Social Entrepreneurship Grants Matter at the Earliest Stage

2017 Fellows Yeshimabeit Milner, Reyna Montoya, and Jon Kornik at their New Fellows Retreat.

Echoing Green believes that backing the right leaders, with the right idea at the right time, is crucial to making positive social change. Innovative ideas are important, but our priority is identifying emerging leaders who have dedicated their lives to bettering the world, convening our community of world changers, and catalyzing these social entrepreneurs at the start of their impact journeys.

To launch a successful social enterprise, having the room to experiment, fail, and try again is essential. However, taking risks means using money and resources, which is difficult for leaders simultaneously focusing on securing social entrepreneurship grants. At the same time, space to fail and iterate is a privilege not afforded by all.

For this reason, Echoing Green Fellows receive unrestricted funding and health care reimbursement over the course of their two-year Fellowship.

We’ve always thought about this as quit your job money. Our goal is to give Fellows the cushion they need to focus, full time, on their idea and project.

For many of them, these social entrepreneurship grants are their first source of funding, which is crucial. However, we know that funding alone is not enough to create lasting impact.

Nonprofit grants and social enterprise funding are crucial, especially at the earliest stages when companies are gaining their footing. But in addition to philanthropic and investment funding, Echoing Green believes that convening a network of like-minded, passionate leaders can yield even greater returns than solely providing a social innovation fund. Fellows receive guidance from their dedicated portfolio managers, advisors, and mentors, but they also guide and learn from each other through conferences and gatherings that connect them across and between cohorts.

We don’t make bets and then walk away from the table. We watch and help our Fellows grow and evolve to become the leaders we know they can be.

Gemma Bulos ’07 gives back to the Echoing Green community year after year and prioritizes time with new Fellows because she knows the importance of community during the early stages of launching a social enterprise:

“I remember sitting in a circle delivering our 60-second pitches and getting feedback from the other potential Fellows, and through that process, witnessing transformations in how we each talked about our work that went from academic technical jargon to powerful succinct pitches worthy of starting change-making movements.

In this process alone, after hearing about the amazing work everyone was doing, we went from feeling competitive to being cheerleaders for each other. That’s never stopped.”

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