June 01, 2016

Funding and investment equals sustainability


Nine different organisations came together to build a Platform that could help non-for-profit organisations and social entrepreneurs to be sustainable. On May 16th, 2016 GEOfundos was officially launched. The only platform of its kind in Portuguese, it gathers national and international funding and investment of all types and brings together a whole community to foster social change.

– Guest blog by Cláudia Pedra from GeoFundos 

Organisations and social entrepreneurs struggle each day to find funding and investment for their social business and projects. They either do not know where to look for it or have no time to go through dozens of websites and hundreds of pages of regulations and forms. When they finally find the opportunity they sometimes do not have enough time to work on it or lack the technical skills to do so adequately. At the end there is funding undelivered, investment that never takes place and organisations/ entrepreneurs withering away in the battle against financial ruin.

Nine organisations – Associação Mutualista Montepio Geral, Call to Action, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, CASES, EDP Foundation, IES- Social Business School, PT Foundation, Stone Soup Consulting and TESE – of different kinds (foundations, a public entity, NGOs and companies), with deep knowledge of the social economy sector and also of its constraints, came together to design a platform that would not only gather in one place all funding and investment opportunities but would also build the organisations/ entrepreneurs’ capacity to respond, with quality, to the opportunities found there. The decision to build it in Portuguese was also strategic as the idea was to remove language barriers and make those opportunities more easily understood. To that effect, the GEOfundos team is also trying to establish dozens of partnerships that will facilitate the flow of opportunities and enlighten all on difficult interpretation issues in regulations and forms.

It is not an easy task, to create such strategic partnerships, but language and interpretation is key for a platform that has the ambition to create social change. The idea is not to list opportunities but to match those opportunities with the right organisation/ entrepreneur and help the whole ecosystem by avoiding organisations and entrepreneurs to spend time on applications they will never win and funders/ investors to assess projects and social businesses that they will never fund or invest in. So the challenge was to create a Platform that could do all this.

The design is as simple as efficient – organisations/ entrepreneurs have access to all the opportunities listed (free of charge) as well as support services, a catalogue of consultancy and training experts that can help them and a learning space with all relevant information for successful applications to funding/ investment. Thus, building capacity and knowledge.

But if they wish to receive only the opportunities feasible for them they can pay the service through a subscription fee. For the subscribers, listed opportunities are customised, the learning space is more developed and the search options are advanced. There is also an option to promote strategic partnerships between the users of the platform and find adequate partners for a specific opportunity.

The option to have a paid subscription was not considered lightly. It is not easy to have such renowned and important donors in the creation of a platform and then ask for subscription fees. Organisations and entrepreneurs state their arguments against it. But it is important to note that the funders of the platform have an exit strategy and it would make no sense to design an instrument that wasn’t sustainable when you are promoting financial sustainability.

With its own Theory of Change and social impact measurement system, GEOfundos will be able to be both financially and socially accountable. The overall impact is to increase medium to long term financial sustainability of organisations and social entrepreneurs.

There are many challenges that are still in the wake: Will organisations/ entrepreneurs use the platform? Will they pay for a subscription fee? Will they take advantage of the capacity building features? Will strategic partnerships be formed? Will this translate into more diversified funding and thus into increased financial sustainability?

It would important also to have good opportunities for social investment and not only funding. Portuguese organisations and entrepreneurs are largely unknown to the VP/ social investment community and there are many good projects and businesses to invest in. The platform can also help in the match.

The start seems auspicious. Partners are joining, organisations and entrepreneurs are registering and the community for social change seems to be consolidating. We hope now that people join GEOfundos and the Platform is able to fulfil its social mission. Nine organisations came together with a shared vision – the future will show if organisations and entrepreneurs share it with them.

Kindly supported by

European Commission

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