For Steve Roland, philanthropy is a family affair. His son Kyle is doing graduate work on social impact investing. His daughters Liz and Jackie and his wife Karen round out Steve’s “board of directors” when the family gathers to discuss how to support causes that matter to them. Just a few weeks ago, the family came together to discuss a novel approach to the family’s giving.
Ten years ago, with almost three decades of commercial real estate law under his belt and his adult children properly fledged, Roland became more active in civic affairs and charitable causes. He served on the board of Lincoln Families for almost a decade and serves on the Northern California Regional Leadership Council of Brady United, the anti-gun violence advocacy group.
Roland was still seeking more opportunities to help beyond charitable giving. He opened a donor advised fund at the East Bay Community Foundation in December 2020 and learned that the foundation was eager to help its donors find new ways to support communities in the East Bay.
In April 2021, EBCF hosted its first Inclusive Economy Showcase, which connected potential investors with entrepreneurs and companies based in the East Bay whose ventures directly benefit people in the community. The event featured the work of eleven Bay Area ventures that ran the gamut from real estate to small business incubators to foodservice providers. The presentations were followed by breakout sessions that explored various aspects of impact investing, which seeks to offer social benefits through products, services, and investment approaches. By making capital available for ventures that have a social purpose, investors can provide essential funds to help these companies thrive in a highly competitive marketplace.
Roland saw a new opportunity for his philanthropy. “I was already interested in doing something more than pure charitable giving, but I wasn’t sure what to do, who to do it with, or how to make it happen,” he said. “The showcase gave me a ton of ideas.” He was struck by a number of the presentations, and after conducting his own due diligence, he decided to make an investment in The Town Kitchen, an organic packaged food company that provides fair wage jobs and job training to underestimated young people – many of whom grew up in the foster care system, don’t have a permanent home, or who are returning to their community after incarceration.
After a number of conversations with The Town Kitchen’s CEO Eric Quick, Roland discussed the opportunity with his family, who unanimously agreed to invest. The way they are planning this investment is also novel – Roland will use his Donor Advised Fund at EBCF to provide a three-year loan at below-market rates, which can then be repaid and used to invest in other ventures, or converted to equity to continue to support Town Kitchen.
Roland also credits EBCF for helping him learn more about how to support his community. “Even if you have no idea about where to start, you can use the tools that EBCF provides to explore new ideas,” he said. “This showcase was a great example. I know that they’re very excited about promoting these kinds of ideas further and making this a more robust part of their mission.”
Building on that, on September 30, EBCF hosted its second Inclusive Economy Showcase, which featured Roland in a session on how impact investors are building an inclusive economy. The Showcase also highlighted entrepreneurs of color and companies based in the community who are providing vital services and creating meaningful social benefits for the East Bay.
Thinking back on this new venture, Roland observes, “I didn’t realize how novel this was. I did it because I started to give more thought to ways to be philanthropic. It just makes a lot of sense to me.”
Learn more about how you can use a Donor Advised Fund for impact investing at EBCF, watch the Inclusive Economy Showcase panel discussion and speak to your EBCF relationship manager.