Pedaling towards Innovation

Bicycles, goats, and an industrial grade kitchen might not sound like they have much in common, but to innovative, forward-thinking Utahns, each is a tool for change. These are just a few of the creative ideas the Community Foundation of Utah has invested in through the Social Investors Forum, one of our most innovative and impactful ventures yet.

The Social Investors Forum is part of our programming to help nonprofits build capacity. This pitch event provides the opportunity to hear from organizations that are thinking differently about the challenges that face our state, delivering tremendous impact with tools as simple and accessible as a bike.

During the inaugural Social Investors Forum in 2014, six finalists pitched their projects to a group of investors and philanthropists. One of the nonprofits to receive an investment was the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective.

The Bicycle Collective received a $20,000 grant to grow their Earn-A-Bike program, through which low-income youth learn to rebuild and maintain a bicycle, earning a bike along the way. As Davey Davis, Executive Director of the Bicycle Collective, explains, the investment has helped them do much more:

“Before the Community Foundation of Utah’s support, we were able to provide each child with a bike after a four week mechanical course, but we didn't have the resources to connect the mechanical information with the joy of riding and maintaining one's bike self-sufficiently.

We used the investment to expand Earn-A-Bike and take the kids on a graduation ride to test their bikes in the park and troubleshoot any mechanical challenges. We provide each child with bike lights, locks, helmets, and basic tools. Representing more than the freedom to travel about our city, their bike embodies confidence, teamwork, and pride, and inspires an interest in STEM, potentially setting wheels in motion for future engineers. Since 2012, 912 kids have graduated from Earn-A-Bike. For many of these youth cycling has become part of their daily life.

It was great to get to 'pitch' our efficacy in a compelling, non-traditional format, and that has had long-term impact. I credit the grant for raising our profile as an established nonprofit, partially allowing us to jump from $13,000 a year in charitable gifts (2013) to the current amount, $144,000. This has led to many opportunities, like meetings with estate planning lawyers and the chance to give a TEDx talk. The Community Foundation of Utah's Social Investors Forum had a hand in growing us up as an organization, allowing us to expand our programs across the Wasatch Front.”

Since 2014, seven organizations like the Bicycle Collective have been awarded a total of $307,000 in investments through SIF. But the impact goes beyond the numbers. By connecting nonprofits with a panel of experts, the Social Investors Forum connects them with both the capital and mentorship to refine their business models, helping them create immediate and long-lasting positive change.

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