Book Trust has seen significant growth in the last 18 months – nearly a 40% rise in the number of students served and an almost 35% increase in revenue.
Recent growth has been accelerated by the powerful combination of a successful program and leveraging strong, existing relationships in new markets. Now, we are focused on offering an effective, evidence-based program that truly delivers measurable improvements in reading motivation and achievement, and on expanding our reach with a strategic, intentional approach that ensures long-term, sustainable growth that is well-aligned with our strategic goals.
To this end, we are thinking about partners in new ways. We are in search of partners who are just as committed as we are to solving one of the greatest civil rights challenges of our times: illiteracy.
Bringing Meaning to Money and Money to Meaningful Solutions
There is a growing movement in the investment industry to focus on socially responsible investing, aka impact investing. Impact investing is becoming the new normal as investors leverage capital to solve the world’s greatest challenges. The growth in this field is evidenced by the fact that SOCAP, the world’s leading conference on impact investing and social enterprise, has grown from 300 to 3,000 attendees in the past 10 years.
I had the opportunity to attend SOCAP this fall. I learned how impact investing combines traditional, profit-driven business models with philanthropy. Together, entrepreneurs, investors, and traditional philanthropists are rethinking the way they can work together to address the world’s most pressing problems. As Giselle Leung from the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) shared, “typically, investment decisions are made based on risk and return. Moving forward, all investment decisions should be made on risk, return, AND impact.” According to the 2017 Annual Impact Investor Survey released by the GIIN, $22 billion was invested into almost 8,000 deals in 2016 and this is projected to grow by 20% this year. Forty percent of these assets are under management in the United States and 41% of the survey respondents target primarily social impact objectives.
Book Trust is pondering innovative ways in which it can become a prime candidate for impact investments. While our fundraising success has been impressive, we see the same challenges all nonprofits face—donor fatigue, growing competition for the same resources, limited funding as government and philanthropic contributions stagnate or decline. These traditional fundraising methods will help us grow at incremental rates, but as we look for partners who can help us transform our impact to meet the increasing demand for our services (16 million elementary school aged students live in poverty in the US), we must seek partners who care about not just the risks and rewards, but the impact.
Last year, we saw a 19% increase in the number of Book Trust students reading on-grade level at the end of the school year compared to the start of the school year. This increase reflects thousands of students who are four times more likely to graduate from high school and go onto college or a career of their choice and become contributing members of our economy. The drain on our economy due to illiteracy is enormous – an estimated $300 billion dollars in opportunity costs annually is directly due to the fact that 14% of US adults (almost 40 million) cannot read at a functional level.
Imagine if Book Trust secured investors committed to ensuring millions of students, not just thousands of students, achieved grade level reading success, a high school diploma, and a livable wage. Imagine if that $300 billion dollars lost in opportunity costs was suddenly infused into our economy. That is the kind of return on investment we are relentlessly pursuing today. We invite you and new partners to join us in this pursuit.