Blog Post #9 - The Michigan Impact Investing Hub Unlocks New Insights and Opportunities

Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Michigan Impact Investing Hub Unlocks New Insights and Opportunities  

January 2022 Blog Post • By Jennifer Oertel, CMF Impact Investing Expert in Residence

CMF launched the Michigan Impact Investing Hub in October with a virtual kickoff attended by nearly 100 stakeholders across our state’s impact investing ecosystem. The Hub is the culmination of years of exploration and planning by CMF’s Impact Investing Committee and other stakeholders eager to explore how CMF could continue to grow and strengthen the impact investing practice as we collectively work to support thriving, equitable communities.   

The Hub is simply a community – a group of stakeholders based in Michigan, or interested in making impact investments in Michigan, with CMF serving as the facilitator of communication flow. We have high hopes for what may spring forth from this community, recognizing great things often come from gathering people committed to a similar goal. In this initial stage, stakeholders are virtually connecting in their respective “Leaf” of the ecosystem – whether investee, investor, professional advisor or educator/policymaker – so that each Leaf can determine, from their perspective, what barriers exist in the ecosystem and what can be done to ameliorate them. Our dedicated Connectors from each Leaf will gather to share out their respective findings, which we will then synthesize and report back to all those involved in the Hub. From there, the possibilities are endless as to what activities may result from collaboration amongst the Hub participants. It will be especially interesting to learn whether the stakeholder groups identify differing needs and challenges, or have much in common.
 
In a preliminary survey of 50 Hub participants, we have already learned that key needs include more learning on how to get started, how to source deals and how to create time for this practice due to tight staff capacity. Some also identified challenges with getting their leadership on board, and concern that impact investing means sacrificing financial returns. (I’ve addressed that last issue in an earlier blog post to help bust the myth around financial return sacrifices – click here.

The Michigan Impact Investing Hub creates a space to collectively address these and other issues together. And, I invite you to stay connected to this blog for future posts providing insights, guidance and resources to support your impact investing journey. 

We’ve come a long way since CMF started this work a decade ago. At that time, across the country there were just a few large foundations regularly involved in impact investing (including thought leaders from our own great state!) and some community foundations finding creative ways to affect positive social impact in their communities through their investments, but not labeling it as such. Today, many of the state’s community foundations have created revolving loan funds to assist with the devastating effects of COVID-19 and beyond, and many foundations have carved out a portion of their assets for ongoing impact investing opportunities. CMF’s website features examples of how foundations are leveraging impact investing in the communities they serve. 

At this start of another new year, I would like to thank all who are participating in the Hub, including those serving as our Connectors, the CMF Impact Investing committee, CMF itself for supporting this work all along and all those individuals and organizations utilizing their assets to intentionally create positive social impact.     

It’s not too late to get involved! Click here to access a brief online form to indicate your interest in participating in the Hub. The CMF team will reach out in follow up with more information to get you started! 

If you don’t know where to begin, please reach out to the CMF team and we will do our best to connect you with the resources you need.  

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Jennifer Miller Oertel is CMF's Impact Investing Expert-in-Residence and a shareholder in the law firm of Bodman PLC, where she leads the firm’s Tax-exempt Organizations and Impact Investing Group.  With a background in securities law, private equity and mergers & acquisitions, Jennifer utilizes her corporate law and governance skills to assist family and corporate foundations, community foundations, public charities, regional associations, trade and labor associations, chambers of commerce, religious organizations and other tax-exempt organizations as well as impact investors, impact funds, and social enterprises, in all aspects of their business.