Reaching a Milestone: 50th Portfolio Organization Investment

Sep 21, 2023


By Casey Johnson, Vice President, National Portfolio & Learning

When I first heard about the GreenLight Fund, I had just accepted the Program Director position for the newly launched site of Raising A Reader in Massachusetts (RARMA), and I remember the RARMA Executive Director Donna DiFillippo saying, “you will never meet another funder like GreenLight and its two co-founders Margaret Hall and John Simon.”

Margaret and John joined RARMA’s Board, attended key funder meetings, helped advise us on statewide expansion, cheered us on when we rode 25 miles for a local bike fundraiser, and their families helped us pack up book bags and materials for local preschools. Did I mention they also gave us significant dollars? Donna was right. They were more than just a funder.

That was over 16 years ago and RARMA was GreenLight Fund’s second portfolio organization. Since then, I’ve had the great pleasure of being part of GreenLight’s growth from one site in Boston into a national powerhouse spanning 12 sites around the country (adding one new site a year to our network!). GreenLight is a sought-after leader for all things related to social innovation, replication, and scaling, playing a pivotal role in the growth of many nonprofit organizations across the country.

I am in awe as I think about GreenLight reaching this milestone of 50 portfolio organizations. Each portfolio organization is significant and special in its own way and we’ve learned alongside each one of them. Each has its own story of how and why it was selected, and the impact it is making in our communities.

As we celebrate our 50th investment milestone, two threads stand out to me that are true for all 50 of our organizations: the importance of partnership and leadership.

Partnership. It isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a core tenet and guiding principle for how GreenLight operates in our communities and with our portfolio organizations. Central to this tenet is that you cannot do it alone – whether it’s GreenLight or an organization we are helping to scale into our community.

We value the time spent on relationship-building across sectors and with community members. It is critical to the success of any new organization scaling its model. We recognize the power that lies within philanthropy and intentionally believe the partnerships we create enable balanced, productive relationships that pave the way for meaningful, additive support as we work toward shared goals.

Leadership. The organizations we select and invest in are led by strong, thoughtful, engaging leaders nationally and locally who believe in the importance of a local focus and are deeply committed to their mission. Leaders who know how to build great teams, how to press the gas, and when to let up. They are humble, acknowledging there is still more to figure out.

Developing a strong relationship with our portfolio organization’s leadership teams even before we select them for investment, and maintaining that relationship long-term makes a significant difference in our ability to make an impact.

I am proud of our portfolio organizations and site teams doing the important work every day to bring much needed, measurable change. Our growth continues. We select one portfolio organization in each site each year. It took almost 20 years to get here, and we will get to the next 50 much faster. In fact, as I finish this, we’ve just finalized our 51st investment!