Teen radio producers for Ouro Negro da Malta, a youth-focused initiative developed in partnership with PCI Media, UNICEF and Ministry of Health (Mozambique).

Bridge Financing a Bequest: The Case of PCI Media

Under Meesha Brown’s leadership as President, PCI Media developed a strategic plan with an ambitious path for growth.  As an organization that uses storytelling and communications across the world to shift mindsets and make meaningful cultural and positive behavioral change, Ms. Brown and her team were determined to increase impact, develop new partnerships, and achieve economies of scale.  “We had this new plan for growth that required us to develop a new, more robust private donor base,” said Ms. Brown, “but the question was, how would we get started?”

The answer to this question came from out of the blue, in the form of a bequest.  A donor, who had made occasional grants to PCI Media over the years, had passed away and selected PCI Media for a major gift, alongside dozens of nonprofit organizations devoted to conservation, family planning and health, women and girls, and arts and culture.  PCI Media, whose mission spans all of these program areas, expects to receive between $4 – $8 million from this bequest, a windfall that will catapult the organization into its next phase, allowing them to execute on their strategic vision.  (The donor has requested anonymity).

A $550,000 loan from FJC and SeaChange Capital Partners will bridge a $4 – $8 million bequest from a donor, while they wait for the estate to wind its way through the probate process.

The urgent needs of PCI Media’s stakeholders, however, required the organization to begin implementation immediately, even as the estate winds its way through the probate process.  (The legal process for sorting through the donor’s last wishes can take several months to resolve, sometimes longer with complicated estates).  PCI Media’s plans required immediate action: hiring new staff, investing in program expansion, and establishing systems for sustainable growth.

Enter FJC and its fellow nonprofit lender SeaChange Capital Partners.  FJC and SeaChange are co-lenders on a $550,000 loan to bridge PCI Media’s bequest.  The loan will allow PCI Media to jumpstart their next phase of work as they wait for the funds from the bequest to arrive. 

PCI Media’s mission is to create a healthier, more just, and sustainable world using the power of storytelling and community. The organization partners with local organizations across the world to shift social norms and mobilize communities through culturally resonant radio programs, social media, and interactive communication campaigns.  Their local partnerships have taken them to over 70 countries, including in recent years Peru, Colombia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Mozambique, just to name a few. Beyond helping their partners produce effective content, PCI Media builds partner capacity for the long term, helping them format programs to produce positive change, organize as networks of media stations and community coalitions, and engage their audiences on a host of issues. 

“It’s such a pleasure to work with lenders like FJC and SeaChange that are so sensitive to the needs of nonprofits.”

Meesha Brown, President, PCI Media

In Mozambique, for example, PCI Media has launched a multi-pronged communication initiative  Ouro Negro  (Black Gold), in partnership with UNICEF Mozambique and the Ministry of Health, focused on improving public health outcomes in childhood nutrition and maternal health. As the longest-running radio drama in the country, it has broadcast over 394 episodes on 116 national radio and local stations. In the drama, worlds collide as a fictional African village is confronted with the arrival of a foreign mining company.  Against this backdrop of tension and change, listeners learn essential maternal, newborn, and child health practices. Rapid assessment surveys showed widespread impact after season one. Ouro Negro is currently in its 7th season.

The Covid-19 pandemic only intensified the need for media that improved access to health information and services.   In response to the pandemic, PCI Media’s production teams practiced social distancing, recording voices one by one, and disinfecting the studio between each actor. PCI Media recreated community discussion forums online. “We know our work is important, but with the increases in risks to women and girls, children, and overall health, the pandemic made it clear that the need for our programs exceeds what we can provide with our current funding,” said Ms. Brown.

Receiving this bridge financing from FJC and SeaChange allows PCI Media to smooth the cash flow challenges associated with government and bilateral organizations, close program funding gaps and ensure there is no disruption to the 4 million listeners who rely on their programming for reliable health information.

Ms. Brown notes that bridge lending against donor bequests is not a typical product in the banking sector.   “It’s such a pleasure to work with lenders like FJC and SeaChange that are so sensitive to the needs of nonprofits,” said Ms. Brown.

Photo courtesy of Harvey Wacht

Conserving Nature and Legacy: A Tribute to FJC Donor Karin Heine

If you visit the Heine Wildlife Preserve, located in Wheat Ridge in the greater Denver metropolitan area, you might find dozens of species of birds, butterflies, deer, and fox.  You might marvel at the habitat diversity of this 11-acre urban oasis.  And you might encounter schoolchildren from the nearby Alpine Valley School, examining bugs, filling bird-feeders, and maintaining the bumblebee habitat. 

This oasis of urban wildlife conservation represents the vision of longtime FJC donor Karin Heine, who passed away in May of this year.  Ms. Heine was committed over her lifetime to demonstrating how humans might integrate more harmoniously with nature and wildlife, even in urban settings.

Ms. Heine “was often first in line to help others, but her passion was the charities she cared about.”

Harvey Wacht, Principal and Senior Financial Advisor, ShufroRose

“So much conservation in urban areas is abstract and hypothetical,” explains Tony Caligiuri, President of Colorado Open Land.  “The special thing about the Heine Wildlife Preserve was that it was right in the middle of the neighborhood, and it was a relatable example of what could be done in an urban environment.” He noted that Ms. Heine loved to make educational opportunities about the environment available to young people, in the hopes of inspiring a next generation of conservators.

Colorado Open Lands was one of several environmental and conservation nonprofits that received significant grants following Ms. Heine’s untimely death, as part of final distribution of funds from her Donor Advised Fund account.  Like all the organizations receiving funds from the final distribution, Ms. Heine enjoyed a decades-long relationship with Colorado Open Lands.  

In the early 2000s, Colorado Open Lands entered into an agreement with Ms. Henie to establish a conservation easement on her property: a voluntary, permanent contract whereby the landowner gives up development rights of a property in perpetuity, in return for tax benefits.  The preserve has grown through careful stewardship from 3.7 acres initially to 11 acres today, and the easement will ensure the property will remain a nature habitat forever.  Following Ms. Heine’s death, Colorado Open Lands is in conversation with its board about this most strategic use of her final grant, with the hopes of adding organizational capacity to address a backlog of similar conservation projects, representing potential conservation of 100,000 acres across the state. 

Ms. Heine was committed over her lifetime to demonstrating how humans might integrate more harmoniously with nature and wildlife, even in urban settings. Her philanthropy has created an enduring conservation legacy for generations to come.

“The Nature Conservancy works locally to globally, and Ms. Heine appreciated that approach,” said Carlos Fernandez, the State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado, another organization that received significant grant funding from Ms. Heine’s DAF account.  He noted that Ms. Heine was a discerning philanthropist with a trust-based approach to giving that allowed the Conservancy to find the most impactful use for the funds.

Financial advisor Harvey Wacht, a Principal at ShufroRose, reflected on his thirty-year friendship with Ms. Heine, which began with a advisory relationship with Ms. Heine and other members of her family.  Ms. Heine lived among animals, keeping goats for pets and a chicken coop “before it became fashionable for hipsters in Brooklyn.”  He noted that Ms. Heine cared deeply about the local community, and “was often first in line to help others,” often providing financial support personally to friends and neighbors in crisis.  “But her passion was the charities that she cared about,” reflected Mr. Wacht, noting that her philanthropy and longstanding nonprofit relationships have created an enduring conservation legacy for generations to come.