.

From the essay:

The conversation between philanthropy and nonprofits very often begins and ends with grantmaking, and there is no question that grants are a key component of nonprofit business models. But the nonprofit sector could surely benefit if this conversation were more expansive — on both sides. Nonprofit practitioners could be more explicit with their philanthropic partners about their cash flow challenges that distract senior management from a full focus on their missions, or the capital resources they need to grow and be truly transformative. Donors could consider more inventive and mission-focused uses of the philanthropic dollars that are currently invested in the private sector, whether in foundation endowments or in DAF accounts. These approaches depend on donors and nonprofits engaging more deeply and finding a common cause.

Simply put, there’s an opportunity to grow beyond the conventional relationships between donors and nonprofits by elevating creative, entrepreneurial thinking. Sponsors of DAFs, in particular, can play a role in helping small donors align their funds and execute some of the more inventive uses of their philanthropic dollars, such as loans, recoverable grants or impact investments. DAF sponsors have always offered donors operational scale and efficiency; why not also offer technical and legal assistance to facilitate these more complex transactions? Or to pull together multiple donors that want to work collectively to create a solution?

This vision for DAFs is not just about more effective donations; it’s about building a more robust philanthropic ecosystem where the interests of donors, nonprofits and beneficiaries converge.

Read the full essay here.

Photo by Buck Ennis, courtesy of Crain's New York Business

Crain’s Op-Ed By Sam Marks and JoAnne Page on Creative Philanthropy and Fighting Homelessness

Crain’s New York Business has published an op-ed by FJC CEO Sam Marks and JoAnne Page, the president and CEO of The Fortune Society.  The piece, titled “How Creative Funding Can Help Kickstart Complex Capital Projects,” describes a unique partnership between a leading nonprofit serving people coming out of incarceration and a foundation sponsor of donor advised funds (DAFs).

Through the initiative, FJC has arranged a fund that will empower The Fortune Society to scale its housing development work.  See our FAQ document for more information.

From the op-ed:

The Fortune Society, a leading supportive housing provider, and FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds, recently launched a revolving loan fund that will provide desperately needed working capital to kickstart supportive housing projects.

The fund’s low-interest loans are capitalized by contributions from FJC’s donor-advised fund holders and matched by additional resources from the Fortune Society. The loans will allow the nonprofit Fortune to significantly expand its supportive housing portfolio over the next five years.

Most donors are not thinking about using their philanthropic dollars this way. But imagine the possibilities if philanthropic leaders who think and act in business terms were to partner closely with nonprofits. They could help identify and fill common gaps that nonprofits face. Donors would see a bigger impact from their giving, and entrepreneurial nonprofits could take on more ambitious projects to solve our most challenging problems.

Read the full article here.

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 www.fortunesociety.org.

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.

SAFE is a nationwide initiative designed to help the over 70,000 Afghan humanitarian parolees build a financial foundation in their new neighborhoods. Photo courtesy of International Rescue Committee.

Donor Loan Facilitates Emergency Resettlement of Afghan Allies

An FJC donor has provided a 0%-interest philanthropic loan to help kick-start a $10 million initiative to help newly arrived Afghans rebuild their lives in the United States.  The loan program is a component of Support for Afghan Financial Empowerment (SAFE), an initiative launched by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and their Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) to empower Afghan families as they begin their journey to financial stability and economic security in their new homes across the U.S.

“This status [of humanitarian parole] poses unique challenges for building credit, making it harder for them to apply for rental housing, finance a car, and in some cases may limit access to certain jobs.”

Kasra Movahedi, Executive Director of IRC’s Center for Economic Opportunity

More than 70,000 Afghans have arrived through Operations Allies Welcome, a federal effort to support vulnerable Afghans, including those who worked alongside us in Afghanistan for the past two decades, as they safely resettle in the United States.  These families have had to endure a challenging, emergency resettlement experience in the midst of a pandemic and an economy still reeling from COVID-19 impacts.

“Unlike newcomers with refugee status, Afghans are humanitarian parolees, meaning they have official permission to enter and remain temporarily in the United States,” explains Kasra Movahedi, the Executive Director of IRC’s Center for Economic Opportunity. “This status poses unique challenges for building credit, making it harder for them to apply for rental housing, finance a car, and in some cases may limit access to certain jobs.” 

SAFE fills this gap by providing small, 0%-interest credit-building auto, education, immigration and personal loans, coupled with financial education and counselling.  IRC has trained a team of financial coaches, native to Afghanistan, to offer these services to any Afghan who arrived through Operations Allies Welcome.

The 0%-interest immigration loans will help reunify families separated by the chaotic military withdrawal. Immigration services are costly, and time is of the essence. Few Afghans have the funds necessary to pay for immigration services, and access to a 0%-interest, no fee immigration loan can be the difference between life and death for separated family members.

“We are honored to use FJC’s boutique philanthropic platform to galvanize support for Afghan humanitarian parolees at this historic moment.”

Donor, Anonymous

FJC has a long history of making loans to the nonprofit sector.  The majority of FJC’s loans are made from the organization’s Agency Loan Fund, a pool of donor capital that is actively managed by FJC staff and is invested in loans to nonprofits earning a floating interest rate of the prime rate plus 3 percent (currently 6.5%).   Donors may also recommend below-market rate loans (also known as program-related investments) using funds in their donor advised fund accounts, on customized terms of their choosing.

“We are honored to use FJC’s boutique philanthropic platform to galvanize support for Afghan humanitarian parolees at this historic moment,” said the donor, who wishes to remain anonymous. “Having resources set aside in our FJC account enabled us to provide CEO exactly the 0%-interest capital source they needed to launch this critical economic empowerment initiative.”

Participants in training programs supported by the UP Fund: Jeo Tovar, General Assembly graduate; Devon, Alchemy Code Lab graduate; Bill Barber, American Diesel Training Centers graduate. Photos courtesy of Social Finance's "Decade of Impact" report.

Investing in Skill Building: The Career Impact Bond

An FJC donor is putting philanthropic dollars to work by investing in economic mobility for low-income workers. The initiative is called the UP Fund, a $50 million pool of catalytic capital raised by the national impact investing nonprofit Social Finance. The goal of the UP Fund is to help low-wage earners secure good jobs in a changing economy, using a model called the Career Impact Bond (CIB).

Through the CIB, impact investors fund training programs that enable students to enroll free of charge. Students complete their training with the aid of wraparound supports, like an option to finance living expenses. If their salary after the program exceeds a certain threshold, they repay program costs as a fixed percentage of their income, capped at a set dollar amount and fixed number of months. Those who don’t obtain meaningful employment following graduation pay nothing.

“I like how the UP Fund aligns incentives to give people a leg up. Workers looking for better skills and higher paying work, the schools that can train them, and us funding the education are all pulling in the same direction.”

– FJC Donor Ted Huber

Social Finance partners with high-quality training programs that upskill workers and help place them into good-paying jobs. One such program is American Diesel Training Centers, a for-profit training company based in Columbus, Ohio, that offers a short, intensive course to train entry-level diesel technicians, mostly for trucking companies and dealerships. (See the New York Times story featuring this partner here). Another partner is Alchemy Code Lab, which increases access to software development careers for those who have traditionally been locked out. The program also aims to increase diversity in the technology sector, particularly for people of color, women, and LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Longtime FJC donor Ted Huber invested in the UP Fund through his Donor Advised Fund account at FJC. “I like how the UP Fund aligns incentives to give people a leg up,” explains Huber. “Workers looking for better skills and higher paying work, the schools that can train them, and us funding the education are all pulling in the same direction. The UP Fund is helping people who otherwise couldn’t afford these training programs.” 

“We’re proud to work with creative DAF sponsors like FJC, who make it easy for their donors to invest for measurable social impact.”

Tracy Palandjian, CEO and Co-Founder of Social Finance

A longtime investment professional, Huber has been interested in supporting initiatives that anticipate recycling philanthropic dollars, providing both social and financial returns. Huber recommended an investment in the Fund via his DAF account, and following approval by FJC’s board committee, the staff at FJC worked with him to execute the investment through Social Finance’s recoverable grant structure. This approach allows DAF account holders to participate in the UP Fund with the same terms as institutional impact investing foundations like Blue Meridian Partners, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and many others.

“The DAF market represents a significant pool of assets already earmarked for charitable purposes—currently more than $170 billion—that largely remain in traditional market-rate investments without a mandate to generate social and/or environmental outcomes,” says Tracy Palandjian, CEO and co-founder of Social Finance. “We’re proud to work with creative DAF sponsors like FJC, who make it easy for their donors to invest for measurable social impact.”

For students looking to sharpen their skills and earn more, the time and expense of training programs can be risky. One of the critical aspects of the UP Fund is that it shares risk among the participants: students, training program providers, and impact investors. As Devon, a participant in the Alchemy Code Lab program, explains, “I was looking for places that had really generous scholarships—something where the funding was significant because there was no way I was going to make that choice without a clear financial path for myself. What was really heartening about the Career Impact Bond was…the safety net. If this all goes wrong, I’m protected.”

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.”

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.”