Opportunity Zones: Where Collaboration and Community Meet

06/20/2019

Opportunity Zones

We’ve written about this before but it bears repeating: collaboration is critical to the success of philanthropy. Not only is collaboration a core pillar of the philanthropic space – but true collaboration – the kind we see when our clients pool their grants to tackle a growing and serious issue, can result in life-changing impact.

Opportunity Zones are a great example of this. The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently called Opportunity Zones one of the “largest economic-development efforts in American history, potentially providing billions of dollars in private capital to neighborhoods where poor people live.” These zones are a part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and they encourage investments in low-income areas through tax incentives. Currently, there are more than 8,764 zones in the U.S.

It’s easy to see why collaboration is paramount to the success of Opportunity Zones. Foundations, investors, and nonprofits alike need to work closely together to plan, implement, and maintain large-scale improvement projects. And ideally, all of these projects also have strong buy-in and influence from the communities they’re impacting. Collaboration and communication ensure that the right learning, change, and growth take place. Without this, we risk communities being bulldozed by people who see nothing more than a tax break ahead of them.

It’s critical now more than ever that philanthropy come together to invest and build within these zones. The Knight Foundation recently wrote a detailed and powerful white paper about how foundations can (and should) leverage Opportunity Zones. Take a moment to read it if you haven’t yet. The paper outlines the importance and responsibility of being in a community building role, being a stakeholder, and the importance of proper asset mapping.

The Kresge Foundation has made great strides as a stakeholder and community leader through their $22M commitment to back community capital management Opportunity Zone funds. Specifically, the funds are allocated to “managers [who] have agreed to a level of transparency, accountability, and disclosure thus far unheard of in the Opportunity Zones space. Together, these managers expect to raise and deploy more than $800 million in capital nationally into Census tracts designated as Opportunity Zones.”

It’s amazing to see the way philanthropy is stepping up to the plate to ensure accountability and collaboration for these communities. Proper management will be critical for these undertakings.

No project of this magnitude can be maintained without the proper tools.

Those who are delving into Opportunity Zones will need not only a plan but also the tools to manage both their process for investing and the measurement of their impact. Foundations, for example, already know that the right tools are essential in order to grant easier, collaborate better, and ultimately drive more impact. We’re proud to support many amazing clients who have taken swift actionable steps to ensure that Opportunity Zones are “reinvigorated” with the community in mind.

For the boots-on-the-ground nonprofits, there are also many incredible grants management, CRM, and fundraising tools available – many offered at free or discounted prices. Bundles are being built through expanded partnerships with the sole aim of upleveling and supporting nonprofit missions – such as our recent partnership announcement with Neon One.

With the right support, we believe Opportunity Zones will have great potential to enact incredible change. We look forward to seeing what the future holds, and to sharing more stories of collaboration soon.

Written by Madeline Duva

Chief Executive Officer

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