How We Work

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Propel Capital invests in social enterprises at critical junctures in their development with flexible, patient capital. We place significant trust in our partners and operate with a high risk tolerance for new approaches and big bets at catalytic moments. 

Leveragable, flexible capital: While Propel is not the largest pool of socially responsible capital, we creatively structure our investment to leverage additional resources. We work to attract other investors to smart, impact-focused businesses and social enterprises, often by taking a first-loss position or providing other financing incentives. With select partners, our team will take a high-touch approach – taking a board seat, providing hands-on support, or actively connecting to our network. 

Funding based on trust: Propel uses diligence and reporting practices that enable our partners – and potential partners — to stay focused on the work of their social enterprise. While we seek excellence, and do our own research to find and support it, we also learn from experts in the field, borrow from the due diligence of respected colleagues, and operate with a high degree of trust in the social enterprises in which we invest. Our team strives to minimize the time and effort spent on application and reporting requirements – accepting reports prepared for other funders, using a streamlined and simple application process and, in most cases, providing multi-year, general operating support.   

100% for Impact: Propel makes grants and impact investments through Propel Capital Network, LLC as well as the Propel Capital Fund, a donor-advised fund powered by ImpactAssets. We believe our resources have the most impact in the hands of those closest to the work and therefore are committed to keeping overhead low, working with impact vendors and service partners – such as ImpactAssets – to support operations, and using 100% of our invested assets to advance our mission.

 
 

Investment Areas

 
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Propel Capital invests in organizations and people working to reform the criminal justice system, advance progressive issues and elected leadership, and expand economic opportunity through inclusive access to capital. We focus on creative solutions to complex challenges, recognizing that game-changing ideas and exceptional leadership exist across sectors, demographics, and geographies.

Progressive Organizing: We support early and growth stage movements and innovators strengthening local communities and voter engagement efforts to build progressive political power in the United States. We seek both new initiatives and existing organizations, believing that collaboration across long-time activists and those newly motivated to act in response to the 2016 election is essential for mobilizing the level of resources – both money and people – necessary to win progressive political power. Propel prioritizes support for organizations led by and actively including populations with historical underrepresentation in positions of political power, including people of color, immigrants, and low-income and working class people.

Criminal Justice Reform: We advocate for fair and equitable treatment for people affected by the criminal justice system. We look for levers to achieve this goal – such as funding the Independent Commission in NYC that calls for the closing of Rikers – and believe that both advocacy and practical models, such college-prison programs and community courts, are essential for true systems change. We believe that people with lived experience are a critical component of the solution to mass incarceration and support their leadership training and educational opportunities.

Social Entrepreneurship / Economic Opportunity: We deploy capital to fuel economic growth and expand access for historically under-invested communities. We believe that capital, intentionally deployed to address these disparities in access, can have catalytic social impact – whether it’s financing for small shareholder farmers around the world or under-invested entrepreneurs here in the US. Propel has also supported social enterprises that have smart, scalable solutions to issues of poverty and inequality, use what they’ve learned for broader systems change, and constantly refine their approach to best serve the communities in which they work. 

Impact Investing: When investing, Propel seeks to put capital to work in highly flexible, productive ways using a variety of investment vehicles, with a primary focus on direct investment (debt/equity) and equity funds. Though return expectations are tailored for each investment based on impact and other factors, we tend to fall closer to the social impact return end of a social/financial return spectrum.