True North Fund

True North Fund

EMCF launched a new fund in 2011 to aggregate private growth capital and help programs supported by the Foundation and the federal Social Innovation Fund expand to serve more low-income youth.

The name we gave this fund—the True North Fund—reflects the inspiration and example we believe these programs and this funding model can provide for helping our nation’s most vulnerable young people overcome the obstacles that confront them, discover a sense of direction and purpose in their lives, and steer a course to productive, independent, successful adulthood.

Fourteen co-investors committed $63 million to help the 12 True North Fund grantees meet the match requirements of the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) and implement their growth and evaluation plans.

More broadly, the True North Fund seeks to build on the success of the Growth Capital Aggregation Pilot (GCAP) and demonstrate the impact and efficiency of extending this investment approach from individual grantees to an entire portfolio of organizations. The fund also hopes to encourage, by example and advocacy, investing public and private capital in expanding evidence-based programs.


The True North Fund adapts the collaborative investment structure first tested in the GCAP model. The three GCAP investments were structured similarly, but each was distinct and independent. The True North Fund takes a portfolio-based approach, in which co-investors have played three different roles and in some instances blended them:

  • General Fund: Several foundations and individual philanthropists invested in the overall approach by supporting a general fund that has directed resources wherever grantees need them.
  • Regional Focus: A second group of partners directed its investments to grantees expanding in geographical areas of particular concern—a state, for example.
  • Targeted: A third group funded one or more specific grantees.

EMCF covers 100 percent of administrative and operating costs, manages all reporting, and conducts quarterly meetings of co-investors at which the performance of all grantees is reviewed.


Melinda Tuan's A Midpoint Report on the True North Fund documents how, as of June 2013, funding from the True North Fund had helped the nine initial EMCF SIF grantees serve more than 83,000 additional youth across the country. All nine grantees also launched or planned evaluations of their programs’ effectiveness. The True North Fund also helped the three additional EMCF SIF grantees selected in July 2013 meet their matching fund requirement and implement their growth and evaluation plans.

The True North Fund and the SIF are also creating opportunities to advance new kinds of regional funding partnerships, as EMCF is developing with the George Kaiser Family Foundation in Oklahoma, the Duke Endowment in North and South Carolina, and Tipping Point Community and the Hewlett Foundation in Northern California. These collaborations are making it possible for grantees to establish and expand effective programs more expeditiously than they could without local support.

The True North Fund, Tuan’s report concludes, “has the potential to be a philanthropic breakthrough.”