Impact investment fund responds to COVID crisis with relief
By Mark Crosswell, managing director, the GoATL Fund, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
In 2018, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta launched the GoATL Fund, the first social impact investment fund in the Southeast. The Fund provides flexible, low-cost debt to nonprofits and social enterprises that are making an impact in areas including affordable housing, education and small business development. To date, the Fund has supported the development of over 400 units of affordable housing, 80 early childhood education slots, over 300 K-12 slots and small business growth that has created over 120 jobs.
After investing over $8 million in our first two years, we entered 2020 with momentum at our backs and ambitious plans for the New Year. Then a new reality hit with COVID-19. As many were forced to do, the GoATL team quickly shifted focus to assessing the economic fallout and devising urgent relief efforts. It soon became apparent that those hit hardest by lockdowns and closures were small businesses, students, frontline healthcare workers and low-income households. In an effort to respond, we and our colleagues studied the CARES Act extensively and began to educate our investors and foundation partners on the fallout. It also became clear that the pandemic was disproportionately impacting Black and brown communities: early estimates suggested that over 40% of Black-owned businesses have closed, compared to just 17% of white-owned businesses.
As summer began, we shifted our focus from acts of relief to acts of recovery. Inspired by the work of our investment partners, local nonprofits and both national and regional foundations, the GoATL team worked to support metro Atlanta’s communities by investing in the work of key partners, including:
- Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE) for use in COVID recovery loans;
- Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to make COVID recovery loans and launch new microloan programs;
- Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP) to revitalize affordable rental housing in South DeKalb, an area still recovering from the last recession;
- LiftFund to finance 0% recovery loans for entrepreneurs;
- Financing for a mixed-used project in the Historic Sweet Auburn District; and,
- Reinvestment Fund’s Fund for Quality to finance expansions of early childhood education centers for low-income households.
As a result of our increased commitment to racial equity, our investments are making a difference for underserved populations, such as:
- ANDP’s homebuyers are 66% are Black, 11% are Hispanic or Latinx and 3% Asian
- LiftFund’s microenterprise clients in GA are over 80% BIPOC-owned
- More than half of ACE’s clients are BIPOC-owned businesses and most are women
Looking ahead, the GoATL Fund has identified a wide range of investment opportunities that will leverage the strength of partners and continue driving meaningful impact in the community. More details on GoATL’s impact to date and investment opportunities can be found in 2020 Impact Report and GoATL Profile. For a complete look at the Fund’s 2020 year in review, or to learn more about investing in the Fund, go here.
Photo courtesy of Takes a Village Transportation, an ACE client.