The Ways We Invest

Empower Charleston utilizes an approach known as Venture Philanthropy. Our goal is to create measurable positive change in the community. The “returns” we seek may include increased access to services, greater efficiencies in delivering services, or improved quality of life. Investments come in two ways: monetary grants, or financial capital, and knowledge and expertise sharing, or intellectual capital.

Financial Capital

Our Investment Committee employs a formal investment process that evaluates competitive applications, then awards larger two-year grants to selected organizations.

Intellectual Capital

Empower Charleston Partners also contribute intellectual capital by imparting their experience and knowledge as consultants, facilitators, and advisors to our nonprofit investees.




Our community partners, or investees, are dynamic nonprofits working to tackle some of Charleston’s most pressing issues. These investees join with Empower Charleston to gain strategic and operational support that builds capacity and scale.

Empower Charleston has awarded more than one million dollars in grants to local nonprofits since 2010. Harder to measure, but even more important, is the value of the advice and guidance we have given to scores of nonprofits.

Examples of Partner engagement include, but are not limited to:

  • strategic planning and mission/vision clarity
  • research and program design
  • leadership development
  • marketing and communications
  • finance and revenue development
  • board development and governance
  • human resources
  • outcomes measurement and program evaluation
  • legal
  • information technology

Empower Charleston carefully assesses many factors when deciding whether to invest in a nonprofit.

  • Leadership

    The capabilities of an organization’s Executive Director and senior staff are critical to our expectation of future success. The commitment and resources of the Board of Directors is also a determining factor.

  • Impact

    The historical impact a nonprofit has on its target population is only a starting point. More valuable is a judgment of its potential impact after financial and intellectual investment.

  • Metrics

    Empower Charleston takes a longerrange perspective than many funders. We look for results that may be deeper and occur over time. Helping nonprofits measure their organizational sustainability, economic impact on clients, and sustained performance can be more revealing than traditional metrics.