RSF Social Finance

How an early pioneer of mission-driven finance is using the XX Factor framework

This 34-year-old social finance pioneer continues to transform itself from grantmaker and loan provider to a social change organization committed to improving society and the environment through an integrated capital approach. With nearly 2,000 clients, RSF provides a broad range of services including investing, lending, and donor advised funds focused on areas such as food and agriculture, education and arts, and ecological stewardship.

In 2016, RSF created a Women’s Capital Collaborative to support female entrepreneurs. In 2017, it hosted its first Shared Gifting Circle for the Women’s Collaborative. Shared Gifting—a type of grantmaking that RSF has championed for more than seven years—shifts the process of decision-making and allocation authority for gift money from donors to circle participants/grantees. In creating this circle, RSF took inspiration from the XX Factor framework and assembled a dozen women-led social enterprises that encompassed the “five dimensions” of women’s lives mentioned in our framework: health, education, economic empowerment, personal safety, and legal rights.

RSF’s methodology is based on the belief that entrepreneurs need different kinds of capital at various times as a social enterprise evolves. Different types of financial capital can be utilized such as loans, loan guarantees, investments, or grants. It could also include human or social capital, such as a mentor, advisory support, or access to important networks. By raising philanthropic funds, RSF can offer this kind of integrated capital through the Women’s Capital Collaborative. It is what makes this initiative so unique.

RSF has received nearly $3 million in philanthropic contributions to the Women’s Capital Collaborative to date and has plans to grow it by another million by year’s end. It has so far funded 17 women-led social enterprises and has provided more than $1 million: $756,000 in loans, $100,000 in a loan guarantee, $150,000 in grants through a Shared Gifting Circle, and $60,000 in technical assistance grants.

The challenges facing women are enormous, yet funding is limited. RSF continues to explore how it can be a catalyst with the funds it leverages through the Women’s Capital Collaborative. It also continues to evaluate whether it makes sense to focus on all five dimensions of women and girls flourishing, or just one or two. For now, economic empowerment is the primary concentration area, and education and health are the secondary focus areas.

Another challenge is measuring social impact on two fronts: the impact of the social enterprises RSF supports, and the impact of RSF as a financial intermediary. As an organization, it will soon launch a Social Impact Assessment project to help improve the ways RSF measures and reports on impact. With a grant from Tara Health Foundation (which also sponsored this work), RSF will refine the selection criteria, particularly as they relate to the XX Factor framework, and determine how best to assess the impact of the Women’s Capital Collaborative.

For more information about RSF Social Finance, visit rsfsocialfinance.org.