Community Foundation augments its Broader Vision with Targeted Mission-related Investing
In medical terms, magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a diagnostic tool aimed at detecting a condition. In the lexicon of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, an MRI, or mission-related investment, is a treatment tool that targets a particular business initiative while providing a holistic approach to the overall health of a community.
Mission-related investment, also known as impact investing, augments the Community Foundation’s traditional business model of awarding funds through grants and distributions to support the missions of hundreds of nonprofit organizations in the Greater New Haven area. Impact investing allows the Community Foundation to invest in the talent and creativity of people and their innovative endeavors for the good of a company and the community at large, according to William Ginsberg, president and chief executive officer of Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.
The goal is to grow business in a way that helps everyone thrive—not just the developers, entrepreneurs, and business executives, but the people, especially marginalized groups who live in the community in which the businesses operate
MRI provides funding for a particular company with the aim of “inclusive growth.” “The goal is to grow business in a way that helps everyone thrive—not just the developers, entrepreneurs, and business executives, but the people, especially marginalized groups who live in the community in which the businesses operate,” according to the Foundation.
Impact investing has the potential to be a significant change in the community-support landscape by achieving social goals and yielding financial returns. Ginsberg sees impact investing as a “breakthrough” that will immediately support for-profit and not-for-profit businesses, and as such will contribute long-term to a community because that company will create jobs and tax revenue that, in turn, funds public services.
One shining example of the Foundation’s impact-investing partnership is its relationship with New Haven-based Fitscript, developed by people living with diabetes. Fitscript products and services are designed to meet the unique requirements of diabetics for safe and effective exercise, offering “a solution that embraces technology to harness technology,” according to Charlie O’Connell, the company’s founder and CEO.
Fitscript’s digital platform, known as GlucoseZone, is an app that provides exercise solutions to help users reduce blood-sugar levels and control their diabetes.
We are on a mission to make digitally accessed fitness a viable alternative to pharmaceutical management of Type II diabetes and be a beacon in the global digital health economy
“We are on a mission to make digitally accessed fitness a viable alternative to pharmaceutical management of Type II diabetes and be a beacon in the global digital health economy,” O’Connell said, adding that diabetes is the single largest driver of health care costs in the nation, and that urban centers like New Haven are disproportionately affected by the disease. Statistics from the American Diabetes Association underscore O’Connell’s comments. Its website says the total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2017 is $327 billion, including $237 billion in direct medical costs and $90 billion in reduced productivity.
O’Connell is grateful to the leaders of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven for their foresight and investment to help his company create “an opportunity for growth, an opportunity for employment, an opportunity for New Haven to be a part of the 21st century economy.” O’Connell said the willingness of the Community Foundation to commit funding to Fitscript has been leveraged one-hundred fold.
By investing in Fitscript, the Foundation has not only helped with the creation of O’Connell’s program, but its economic support has led to the creation of more than 35 high-paying jobs in the emerging digital health industry, and to the ability of Fitscript to reach more than 100 million people through YouTube.
That’s one of the beauties of the digital health economy. “It can do a lot of good for a lot of people whether they live in Hamden or Asia,” Ginsberg said.
The Foundation is also investing in Holberton New Haven, a new software engineering school with game-changing potential to rapidly build the region’s talent pool. Opening in January, the school has developed a bias-free application process, and students do not pay for tuition until after they get a job. Aiming for 1,000 graduates in five years, Holberton is meeting employers’ demand for tech skills and creating opportunity for nontraditional students.