Via: Dallas Business Journal

By: Plamedie Ifasso

LiftFund founder Janie Barrera describes the not-for-profit organization as one of the best kept investment secrets.

The organization provides entrepreneurs with the capital and education they need to scale and sustain their businesses. With donations and investments like the $75,000 investment it received from the Texas Women’s Foundation, LiftFund helps small businesses build assets.

“You know the saying, ‘You teach someone how to fish, and they eat for a lifetime,’” Barrera said. “What we do at LiftFund is help people buy the pond where they fish, and now they have an asset. They own something, and they can leave it to the next generation.”

LiftFund is not a bank but makes loans with capital provided by its investors and donors.

While a donation is treated as a grant that doesn’t get a return, an investment gets revolved back into the community. The principal payment on the investment goes back into the fund, and the interest on the loan helps pay the organization’s overhead.

The $75,000 Texas Women’s Foundation invested into the fund is a part of a larger impact story. The foundation made its first investment in 2015 on a three-year agreement it renews regularly.

In Dallas-Fort Worth, the impact during the time the foundation has made its investment has resulted in $6 million in small business loans, nearly 230 loans, and the creation and retention of over 1,000 jobs.

Nearly half of the clients served were women, and 67% were business owners of color. About 62% of individuals served earned low to moderate incomes.

The average loan size was $26,000, and the top three industries supported included service, retail and professional technical services.

“As those dollars come into the community, people are paying taxes, buying materials and hiring people,” Barrera said. “That’s the economic impact on the community.”

Texas Women’s Foundation shifted all of its investments in 2019 to products benefiting women and girls such as businesses advancing women to C-suite and board-level leadership roles and supports women’s entrepreneurship both through its impact investments and grant cycles.

“We’re investing, very specifically, in small or larger businesses owned by women of color and making sure they are able to and ready to take advantage of any opportunities that come along, so they have the opportunity to not only impact the neighborhoods in which they’re located but also to hire and perpetuate some good practices like family-friendly policies,” Texas Women’s Foundation Associate Vice President of Grants Mary Valadez said.

Outside of supporting female entrepreneurs of color, another investment opportunity the foundation sees that funders don’t often think about is investing in social services benefiting residents in affordable housing developments.

The organization is still searching for opportunities where it could serve as a small sidecar related to a larger investment and had a few potential projects pop up, such as a chance to fund a revenue-producing child care center attached to an affordable housing development in southern Dallas. But the project didn’t get off the ground.

“We’re looking for the right opportunity to invest money to do a shorter-term loan to a nonprofit that can get repaid over time (in economic development projects) HUD and the city doesn’t cover,” Texas Women’s Foundation Interim President and CEO Dena Jackson said.” When thinking about where to make investments, we have made investments at $50,000 and at $75,000. Everything does not have to be $5 million to go build apartments. There are entry points at different levels to do philanthropy.”