ELLSWORTH, Maine – The Maine Community Foundation is one of the nation’s best at finding ways to build community wealth using new approaches, according to a report released today. The report by the Maryland-based Democracy Collaborative names the Ellsworth-based foundation one of the Innovative 30.
The report’s co-author, Marjorie Kelly, says the Maine Community Foundation is a leader in what’s called impact investing. “And that means not just giving grants, but investing out of their own assets and encouraging their donors to invest out of their assets to put money to work to help communities,” Kelly says. “This is really the holy grail for a lot of people.”
Kelly points out a 2008 loan of $1 million to the Maine Farmland Trust to preserve and protect farmland was a successful impact investment. That led the Maine Community Foundation to the creation of two more similar funds, and by September more than $2.3 million dollars been mobilized for the organization.
“The board of Maine Community Foundation said, ‘Well, let’s expand our impact investing,’” she relates. “’Let’s do more.’ “So they set up two pools, two investment portfolios. One is called Farm, Fisheries and Food – they want to support local entrepreneurs. And there’s also Downtown and Business Development.” Kelly adds her report reveals that the work of the Innovative 30 anchor foundations can go a long way toward easing what it calls the nation’s staggering wealth inequalities. “There’s a lot of groups and communities thinking, ‘How can we begin to reinvent our economies to include the excluded and to sustain ecology and resources for the future?’” Kelly says. “And we find that community foundations are key players in this often, and that’s what led us to do this research.”