Growth Capital Aggregation Pilot

In June 2007, the Foundation launched the Growth Capital Aggregation Pilot to test whether a new form of coordinated, collaborative philanthropy could help high-performing organizations expand to significant, sustainable scale and improve the life prospects of America’s growing numbers of economically disadvantaged youth.

We raised with 19 other private funders $120 million to support three EMCF grantees: Citizen Schools, Nurse-Family Partnership and Youth Villages. The five-year investments in Citizen Schools and Youth Villages ended in 2012, while the investment in Nurse-Family Partnership has been extended to 2014. 

In 2012, independent researchers Bill Ryan and Barbara Taylor completed an encouraging analysis of the Growth Capital Aggregation Pilot (GCAP): An Experiment in Scaling Impact: Assessing the Growth Capital Aggregation Pilot. Today all three grantees are much stronger organizations. They serve more youth, earn more annual revenue, and are well-positioned to benefit from new federal funding opportunities for proven programs.  And they accomplished all of this in the midst of the worst economic downturn the U.S. has seen since the Great Depression.


EMCF undertook this experiment because we had learned from seven years’ experience in youth development that building the evidence base and the organizational capacity that are the prerequisites for scale requires more capital than any funder can provide on its own.

The GCAP sought to:

  1. Deliver programs of proven effectiveness to more low-income youth.
  2. Demonstrate that a large infusion of philanthropic capital, committed in full before the implementation of a sound business plan, can propel the growth of evidence-based programs.
  3. Test a new model of philanthropy that coordinates the resources and responsibilities of multiple co-investors and creates efficiencies for both funders and grantees.

Within a year, EMCF reached its fundraising goal, helping its three grantees secure, over and above the Foundation’s investment of $39 million, commitments of $81 million from their boards and 19 co-investors, including other foundations, financial institutions and individual philanthropists.


The GCAP was EMCF's first attempt to test a new approach to collaborative investments that can propel the growth of effective nonprofits poised for scale. 

With assistance from EMCF, Citizen Schools, Nurse-Family Partnership and Youth Villages developed ambitious, detailed business plans that served as the basis for these collaborative investments. We then made a multi-year, multimillion-dollar grant to each organization, contingent on its raising the additional funds necessary to fully implement its business plan. EMCF helped the grantees secure co-investors.

All co-investors aligned and coordinated their investments on the basis of a single set of terms drawn from a grantee’s business plan. The documents formalizing each syndicate outlined common values, terms, conditions, payment schedules, performance metrics, and reporting and communications protocols. They also defined the roles and responsibilities of the grantee, co-investors and, as lead investor, EMCF.

Details about the structure and nature of these deals can be found in an interim progress report on the GCAP that EMCF released in 2008: An Experiment in Coordinated Investment.


Although each grantee is unique, with a different program model, a different target population and different funding streams, growth capital aggregation gave all three organizations a big boost.

  1. The total number of youth served annually by the GCAP grantees grew from 25,047 in 2006 to 45,450 in 2011.
  2. Total annual revenues for the GCAP grantees grew from $89.5 million in  2006 to $187.3 million in 2011.
  3. Upfront growth capital enabled GCAP grantees to focus more sharply on executing their business plans. It has also provided them with the resources and flexibility to conduct scenario planning so they could adjust strategically to the economic recession, and to position themselves quickly to take advantage of new federal funding opportunities for proven programs.
  4. While each GCAP grantee is pursuing a different pathway to sustainability, all three made progress toward their goals.
  5. Co-investors were able to concentrate on grantees’ substantive issues because EMCF assumed responsibility for all transactional costs and activities.


GCAP grantees met most of their annual milestones until they began to feel the recession’s full impact in the last quarter of 2009. To soften the blow, they used some of their growth capital to serve other important purposes, such as strengthening their reserves, maintaining their capacity gains, and protecting their programs.

As grantees revised their business plans to reflect changing economic and political circumstances, co-investors agreed to adjust annual and final performance milestones and the time frames to which grantees were held accountable—a tribute to the confidence GCAP inspired in all of its participants.

Given economic uncertainty, the federal deficit, and constrained state and local budgets, the mounting political consensus to channel taxpayers’ money to programs with proven impact may continue to grow. If it does, it may well create additional opportunities for the GCAP grantees.