Blue Meridian Partners is still in its early stages. We will update this page regularly to answer questions as the initiative evolves.
WHY WAS BLUE MERIDIAN PARTNERS FORMED?
We created Blue Meridian to address several unmet needs.
Twenty-one percent of American children live in poverty, and by nearly every measure their prospects have not significantly improved – in many cases, they’ve grown considerably worse – since EMCF initiated its current grantmaking approach in 1999.
Furthermore, even the most successful social-sector leaders lack access to the capital required to scale their organizations and help the massive number of disadvantaged children and youth.
We know there are great nonprofit leaders out there, with evidence-based programs that make a meaningful difference in young lives. Yet most of the available funding (private and public) is too small and/or restricted, preventing organizations from growing significantly while maintaining the quality of their programs – and shortchanging the future of our nation’s next generation.
Finally, wealthy families and individuals want to make a major impact by deploying large amounts of capital quickly and effectively – without duplicating the efforts of others.
Yet philanthropy, unlike the for-profit sector, lacks established entities, especially for new donors, that have extensive experience researching, vetting and structuring large, long-term investments that are predicated on performance and yield lasting results.
WHAT ARE THE OBJECTIVES OF BLUE MERIDIAN INVESTMENTS, AND DOES BLUE MERIDIAN PROVIDE OTHER SUPPORTS IN ADDITION TO MONEY?
Blue Meridian Partners augments major, multi-year, enterprise-level funding with support for planning, organizational development, evaluation, and policy work. Our goal is to help grantees expand their impact directly, by enabling them to serve dramatically greater numbers of children and youth, as well as indirectly, by increasing their influence on the child welfare, educational, judicial, and other systems that affect children’s lives.
How does Blue Meridian Partners differ from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation?
First, although EMCF’s approach to identifying, investing in and holding nonprofits accountable for performance is the “engine” driving Blue Meridian Partners’ investments, this initiative is exploring opportunities to invest in programs serving a broader age range of youth, from birth to age 30. The areas in which these programs are working are also broader and include early childhood development and learning, K-12 education, and the child welfare and juvenile/criminal justice systems.
Second, the size of the commitments made by Blue Meridian Partners will make possible investments that are significantly larger and longer than EMCF’s have been -- totaling up to $200 million (over 5 to 10 years) for each grantee.
In most instances, a major investment will be preceded by a smaller planning and development grant to craft a scaling plan that will build an organization’s internal capacity, guide its expansion, support additional evaluations of effectiveness, and specify how it will track progress and measure success.
Finally, in contrast to EMCF’s previous ventures in capital aggregation, General Partners share in Blue Meridian Partners’ decision-making and sit on its board, which is chaired by Stanley Druckenmiller.
What Sets Blue Meridian Partners Apart
CEO Nancy Roob describes what distinguishes Blue Meridian Partners: “The size of the investment is unprecedented.”
In making such large investments, Blue Meridian Partners will also face an increased risk for failure ― how will it manage this risk?
Over the years, EMCF has relied on business planning as a roadmap for investment and developed a highly disciplined performance-based investment approach to drive results and manage risk. This includes conducting intensive due diligence, measuring a grantee's progress, and holding the grantee accountable for meeting annual performance milestones outlined in its business plan. The strategy does not eliminate risk, but it reduces it.
Blue Meridian Partners intends to adapt this strategy and raise it to an even higher level with investments that are based on scaling plans. The hope is that these will take business planning a step further and lay out not only a roadmap for building capacity and evidence and achieving growth, but also clearly define the social problem(s) an organization seeks to address, how it will measure its success in meeting this challenge, and the business models and financial strategies required to sustain the organization over the long term. Such planning, and the phased-in nature of Blue Meridian Partners' investments, which will be paid out in installments contingent on a grantee's progress toward meeting the goals of its scaling plan, will mitigate the risks these big bets entail.
Blue Meridian Partners anticipates that some of its investments will fall short of expectations. But even failure can contribute to the field's collective knowledge about the bumpy process of achieving scale in the social sector. Blue Meridian Partners will share what it learns as transparently as it can without causing undue harm to its grantees.
Blue Meridian Partners is a mix of diverse philanthropic individuals and institutions. How will it make decisions?
Blue Meridian Partners is a work in progress, and this is one of the things it is working on: creating a new model for collaborative philanthropy and coordinated funding that allows donors to participate in different ways, based on their interests and overall commitment to the partnership.
Each General Partner, committing at least $50 million over five years, will have one seat on Blue Meridian Partners' governing board. Limited Partners, committing at least $10 million, have the opportunity to review candidates for investment and share input into the board's decisions.
To date, Blue Meridian Partners has been able to make decisions quickly and collaboratively. It fully expects to encounter obstacles, both anticipated and unforeseen, as it figures out how best to work together. That said, several factors bode well for its success:
First and foremost, all Partners are united by their belief in the urgency of the crisis confronting America's disadvantaged children and youth, and in the need to address it.
Second, Partners realize that none of them can do this on their own, and that greater collaboration is crucial to achieve greater results.
Third, Blue Meridian Partners is a group of investors resolved to share risk and results by working together.
What's the significance of the Blue Meridian name?
Blue Meridian Partners hopes to establish a new “meridian”―a point of reference―for what strategic philanthropic investment can achieve by supporting programs that benefit children and youth on a large scale. “Blue” connotes the optimism Partners feel about working collaboratively to open up new possibilities for vulnerable young people.
Blue Meridian Partners welcomes additional co-investors who share our philosophy and our commitment to children and youth living in poverty to join us as Partners or to invest alongside us in specific organizations.
We invite you to send questions and inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
News + Perspectives
Following | Blue Meridian Partners, Upstream USA
What Makes a Nonprofit Big Bettable?via www.forbes.com
EMCF's View | Blue Meridian Partners
The Link Uniting Donors and Doers for Social Change
Following | Blue Meridian Partners, Capital Aggregation
Tiny Grants and Low Tolerance for Risk Have Paralyzed Foundationsvia www.philanthropy.com
Video | Blue Meridian Partners
Watch Nancy Roob's TEDx Talk
Video | Blue Meridian Partners
What It Takes to Scale
Video | Blue Meridian Partners
The Power of Collaboration
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