Antony Bugg-Levine of Nonprofit Finance Fund on Getting in the Game

This post was written in December 2011 by second year MBA student and CASE Fellow Beth Bafford. Beth reflects on a recent visit from Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund and recipient of the 2011 CASE Leadership in Social Entrepreneurship Award

We had the distinct pleasure to present the CASE Leadership in Social Entrepreneurship Award to Antony Bugg-Levine on December 6th at Duke.  Antony, as you may know, is the new CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund and has spent the majority of his career identifying, creating, and supporting the field of Impact Investing.  He recent wrote a book with Jed Emerson titled Impact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making a Difference.

There were many inspiring parts of his speech – from his systems-based approach to growing the impact investing field to the “total capital” strategy that he is implementing in his new role as CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund.  But the most pertinent aspect of his speech for me – and I believe for other students – was his perspective on what roles we can play in the impact investing field after we graduate.  

As a sports enthusiast, I decided a good football metaphor would best describe Antony’s answer to questions from first year student David Nicola, “Where can we have the greatest impact in this new field?  Is it better to work for a bank and create change from the inside or work for an impact investing fund and create change on the ground?”

His basic answer was that everyone has their own role to play.

Impact investors are the quarterbacks.  They are constantly looking for opportunities to throw the ball (in this metaphor, provide capital) to their receivers and running backs (social entrepreneurs) who are trying desperately to advance the ball down the field (create impact).

But we are not all born with great arms or quick feet, so where does that leave the rest of us?  If you are a 250 pound tackle (say, someone working for a large corporation), does that make you an ineffective member of the team?  No.  You are creating just as much value, just from a different position.  Same goes for the guards (policy makers), centers (educators), and even the coach (field-building bodies like the Global Impact Investing Network).

And who are we playing against?  Our longtime rivals, “The Status Quo” (or in Antony’s words, the bifurcated world in which we currently live).

His advice to us – and all of those looking to help grow the impact investing field – was simple.  Even if you don’t find yourself working for a small impact investing firm providing debt capital to rural farmers in East Africa, it doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sidelines.  You should consider your strengths and passions to decide what role is best for you, because in the end, that is where you will be able to affect the most change.  And in this nascent field, there is more than enough room on the team.

Please tell us about what roles you are playing in impact investing – and what other players are key to your successes.

P.S. If you haven’t read Antony’s book, please do.  It’s a fantastic portrayal of the key issues and challenges facing the field – and outlines the major systems that need to be understood and altered to create a supportive ecosystem for social entrepreneurs and impact investors.  And, it’s a great holiday gift for all members of your family so they will finally stop asking “what is it exactly that you do?

Interested to learn more?  Watch Antony’s entire talk here: