The Jessie Ball duPont Fund has announced that program-related investments it has made in Virginia and Delaware over the last three years are beginning to reap rewards.
Since 2011, when it set aside $10 million from its endowment for program-related investments, the fund has awarded $3 million in PRIs to Virginia Community Capital and the National Council on Agricultural Life and Labor Research Fund (NCALL), both of which work to support affordable housing and community development efforts in underserved and rural areas in Virginia and Delaware. "Traditionally, we think of the fund primarily as a grantmaker, which it is," said Jessie Ball duPont Fund president Sherry Magill. "But the Great Recession caused us to imagine how we might deploy some of our investment assets, in addition to our grantmaking dollars, to help communities that were suffering economically. Could we invest a portion of our portfolio in local places and receive a social as opposed to a market return?"
The investments have enabled the NCALL Loan Fund to support community improvement efforts in Sussex County, the poorest and most rural county in Delaware, while VCC has used its funds to provide business planning assistance, financial planning, and access to professional services to small businesses in the Northern Neck of Virginia. The foundation's PRI program also has supported a VCC project to turn a former elementary school into twenty-eight apartments for low-income individuals with disabilities. "Leveraging the loan through the Jessie Ball duPont Fund PRI advanced th[e] project with uncommon speed," said Monique Johnson, a VCC senior loan officer who worked on the project with developer RUSH Lifetime Homes. "Residents will soon have safe, affordable housing available, and RUSH has converted an abandoned school into a community asset."
Through its PRI initiative, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund also has identified key lessons that will guide its future investment decisions, including the importance of having a local presence in areas where it invests, the importance of community-based organizations with the experience and capacity to leverage PRI investments effectively, and the need for a a robust pipeline of projects that potential investors can choose from. "In any new field of endeavor there are lessons to be learned," said Magill. "We are pleased to have strong partners in Virginia and Delaware."