Abundance Capital's venture philanthropy approach aims 'to make money and do good'

Abundance Capital’s venture philanthropy approach aims ‘to make money and do good’

The Upstate has an abundance of talented, generous and forward-thinking individuals who are willing and able to support nonprofit organizations, businesses and projects that aim to create a better, more equitable community.

That premise – and a strong cup of coffee – prompted Margaret Gifford and Mike Gatchell to forge a new model for charitable giving in the Upstate.

Both graduates of Furman University, Gifford and Gatchell pursued different careers in different locales. They met only because Gifford had returned to Greenville to be near her parents during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was intended to be a short break from her heady days in the investment, finance and branding fields for companies in New York City, Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

Gatchell was taking a break, too. After years of working in development and fundraising for Furman and other organizations, he was planning his next chapter.

His plan became Abundance Capital, a nontraditional avenue for charitable giving, charitable investing, and community development.

He called Gifford.

“I knew her background and the firepower that she brought to the table,” Gatchell says. “I decided I would serve her a really strong cup of coffee and get her not thinking straight and convince her to dive into this crazy journey that I had thought up.”

The coffee and the presentation did the trick, Gifford says.

“I said, ‘I want to co-found. Don’t talk to anybody else. It’s me,’” Gifford says.

In February, about seven months after that cup of coffee, Abundance Capital launched as a 501(c)(3) with Gatchell as Chief Executive Officer and Gifford as Chief Impact Investment Officer.

The duo – along with partners, the nonprofit’s Board of Directors and a volunteer Investment Advisory Committee – have raised $1 million in donations from 30 donors and have made four investments, including loans, convertible debt, equity and grants.

“We’re in a period of unprecedented private wealth in our country. Yet, when you look around our communities, you see the same challenges,” Gatchell says. “There had to be a way to motivate and inspire these private resources into community-building solutions – beyond the work that our nonprofit community does.

“There are ways to make money and do good by people and do good by communities.”

Abundance Capital, based in the Endeavor coworking space at the Greenville One building downtown, allows philanthropists to use their charitable dollars to support businesses, nonprofits and projects aimed at changing communities and people’s lives.

“What I love the most is sitting in front of people and trying to understand what matters to them. What impact do they want to have? That’s who we are serving with Abundance. We’re trying to help people or organizations have the impact that they want to have in their communities. We’re giving them new tools,” Gatchell says.

Gifford and Gatchell describe that tool as venture philanthropy.

A venture capital firm is designed to make money for investors. Venture philanthropy puts money into cause-driven businesses and nonprofits, rather than donors’ pockets.

“They create their own account. They get their tax deduction, just like when they gift to any 501(c)(3). We put that money in their account and allow them to maintain the privilege of recommending what to do with that account,” Gatchell says.

If a donor’s chosen investment generates gains, that money goes back into the donor’s fund.“They don’t make money individually, but that fund of theirs can continue to grow. We put it back into that fund to reinvest or give it away again,” Gatchell says.There are about 1,000 donor-advised fund organizations across the country, he says. “The difference between us and about 99% of them is that availability to recommend private impact investments.”Another difference is that Abundance is looking to invest locally and will accept donors of nearly any size, Gifford says. “You can donate $100; you can donate $100,000. We trying to democratize the space, get more people involved in their communities, using their money to grow financially sustainable, purpose-driven businesses.”Gifford says she didn’t expect to become committed to the Greenville area, where she was raised and graduated from high school before heading to Furman.“When I graduated, I decided I would never come back to Greenville under any circumstances,” she says. Gifford was looking for the bright lights and the big cities. “Prior to doing this social impact entrepreneurship work, I thought $500 million was a start-up because it wasn’t a billion yet.”But when the pandemic brought her back, she remembered work she had done a few years before with the U.S. Chamber Foundation.“During the two-year Health Means Business campaign with the U.S. Chamber Foundation, I woke up to […]

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