Five years ago, the Appalachian Impact Fund (AIF) started with the passion of one family and a dream jotted down on a piece of paper that said we’d achieve a set of goals to redevelop downtowns, make impact investments into promising sectors, make grants to nonprofits creating economic opportunity, encourage new businesses, create new jobs, and support the overall work of the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky.
Today, we have surpassed those now seemingly modest goals. We’ve been able to accomplish these outcomes with one dedicated staff person, a lean operating budget, and the backbone support of a small community foundation. And we’ve done all this located in the coalfields far from I-75 and traditional grantmaking and lending structures.
AIF is a field builder. We’ve created a permanent piece of infrastructure that is unlike any fund that has ever existed in the region through our dedication to local control and leadership on our board, a targeted regional strategy for grantmaking, and the type of patient, fair, and risk-taking capital we’ve offered projects.
We are the first social impact fund in Central Appalachia to blend catalytic grant dollars with impact investments from an evergreen low-interest revolving loan pool that supports small businesses and entrepreneurs, affordable housing, social enterprises, local food, arts and culture, downtown revitalization, and rural childcare. In short, we help create new channels for capital to flow into one of the most resource scarce regions in the country.
We started AIF by coming to the Foundation with a good idea and some resources. The Foundation took a chance on us, demonstrating their ability to turn good ideas into investable opportunities. Likewise, Brook and Pam Smith as our anchor and founding donors, have proven themselves to be visionary leaders in place-based philanthropy. AIF is a powerful example of what can be achieved when a results-driven donor and an innovative community foundation come together to set ownership and egos aside, listen deeply to community needs, commit to long-term relationships with our partners, and launch something bigger than the sum of its parts.
Lora E. Smith
Appalachian Impact Fund
Five Years of Impact
In grants to regional nonprofits, small businesses, social enterprises, and disaster relief efforts
In impact investments supporting energy efficient and affordable housing, downtown revitalization, small business, and consumer lending
Historic downtown properties stabilized, redeveloped, or under construction
In additional funding for Eastern Kentucky leveraged through our grantmaking, technical assistance, and matching investments.
Small businesses supported