Impact Investing 101: CoCoMaine with Impact Investment Committee Members

You may know that members of the Brick & Beam Society invest their time, skills, and finances to make a measurable difference in their community— for our initial impact, we specifically invested in projects that would benefit early childhood education and poverty and would be high-impact, sustainable, replicable, innovative, holistic, and collaborative.

But maybe you don’t know precisely just how we do this and in the interest of transparency and wanting you to also roll YOUR sleeves up and get involved, the Impact Investing Committee’s Chair, Sam Elsner and Vice-Chair, Sarah Oliver, along with former Chair Annie Drew, recently shared their experiences in developing the investment process for Brick & Beam— what follows is the methodic step-by-step process we adopted uniquely as our own, especially as we emerge as a major contender in the Greater Portland funding landscape.

  1. We cast a wide net. We pitched our application to the entire community, not just United Way partner agencies.
  2. We aim for holistic partnership. With the help of United Way of Greater Portland’s Director of Evaluation, Mary Madden, we developed a scoring rubric to assess and determine how we would select who to fund. The rubric was based on the criteria identified as most important to B&B’s mission. As Sarah shared, “Our responsibility is to have impact on community right away.”
  3. We keep learning. Our committees are learning a great deal from the process and have quickly come to realize how much process is needed to run multiple tracks in tandem to meet our community’s complex needs. We’ve even been able to tweak said processes with timely improvements in anticipation of next year.

Here was an important question for the group— why CoCo Maine (the Congolese Community of Maine)? A key deciding factor leading to the selection of CoCoMaine was the recognition that this innovative program would not have happened without Brick & Beam’s investment – this truly is a collaborative effort meeting all criteria the group identified as instrumental, including an opportunity for community members at-large to vote at our Community Night event in October.

“[CoCoMaine is] exactly what we had envisioned— an organization with a wealth of support from the immigrant community, a Board filled with people with passionate and impressive backgrounds, and an existing, motivated, close group of dedicated volunteers. The organization has innovative ideas around a dual-generation approach to education for parents and their children, already having thought through the plan sans additional resources, but just didn’t have the infrastructure. That’s where we came in— we (Brick & Beam) also saw our role— as a group, we wanted to provide our skills and talent as a value-add (including pro-bono development of CoCoMaine’s 501c3 status thanks to Ari Solotoff and Bernstein Shur) in addition to the funding component. One of our Steering Committee members, Annie Drew, has been going to CoCoMaine’s programs on Saturday afternoons and states, ‘There’s nothing like this in Portland.’”

For more information, please see our October 27, 2016 press release here. Looking for ways to get involved further? Find out how to help CoCo Maine here.