Fort Wayne residents are raising $1 million to invest in the once-redlined Southeast quadrant

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement that has rocked cities around the world, residents in Northeast Indiana might be wondering how to apply lessons they’ve learned and take positive steps to promote racial equity.

Fort Wayne entrepreneur and impact investing expert, Kristin Giant, has one suggestion: Invest in often overlooked people and parts of town. And she's showing Fort Wayne how to do it.

On June 22, Giant posted a video to social media, commencing plans to raise $1 million for a Family & Friends Fund for Southeast Fort Wayne residents by July 4th. Using her company, Hyper Local Impact, she is hosting the donor-advised fund through the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.

Kristin Giant is the entrepreneur and impact investing expert behind Hyper Local Impact.

So why is investing in underrepresented communities so important? Because for generations, prejudiced tactics like redlining have explicitly prevented parts of cities where People of Color live from having the same economic opportunities as white-dominated parts of town. At the same time, generational wealth tends to stay within white circles of influence, as people with resources invest in, or “make a bet on,” people they know and trust.

As cities across the U.S. seek to create more equitable futures, it’s time to start sharing the connections and the wealth. In Fort Wayne, this means investing in the Southeast quadrant. Then (most importantly) turning the reins of control over to leaders there to build the community they want to see, Giant explains. Southeast Fort Wayne was redlined, which is why it has a majority of non-white residents.

To prove her point, she posted a few maps on Facebook. As seen in data from Statistical Atlas, income distribution in Fort Wayne is largely unbalanced, with the lowest household incomes disproportionately clustered in the Southeast quadrant. At the same time, white race distribution in the city is by far the lowest in Southeast Fort Wayne.

“If Family & Friends capital comes from friends and family with money... the argument isn't difficult to make that our neighbors in the Southeast could use some of our ‘I'm making a bet on you’ money... and urgently!” Giant writes.

She launched the giving campaign with support of leaders from Southeast Fort Wayne and gave herself an ambitious two-week deadline to meet her goal. Within the first 24 hours of opening the fund, she received more than 100 donors.

So how is she doing it? Giant is utilizing her skills in fundraising and impact investing to train volunteer fundraisers, using a researched-backed framework. When she launched the campaign, she called on 100 community champions to learn about grassroots fundraising and ask 10 people each for $100. She also called on 10 champions to ask 10 people each for $1,000.

Giant is asking grassroots community volunteers to help her fundraise.

“This means we can get to the first $200,000 of this fund without asking a single business, institution, or foundation for money,” Giant says. “We are going to tell institutions that we care about this by putting our money where our mouth is. Then, my hope is they’ll be inspired to follow along.”

For the past week, social media in Fort Wayne has been taken over by the fundraising effort, with small businesses and artists getting in on the cause, offering free products and services to those who give. For those who donate to receive one of these perks, Giant asks them to donate through a special GoFundMe page to avoid tax complications and extra administrative work for the Community Foundation.

100 community volunteers are asking 10 people each to donate $100.

Ultimately, having a Family & Friends fund for Southeast gives residents there the same privileges many white entrepreneurs enjoy: The ability to take a risk and start something without jumping through the hoops of traditional grants, which tend to favor white, college-educated applicants, Giant notes.

For small businesses that donate to the fund, she is offering special perks and incentives, too.

“Your brand name will be listed on the fund's website, and we'll have special stickers printed for your storefront and graphics for your website,” she says. “We want you to be able to brag about taking a bet on your neighbors.”

The idea behind a Family & Friends Fund is to level the playing field for those who don't have wealthy connections.

While many of the fundraising tactics are being developed in real-time, Giant says contributions to the Family & Friends Fund are tax-deductible. An advisory board is soon to be announced that will oversee the entire process, made up of BIPOC technical advisors and community leaders in Southeast Fort Wayne. The ultimate grant, loan, and investment decisions will be made using a framework designed for equity and inclusion, too. Community volunteers are taking to Instagram to raise funds for Southeast.

“We want decisions about the Southeast community to be made by the Southeast community,” Giant says. “That is priority number one with how these funds will be used.”

On Monday, Giant added another twist to the campaign, launching a city-wide bake sale and lemonade stand effort in July run by local kids who want to support the cause. The idea was suggested by her young neighbor Miles Clark.

This month, families from nearly every zip code in Fort Wayne will be hosting bake sales or lemonade stands and donating all of the proceeds to the Family & Friends Fund.

“We’re inviting any kids who want to participate in any way to join us,” Giant posted on Facebook.

Every child who participates will receive a free t-shirt, a custom Tuff Girl Gang pencil, and the opportunity to sign up for "Social Impact Biz," a one-day virtual summer camp where Giant teaches them the basics of being a social entrepreneur. They will also receive a free copy of the workbook, "This Book is Anti-Racist” by Tiffany Jewell.

"All of these ideas came from kids who are participating," Giant says.

Kids are getting in on the fundraising effort with the Kids 4 the Fort citywide bake sale.

Overall, the idea behind the Family & Friends fund is to expand the pool of donors in Fort Wayne, extend the duration and depth of investments in Southeast, and make grant money more accessible to all members of society.

“What this is going to show our community is that people in Fort Wayne care about investing in Southeast Fort Wayne,” Giant says. “It’s going to make a huge statement that we ARE the friends and family of Southeast Fort Wayne.”

Learn more and donate

To get involved in the Family & Friends of Southeast Fort Wayne fund, follow Hyper Local Impact on Facebook and Instagram or visit their website to donate now. If you choose to donate for one of the many incentives being offered by local businesses and individuals, please donate through this GoFundMe page.
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Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.