15 Social Venture Capital Firms That You Should Know About

Building a business is hard. Getting the funding you might need is tough.  But, as you know, when your business satisfies a social or environmental need, your options for funding are even scarcer.  One of the things I hear a lot from social entrepreneurs is the tough time they have finding people willing to fund them.  Traditional investors see the social component of their business as a discount on return on investment. If there’s a financial cost (short-or long-term) of the business’ social component, it’s viewed as a lousy investment choice.  For-profit social enterprises are also excluded from foundation and donation-based funding sources.

There’s a small pool of social venture firms that evaluate a business on its social and environmental performance as well as its financial success. Who are these firms, what types of social enterprises are they looking to support and how can you connect with them? I spoke with Kevin Jones, co-founder of Good Capital and the SoCap Conference to bring you answers to these questions.  You can listen to the interview here.  This post was prompted by an email I got this morning from a women looking for funding options for her social enterprise.  Below are some progressive new firms funding amazing work and seeing great returns.

Based on suggestions from you, I’ve written about 10 more social venture capital firms.

  1. Acumen Fund: Focus on solving problems of global poverty through loans and equity in India, Pakistan and East and South Africa.
  2. Big Issue Investment: Focus on medium-term growth capital.
  3. Calvert Group: Early, direct investments.
  4. Central Fund: Strong focus on sustainable jobs for low-income populations; services for distressed communities.
  5. City Light Capital: Early stage, social mission-driven companies; focus on good financial returns.
  6. Clean Technology Venture Capital: Invests in mid-sized alternative energy companies with promising exits.
  7. First Light (an iniatitave of Gray Ghost Ventures): Incubator and investment partner to seed-stage, for-profit social ventures
  8. Good Capital: Expansion fund; high-engagement, hands-on investment partner.
  9. Gray Ghost Ventures: Early stage enterprises focused on low-income communities in emerging markets.
  10. Investors’ Circle: Investors’ Circle matches social entrepreneurs with its circle of angel investors.
  11. Root Capital: Focus on grassroots businesses in rural areas of developing countries.
  12. Shared Interest: Invests in fair trade businesses.
  13. TBL Capital: Focus on social enterprises in consumer products, service providers, software, clean technology, green building, health and wellness, and retail.
  14. Triodos Bank: Equity and debt fundraising; Social Enterprise Fund and EIS Green Funds.
  15. Underdog Ventures: Focus on natural and organic food, environment and conservation, socially responsible consumer products, and socially responsible investment companies.

If you or your firm invests in high-impact social enterprises and should be listed here, send me an email, olivia[at]causecapitalism.com, or post it in the comments.

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41 Comments

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  1. Kristen Parrinello April 2, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    Wow, thanks so much Olivia! I have just started reaching out into my network and this list is beyond my wildest dreams of what could be put together. I really appreciate your blog post.

    Kristen

  2. admin April 2, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    Kristen, it was a great question–I should have posted this list earlier. Good luck and stay tuned for Kevin Jones’ post next week.

  3. Chris Maloney April 6, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    I agree with Kristen, WOW!

    Great list, thank you!

  4. admin April 6, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    Thanks Chris–I really hope it helps. If you come across any others (or I’ve misrepresented here), please let me know.

  5. Abigail September 13, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    Olivia,

    Thank you for posting this list as a reference guide. Like you, I have been working in the non- profit realm as well as international development. A young professional with a business degree, I am seeking to transition into social venture capital and am challenged to find a firm or venture within a firm’s portfolio which has an entry-level analyst position. Do you know of any firms with formal fellowship programs other than LGT’s iCat program (to which I applied)? With your experience in blending sector experiences, I would value your insight and knowledge.

    Kind Regards,
    A

  6. Archana Verma November 20, 2011 at 2:16 am #

    Hi Olivia,

    Great read! I also wanted to introduce to you and your readers – ennovent a venture catalyst that accelerates innovations for sustainability at the base of the economic pyramid. We work with a global network of entrepreneurs, investors and experts to discover, finance and scale up the best innovations. We envision a world in which disadvantaged people in underserved markets have an equal opportunity to sustainable living.

    Ennovent’s “Sustainable Enterprise Fund (SEF)” invests in sustainable, for-profit enterprises that make a sustainable impact on the Indian BoP markets. The SEF recently made its first investment in Barefoot Power, a global, social for-profit enterprise that manufactures and distributes solar-powered lighting products. Read more here – http://www.ennovent.com/fund/fundDetails/page/fund_overview

    Ennovent has also recently launched its “online global network” (www.ennovent.com) that connects entrepreneurs, investors and experts to share resources and work together to promote for-profit innovations for sustainability at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP).

    Hope this information is useful for those interested to learn more about this space.

    Best,
    Archana

  7. Rowland Mark November 22, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    We are Rowland & Co Consultant and Broker Firm London-U.K, we have a direct genuine provider for BG/SBLC for lease.
    If you are interested you contact us through our direct email: rowfundinghouse@gmail.com

  8. Luke Thomas December 1, 2011 at 1:55 am #

    i love this article! Thanks so much! Do you think my social entrepreneurship business model is a good idea? It’s a housecleaning company. A percentage of profits will be donated to help fund vocational schooling 4 poor parents living in gang-dominated, dangerous areas. My focus is Watts initially! Would this business model be attractive to any VC firms? Thanks!

  9. joel solomon January 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    Take a look at Vancouver, BC based Renewal2 Fund. $35m first
    irst social venture fund in Canada and Usa. See RenewalPartners.com for our roots.

    Take a look at RSFSocialFinance.Org in San Francisco. Deep values lenders. Associative economics roots. I’m an Entrepreneur in Residence at RSF.

    Thanks for writing about our pioneering sector. Ten more years will see dramatic growth.

  10. Olivia Khalili January 15, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    Joel,

    Thanks for the additions. I created a second list, shortly after the first, which includes Renewal.ca. Would love to hear about some of the investments RSF is making and trends in models or sectors you’ve identified.

    Thanks,
    Olivia

  11. Angela Ongoco April 26, 2012 at 2:19 am #

    What about Ashoka: Innovators for the Public? http://www.ashoka.org/

  12. Olivia Khalili April 26, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    Angela, thanks for the suggestion (and I work with Ashoka!). I didn’t include Ashoka as it’s a fellowship, rather than impact investment group. As you may know, the process for receiving a fellowship (and thus financial support) is a bit different than raising investment capital. Thanks for the comment and it’s great to see Ashoka mentioned.

  13. Bill Jones July 10, 2012 at 1:48 am #

    I was wondering if you know any good social investment firms I am starting a social company that works to better the community .

  14. Olivia Khalili July 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Bill,

    Congratulations on this new venture. That’s really exciting. The bulk of firms I’m aware of are listed in these two posts (with additional ones submitted by readers in the comments). If you establish as an L3C, you’re eligible for PRI (reduced-rate loans) from philanthropic foundations. However, L3C status is not available in the majority of states.

  15. raju b kurup July 17, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    sir
    I would like to start a social venture in south india

  16. Jake Erickson October 21, 2012 at 12:35 am #

    Thank you Olivia for dedicating the time to run such a website.

  17. Olivia Khalili October 21, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    Jake,

    Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it. If there’s a specific area in which you’re interested, let me know.

  18. Candice October 24, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    Hello!

    Thanks for this list. I found it very US-heavy! Two more from the UK include Bridges Ventures, and Venturesome.

    Thanks,

    Candice

  19. Olivia Khalili October 24, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    Candice,

    Thanks for these and for providing more global diversification.

  20. george December 2, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    My name is George and I’m working with a city named Monessen, PA. Monessen was home to several steel mills in the early 1900′s. One in particular, we all are familiar with, Pittsburgh Steel. It is nestled on all three side by the Monongahela River. It is currently light on population but rich in architecture and character. Monessen was responsible for much of the steel used to construct railroads, buildings, and bridges throughout cities in the US. Although this town contributed to unregulated contamination of our environment some time ago, it has since fallen victim to Industry. Monessen now wants to become an example of clean energy. We recently developed a new Master Plan for the town and are looking forward to any resources available to create a new green existence. We have trendy real estate available to help start ups get on their feet.

    George

  21. Olivia Khalili December 3, 2012 at 12:30 am #

    George,

    Fantastic that you’re using this as an opportunity to transform a community and support clean energy initiatives and employment. As a native Pennsylvanian, it’s even more inspiring. If you send me an email (olivia[at]causecapitalism[dot]com) we can talk about potential resources.

    Thanks,
    Olivia

  22. Ray Sabbatini May 22, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    I am looking for Venture Capitalists or Angel Investors to help me with my nonprofit. I started a nonprofit called Multiple Sclerosis Extreme – MS Extreme, and believe this to be a Great Cause Marketing & Mission Based Branding opportunity! This is a Groundbreaking Nonprofit and there is nothing else out there like it! I am a MS sufferer and will do whatever it takes (literally) to Raise MS Awareness, Empower/Inspire other MS Sufferers, and to help Fund Research in hopes of finding a Cure! I do high profile “Extreme” events and with the right backing/funding the Sky’s the Limit when it comes to advertising and marketing opportunities! I want to make MS Extreme a household name and will do anything it takes to make it happen! visit the MS-EXTREME.ORG website to see what I’m all about and feel free to contact me anytime. By e-mail at ms-extreme@sbcglobal.net or by phone at (920)763-4304 Extremely, Ray Sabbatini

  23. Alvaro October 31, 2013 at 6:38 am #

    Hiii, thanks for the post, we are a social startup that help people and communities to connect to share skills and time. we are providing of methodology and technology based on the model of time bank and we are adding somme new ideas as “timefunding” and time credit checks to empower people to use their time as currency but also to invest. We are looking for a cool Social Investor and we apreciate this post a lot. any suggestions?

  24. Olivia Khalili October 31, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    Alvaro,

    Glad you found this helpful. The bulk of investors and firms I know of are listed in this post and the follow up post (“10 More Social Venture Capital Firms You Told Me About.” Best of luck with your endeavor!

  25. sebastien murat November 17, 2013 at 1:23 am #

    Here’s another you can add to the list:
    Khosla Impact

  26. J fein November 24, 2013 at 1:21 am #

    Olivia,

    You seem to be an expert in this area. For real, you were the first result in my Google search for new sources of nonprofit start up capital.

    Can we chat soon about the OpenGrowth of our passions?

    Jess

  27. Jason Rauschelbach December 13, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    How did Calvert make your list? They do not make direct early investments in companies, it is a huge mutual fund company…if you are interested in the 15 social venture capital firms that you should know, this isn’t one.

  28. Adl K April 11, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    Hi Olivia,
    I m very glad to read this page with all of these firms in the list. My activity (education-agriculture) are located in DRC (congo). And most of these SVC are oriented to East, West or South Africa. None in Central Africa, where I come from. Do you have any suggestions for SVC working with that part of Africa. It would be a challenge for me to get in touch with those who currently are interested in this area.

    Thanks
    ADL

  29. Olivia April 14, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    Hi ADL,

    I don’t have additional Africa-based SVC contacts. I wish you the best in your work linking education and agriculture.

  30. Goh Cheng July 8, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

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  31. harry rose July 15, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    hi olivia,

    do you know which other organization have social entrepreneur conferences (like socap) in the states ?

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