Over the last three decades, Echoing Green has supported nearly 1,000 start-up social innovators with the boldest ideas for change. We have been on the frontlines of solving the world’s biggest problems, raising up the transformational leaders willing to speak truth to power and challenge the status quo. While supporting these early-stage organizations, we learned not only how ideas evolve to scalable and sustainable ventures, but also what makes an individual blossom into a best-in-class leader and movement builder. Along the way, we measured, evaluated, and tracked the skills and resources that prove to be essential to entrepreneurial success.
Simply put, our Fellows have the passion to change the world. Echoing Green has the knowledge to help them do it. By sharing our expertise with social innovators, we make them better leaders. Better at building and growing their organizations. Better at advancing change and accelerating solutions to our biggest social challenges.
Out of our analysis, Echoing Green created a Leadership Development Framework (LDF) built around different competencies and skills sets that have been carefully curated to encompass what we have seen as essential to building a successful social venture and developing critical leadership expertise. Our current competencies include: fundraising readiness; organization structure & systems; short-term operations planning; marketing & communications; team, stakeholder, & relationship management; developing a theory of change; long-term strategic planning; measuring & evaluation; and purpose. Each competency is broken up into milestones—specific, discrete skill-building goals. The milestones are sequential and build on one another to lead up to an overall mastery of each competency.
Each competency will ultimately comprise four components, including:
- Self-guided materials
- Individual and group coaching with Portfolio Managers to facilitate peer-to-peer learning
- Virtual learning opportunities as a means to continually push out important and relevant lessons
- Connections with peers and other advisors in our network for technical support
Launch of Echoing Green’s Fundraising Curriculum
Fundraising readiness is the first competency for which Echoing Green has built a curriculum, and the 2018 and 2019 Fellows are the first recipients of this resource.
Our focus on fundraising readiness is critical because we know the challenges of raising funds in the social enterprise space. Social entrepreneurs and investors often have misaligned understandings on the goals around mission, impact, and investing. At the same time, we know that emerging social entrepreneurs start off on uneven playing fields even at the earliest stages of launching their organizations. Year after year, our data, compiled in our annual State of Social Entrepreneurship, show stark disparities when it comes to funds raised by women and entrepreneurs of color. Barriers to funding exist at both the market and individual or organizational level, and range from fragmentation in the funding space to biases in decision-making, which disadvantage people of color, women, indigenous leaders, and other individuals across the world.
The fundraising curriculum will include step-by-step guidance and resources related to securing investments, loans, and grants—the three types of funding Fellows across our portfolio seek. Because each of these fundraising streams needs tailored content and resources to support that particular capital need, we are grateful for several partners who have helped us develop targeted components of this fundraising curriculum.
In addition to partnering with American Express, which is funding our overall LDF work, we have partnered with Moody’s, which is supporting the loan-readiness component of our fundraising guidance. Through this sponsorship, Echoing Green will increase our capacity to support Fellows in becoming loan-ready. This includes access to information and mentorship from Moody’s through their Reshape Tomorrow initiative.
Echoing Green is also partnering with the US African Development Foundation (USADF) to provide collaborative investment-readiness training to emerging African leaders. Current African Fellows and Alumni will have access to content and resources tailored to the African context for the investment-readiness component within the LDF.
We know that fundraising is challenging work. There are often breakdowns between social entrepreneurs and funders and differences in approaching impact and investments. Our goal is to bridge those gaps by facilitating conversations and connections, continuing to share our knowledge and data around impact funding and supporting emerging social change leaders, and strengthening programmatically aligned partnerships that are supporting Echoing Green and our investment in Fellows. We are committed to establishing the right ecosystem of support for both social entrepreneurs doing the work and funders supporting the work, while continuing to invest in the methods and tools to hack not just the challenges that exist in our own systems, but throughout the sector.