When and why was Blue Meridian Partners formed?
In 2016, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF) publicly announced Blue Meridian Partners, a new model of philanthropy that challenges a problematic funding paradigm and targets issues facing our key stakeholders: young people and families, social sector leaders, and philanthropists.
Since the 1940s the odds of achieving the American Dream – a better, more prosperous life than your parents – have declined for all Americans from over 90% to barely a 50/50 chance. At Blue Meridian Partners we are united by a shared belief that young people and families across the US should have an equal opportunity to live productive and healthy lives. Entrenched poverty that persists from generation to generation is a seemingly intractable social issue – one that disproportionately affects people of color due to systemic inequities. Blue Meridian meets the scale of this problem with right-sized investments in solutions that work across domains to expand access to opportunity for all Americans. To tackle such a vast challenge, we work to scale the most promising approaches at both a nationwide and regional level because we know that people’s life chances are inextricably tied to where they live. Through an investment model that pairs boldness with rigor, we are working to create a new normal in philanthropy where social sector leaders are empowered with unrestricted, flexible capital so that they can dream bigger and pursue longer-term impact.
How is Blue Meridian Partners different from other types of Foundations?
Blue Meridian Partners is pioneering a new model of philanthropy and is unique in both structure and approach. Blue Meridian is legally classified as a 501c3, but its structure and operations are distinct from a traditional foundation. We do not have an endowment from which we draw, but rather we continually fundraise from partners who pool their resources to make significant, long-term investments in the most promising solutions to unlock economic mobility for America’s young people and families. Our funding partners engage in different ways and at different levels based on personal goals and areas of interest. Together, we can achieve greater impact than any one philanthropist can individually, while sharing the costs, risks, and successes. Blue Meridian’s performance-based investment model streamlines social sector investment for both investors and investees. Our management team’s work on behalf of the partnership removes the burden on an individual philanthropist or institution, especially by identifying high-potential opportunities and continuous administration and reporting. And, social sector leaders have access to flexible capital and operational support, freeing them up to focus on execution, performance, and results – rather than chasing smaller, fragmented grant dollars.
What are the criteria Blue Meridian uses to assess prospective investments/grantees?
Blue Meridian conducts its own research to identify investment opportunities. We begin by casting a wide net, looking for promising strategies poised to achieve national impact on social problems confronting young people and families living in poverty. Through a rigorous selection process, we vet all prospects against the following seven criteria:
- Compelling Vision
- Strong Leadership
- Racial Equity
- Track Record of Performance
- Evidence of Effectiveness
- Pathway to Scale
- Sustainable Economic Model
To learn more about the selection criteria, visit the Blue Meridian Selection Criteria.
How can I apply to get into Blue Meridian’s portfolio?
Blue Meridian does not accept unsolicited grant proposals. We conduct our own extensive research to identify and vet outstanding programs and strategies. For more information, please visit “For Grantseekers” on our website.
What is the relationship between Blue Meridian and its investees?
Blue Meridian seeks to develop supportive, long-term relationships with investees within its multiple portfolios, while also supporting their leadership teams – CEOs and boards of directors – with expert guidance in scaling plan development and execution.
Blue Meridian’s Managing Directors – who collectively have decades of experience in business, nonprofit, and consulting organizations – are mapped to specific portfolios and a selection of investees, and they serve as a personal point of contact and close collaboration throughout the life of the investment. They partner with each investee to regularly and strategically monitor progress and advise on milestones and develop quarterly reviews on performance against specific milestones.
How are investments made through The Studio different from other Blue Meridian investments?
Blue Meridian launched The Studio @ Blue Meridian to fill clear gaps in the social sector capital market, recognizing that few resources are available for leaders – and especially leaders of color – with proven track records looking to experiment and iterate upon their existing platforms. The Studio supports social sector leaders whose organizations address emerging or intractable social challenges, and who are ready to think big and prepare for transformational growth. These investments provide visionary leaders with the flexible funding and tailored advisory support they need to test and refine their approach to solving a persistent or pressing social challenge.
In order to advance an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, The Studio focuses on organizations whose work addresses problems confronting young people and families in poverty. Investments through The Studio tend to be smaller and shorter-term than our Nationwide Solutions investments, while meeting a critical funding need and providing leaders with the support – both coaching and capital – they need to overcome challenges on their path to greater scale. The Studio is central to Blue Meridian’s commitment to collaboration and experimentation and helps us cast a wider net in search of innovative ideas and diverse leaders.
How is Blue Meridian responding to short and long-term challenges created by COVID-19?
Blue Meridian is committed to addressing both the short and long-term impacts of COVID-19. The pandemic is causing immense and disproportionate harm to the most vulnerable people in the United States, especially Black, Latino/a, and Indigenous communities who are experiencing the greatest health and economic fallout. Our COVID-19 Emergency Relief portfolio focuses on supporting organizations who are providing immediate relief to these communities. Our approach is guided by three mantras: act now, partner with others, and trust social sector leaders and community members to know what meets their needs. We have allocated more than $150 million in emergency relief funding to help the hardest-hit populations, primarily through direct cash assistance and access to critical public benefits.
We are also adapting investment strategies across portfolios to address the emerging long-term implications of this crisis and the urgency of promoting an equitable recovery. The personal, social, and economic devastation caused by COVID-19 highlights the need for bold, scalable solutions to our most intractable problems – solutions that confront the systemic barriers holding problems in place, especially in disproportionally impacted communities, and trapping people in poverty.
We continue to support our existing investees in addressing urgent needs faced by their organizations and in adapting their strategic plans to help the communities they serve build back stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognize that this will be a lasting effort.
How does one become a funding Partner?
Our Partners are united by a shared belief that young people and families across the US should have an equal opportunity to live productive and healthy lives. Blue Meridian’s partnership structure allows our Partners to pool their philanthropic resources and invest more effectively and efficiently than any one of them could individually. By pooling capital, Partners amplify their impact while sharing the costs, risks, and successes of Blue Meridian’s performance-based approach to investing.
Our funding partners engage in different ways and at different levels of investment based on personal goals and areas of interest. For example, General Partners contribute to the general pool of funding that supports all of Blue Meridian’s portfolios and they approve all investment decisions across funds. Other investors focus exclusively on one portfolio, such as supporting The Justice and Mobility Fund. To learn more about becoming a Partner, please visit the “Our Partners” page on our website.
Is Blue Meridian the same as EMCF?
The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation was one of the first philanthropies to pool funding from philanthropic partners and invest in evidence-based approaches that had the potential to expand their impact at a national level. Blue Meridian’s approach builds on this track record, honed by EMCF’s nearly two decades of work in developing practices to identify and fund the most promising youth-serving nonprofits, and bringing philanthropic partners together to pool resources and amplify the impact of their investments. Blue Meridian leverages EMCF’s experience in an effort to further transform the philanthropic marketplace, expanding the EMCF model through larger, more diversified investments over longer periods of time. EMCF incubated Blue Meridian Partners for three years and is also a founding Partner. As part of EMCF’s limited-life strategy, which it announced in 2016, its staff and operations have transitioned to Blue Meridian Partners. Now, Blue Meridian is helping EMCF fulfill its commitments to its Youth Development Fund grantees. Over the next decade, EMCF will continue to invest all its assets in making an enduring impact on the lives of children and families trapped in poverty in the US.