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Our Approach

AR grantee Marcy Lab School

We find, fund, and support high-potential, early-stage nonprofits building pathways out of poverty.

Since 2010, Arbor Rising has invested millions of dollars in unrestricted funding and tens of thousands of hours of capacity-strengthening support into dozens of nonprofits focused on creating economic opportunity.

1

Find

We partner with outcomes-oriented nonprofits in what we call the "second stage" of development that are building pathways out of poverty by making deep investments in people. 

We look for nonprofits with three key characteristics:

i   We invest in programs that make deep investments in people over time. Breaking the cycle of poverty is often a slow, painful, and nonlinear process. We believe there are no shortcuts to economic independence and that real, durable change is most often driven by personal relationships.

ii   We invest in diverse management teams with demonstrated tenacity, humility, and a focus on continuous improvement. Empowering substantial, sustainable changes in people's lives requires a laser-focus on maximizing outcomes. This often involves tinkering with the program model by leaders who have fallen in love with the problem they are addressing, not their solution. 

iii    We invest in "second stage" organizations with modest budgets and a small staff. Nonprofits which have developed a program but not yet established a track record need to build systems, optimize their team, and standardize their model to realize their potential.

For more information on eligibility, selection criteria, and our application process, see our Grantseekers page.

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Since inception,

we've vetted

1,200+ nonprofits...

evaluated

650+ applications...

and funded 

38 grantees

(the top ~3%).

2

Fund

Over a typical three-year engagement, we contribute $375,000 to each grantee.

We believe that nonprofits benefit most from grants that are meaningfully sized, flexibly-structured, and multi-year in nature. After an annual selection process optimized for transparency,  equity, and brevity (~10 weeks from initial application to cash-in-hand), we provide an unrestricted grant to each member of our portfolio before kicking off our consulting projects.

 

For most incoming grantees, our investment represents a substantial share of their budget. This revenue gives leaders the breathing room they need to spend less time fundraising and more time tackling important (but not always urgent) organizational challenges with our team. 

Our engagements are underwritten by a committed group of families and foundations. To learn more about supporting our work, visit our Donate page.  

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Investing the right resources, in the right grantees, at the right time...

...can snowball into an 

avalanche of impact.

AR alumni have gone on to raise $750M+

(50x AR's cash investment)

3

Support

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"Our trust-based partnership with Arbor Rising and their strategic and timely support is unparalleled. From refining our theory of change to developing a financial model, their support has allowed ImmSchools to confidently embrace growth and reimagine a world of possibilities for our immigrant community."

Viridiana Carrizales

Co-Founder and Executive Director, ImmSchools

Each year, we invest hundreds of hours of tailored, in-house support into each grantee to co-develop the systems, teams, and culture essential for consistently delivering meaningful outcomes. 

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At the outset of each grant year, we partner with each nonprofit's leadership to co-identify key organizational challenges, typically in the areas of outcomes orientation, data, financials, team, and/or board. We then meet every other week (with homework on both sides in between!) for three years, working together to build the systems, teams, and ultimately the culture necessary to consistently deliver meaningful outcomes.

Throughout this process, we work hard to keep grantee leaders firmly in the driver's seat: we solicit feedback frequently, stay up to date on the challenges they face, and check in to ensure our projects align with their evolving priorities. As each grant year winds down, we shift from iterating on deliverables to facilitating implementation to ensure adoption across the nonprofit's team and board. 

 

Successful engagements require us to walk with humility, listen first, and patiently invest the time required to become trusted partners. This deeper partnership confers two key benefits:

  • Authentic buy-in: We take the time to fully understand grantee challenges and build solutions together. The trust we develop gives weight to our ideas and helps drive their implementation.

  • Candid feedback: Given our our broader sector perspective and vested interest in grantee success, we can provide the context and feedback necessary for periodic course corrections. 

Theory of change

Well-defined outcomes, target populations, and program components are essential. 

Performance management

Thoughtful system design and culture-building lead to a sense of belonging and shared accountability.

Financial modeling

Assumptions-driven financial models provide leaders with visibility and confidence in planning.

Senior team optimization

As organizations grow, executive team members need to align around roles, team purpose, and culture.

Data and dashboards

Real-time leading indicators and outcomes inform reflective practice and enable course corrections.

Board development

The right membership, tight materials, and clear expectations can maximize board value-add.

How we strengthen capacity

Every organization's development path is unique, so we work with each of our grantees to identify engagement focus areas that meet their specific needs. Over the years, we've learned from our grantees and built expertise across a range of fundamental nonprofit topics. These include:

Equity

Arbor Rising recognizes that institutional racism and unconscious bias continue to disproportionately deny people of color access to opportunity. We believe that in order to fulfill our mission to support organizations that build paths out of poverty, we need to deploy our grantmaking resources with these racial barriers in mind.

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To this end, we have committed to learning from like-minded leaders, adopting best practices, and earmarking specific resources to promote diversity, equity and inclusion both within our portfolio and our organization. We believe transparency on this topic is essential, and in that spirit note that in 2023 47% of our resources were invested in supporting BIPOC-led organizations and DEI initiatives in our portfolio.  

Read more on our equity vision, efforts, and metrics in our annual DEI statement.

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