Scaling Impact

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E52: Venture Philanthropy – Unrestricted Funding for Nonprofits with The GreenLight Fund’s Casey Johnson

This episode, The GreenLight Fund’s Vice President Casey Johnson talks about the venture philanthropy space, why funding should be unrestricted, and the different types of personalities you need in an organization to scale successfully.

Casey Johnson has over 20 years of program management experience for various non-profit organizations, including five years focusing on implementing and refining literacy programs in the United States and globally in 10 developing countries.

Casey also has over 10 years of experience working in venture philanthropy doing strategic grantmaking, deep diligence on potential portfolio organizations, and local community landscape analysis work.

She is currently the Vice President of The GreenLight Fund which helps transform the lives of children, youth, and families in high-poverty urban areas. Here are a few of the topics we’ll discuss on this episode of Scaling Impact:

  • The unique approach of GreenLight Fund.
  • The venture philanthropy space.
  • How to get funding to scale and grow.
  • The benefits of unrestricted funding.
  • The due diligence involved in acquiring funding.
  • The different types of personalities you need in an organization to scale successfully.


Connect with Casey Johnson:

Connecting with the host:


  • 6:49 – “We raise dollars in each of our communities and then invest those dollars back into our communities through investments in nonprofit 5013C organizations who are doing work to move the needle on economic mobility for residents families individuals experiencing poverty in our communities.”
  • 10:31 – “We’re investing in something that’s not there but could come in there and be really successful and putting a lot of momentum behind that really amazing thing and then you think all that takes 12 months just to get to that point of making that decision but our real work it’s almost like the tip of the iceberg is what you see when you’re making this selection but our real work is what you don’t see at that iceberg, it’s 4 plus years of portfolio management and partnership.”
  • 16:12 – “I know we’ve heard a lot about trust-based philanthropy that’s definitly a buzz words these days in our spaces and in the social sector but this is truly leaning into partnership and leaning into trust and saying we trust that you are going to use our dollars well we’re going to hold you accountable in these ways but we’re also going to support you in these ways which means we’re going to help unlock some doors for you, we’re going to introduce you to our network, we’re going to do all those things that make it difficult to come into a new space and set up shop right out of the gate on your own, and I think it becomes so critical to remove barriers and hurdles wherever you can and one of those is absolutely removing restricting dollars, guess what paying the light bill is just as important.”
  • 20:42 – “I think it’s so important for an organization to have the gas pedal maybe one maybe a couple of people within the organization, the leadership theme, the board that are the gas pedal that are let’s go we’ve got this we don’t have everything figured out who cares we’ll figure it out as we go, are willing to take risk and just move at the speed of lighting or would like to if they can.”
  • 26:40 – “Scaling is not easy and I know you’ve covered this ground with some of the other amazing leaders you’ve had on Sean for this phenomenal podcast but it’s hard and I don’t think we truly acknowledge that of how hard it can be and I think it can also be hard to think about when is going to be the right time for my organization to do this, and also be ok with if there’s never that right time because you just want to focus on the area where you’ve started this amazing thing.”