2021 Growth Portfolio Information

Please note that the Growth Portfolio Application for the 2022 cohort is now closed. Our next selection process will begin in Q3 of 2022.

In November 2020, REDF launched its search for employment social enterprises that are impact-driven and primed for growth to join a new Growth Portfolio. The Growth Portfolio is a program at REDF that focuses on building up the social enterprise as a whole. With three years of unrestricted grant funding, paired with intensive coaching and capacity building, the Growth Portfolio will strengthen your program and your bottom line, help ensure equitable outcomes for your employees, and provide both the capital and the partnership needed to meet the burgeoning demand for the life-transforming jobs and services you provide.

The application closed on Friday, December 18. Applications for the Growth Portfolio will open annually – if your enterprise was not ready to apply for 2021, we encourage you to revisit the opportunity in the future.

Growth Portfolio Application Evaluation Process

Thank you so much to all the social enterprises and organizations that submitted applications for the 2021 Growth Portfolio. We truly appreciate the time and work that went into the applications, and our team is incredibly inspired by your leadership and social enterprise’s work. The opportunity was extremely competitive, and we received many qualified applications.

For the first evaluation round, we received 46 strong applications for approximately 12 spots in this first Growth Portfolio cohort. After a thorough, multidimensional review process, we moved 23 applications forward to the second evaluation round from the initial pool of 46.

Following is an overview of our internal application review and selection process:

  • Application Review:
    • Each application was reviewed by 5-6 readers: 3 internal REDF staff readers and 2-3 external readers. The external readers were a mix of social enterprise practitioners from our recently graduated portfolio, and members of our Board of Directors and Advisory Board. Each application was reviewed by at least 2 individuals who are POC, and we ensured there were no conflict of interests among the reviewers and the organization applying.
    • Reviewers underwent calibration and bias training to ensure consistency in scoring.
    • Reviewers were not able to see organization leadership demographics while scoring applications as demographics were not part of the scoring rubric in Round 1. This will change in Round 2 where POC-led organizations will be weighted as is consistent with REDF’s work to become an anti-racist organization.
    • Written application and submitted materials were evaluated on the following dimensions:
      • Business Model
      • Program Model
      • Vision and Growth
      • Organizational Capacity
      • Partnership Potential
    • Every question in the application was reviewed and scored on a scale of 1-5
    • After detailed criteria scoring, each reviewer assigned the application an overall recommendation.
  • Selection:
    • Once the applications were reviewed and scored, scores were averaged across the 5-6 reviewers. We checked scores across internal and external reviewers to ensure there was consistency in scoring.
    • The selection panel then discussed every application over the course of 3 days, focusing on strengths, potential challenges and mitigations, and open questions.
    • After each discussion, the selection panel of 12 internal reviewers voted on whether to move a group forward. Ties were re-reviewed by the whole team and re-discussed. We also conducted diversity checks to ensure that representation of POC-led organizations was at least proportional to the applicant pool, if not higher. Over the next five years, REDF’s goal is that at least 40% of the organizations in its Growth Portfolio is POC led. REDF defines POC-led as either a) the leader self-identifies as a Person of Color b) the majority of the Senior Leadership Team AND the majority of the Board of Directors self-identify as People of Color or c) a combination of a) and b).
  • Curation:
    • Once we had an initial set of groups, we reviewed with a lens to ensure a well-rounded mix of several attributes:
      • Diversity in leadership
      • Geographic location
      • Industry
      • Target population focus

The next step in the process was to interview the 23 organizations that moved forward. The interview process to get to the final set of organizations to join the 2021 Portfolio Cohort was as follows: 

  • Interview:
    • REDF interviewed 23 organizations. Each interview was conducted by three members of REDF program staff. Those on the REDF interview panel were all members of the team who would work closely with the organizations selected to be in the Growth Portfolio. Diversity of REDF interview panel was considered. Each interview team had at least one staff who identified as a person of color and had a combination of junior and more senior staff.
    • The interviewees were invited to bring up to four staff members, including the CEO/ED of the organization, Social Enterprise Director (if separate), and individuals who could speak to the business and program models of the social enterprise. The interview was designed to take about two hours, but two and a half hours were held in case the meeting ran longer than anticipated.
    • The interview had three main components: A Growth Portfolio overview and the expected commitment; a standardized set of interview questions that was the same across all interviews; and clarifying questions which written application reviewers noted in their review. The standardized questions focused on Leadership and Vision, Organizational Capacity, and Partnership potential. There were also questions to assess commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in their own organization and community. The standardized and clarifying interview questions were sent two business days in advance to the interviewees. During the interview, the interviewee also had a chance to ask REDF questions.
  • Scoring:
    • Each interviewer scored the organizations they interviewed across the same five dimensions as round 1, on the same scale of 1-5:
      • Business Model
      • Program Model
      • Vision and Growth
      • Organizational Capacity
      • Partnership Potential
    • The scores encompassed what they learned in the interview, as well as the information in the written application.
    • To calculate the final score, a sixth criteria was included: whether or not the organization is led by a person of color (see above for definition) and/or someone with lived experience similar to those they employ. All six categories were equally weighted to calculate the final score.
  • Curation:
    • After reviewing the scores, we discussed each application at length, factoring in the written application, the interview, and REDF relationship manager input (staff at REDF who have worked with the applicant in the past).
    • In our final selections, we aimed to produce a portfolio that had a well-rounded mix of the following attributes:
      • Diversity in leadership
      • Geographic location
      • Industry
      • Target population focus
      • Participant outcomes (high wages, upskilling potential, etc.)

All applicants were notified of their status by phone call and email the week of March 15th. REDF will be announcing the full cohort publicly on Tuesday, March 30th. REDF was fortunate to be able to include an additional group for a cohort of 13 this year, but our overall goal of working with 60 social enterprises over the 5 years remains the same.

All applicants who were declined in either the first or final round have been offered a call to receive feedback about their application from a REDF staff member. If you are interested in receiving feedback about your application, you can sign-up here.

If you have questions or concerns about our selection process, please reach out to us at growthportfolio@redf.org.REDF is committed to continuous learning and improvement and will refine the application and selection process each year.

Growth Portfolio Details

Who Should Apply

What to Know

FAQs & Glossary of Terms

Info-Session Recording

Guiding Principles

Growth Portfolio Details

PLEASE NOTE: Application period is now CLOSED

Portfolio participants will receive the following benefits:

  • An unrestricted, three-year funding commitment of $300,000 for operating support
  • Up to $150,000 in project-specific (restricted) grant funding deployed in years one through three to help build capacity and tackle key projects. (Note: this funding is not guaranteed – it is based on need and performance.)
  • Three years of 1:1 capacity building support to assist your ESE during a period of ambitious growth and scaling, consisting of technical assistance (TA) projects and ongoing leadership support
  • Access to a Farber Fellow, a 2nd year MBA from one of the country’s top business schools, providing 10 weeks of full-time project-based support each summer
  • Year one Baseline Assessment that provides an initial understanding of the strength of your ESE’s business model, program model, fundraising efforts, operations, and personnel; factors REDF believes are critical to long-term, sustainable growth.
  • Grantees will have access to specialized, ongoing programming and resources, as well as opportunities to connect, collaborate, and learn from over 150 social enterprises located in 30 states and DC.

Key Dates

The Growth Portfolio application process consists of three main components: 1) an initial phone screen, 2) a Round 1 written application, and 3) a Round 2 video interview.

All potential applicants are highly encouraged to schedule a phone screen to determine if they should apply to the Growth Portfolio in 2021. Click here to sign up for a phone screening.

Prior to the application due date of December 18, applicants can also access office hours with REDF staff to discuss their Round 1 written application.

Application Office Hours: REDF staff support to help clarify application questions. Office hours will be available from November 17th to December 11th. After completing a Screening Call, please use this link to sign up  for Application Office Hours.

  • November 9 Application Opens
  • November 12 Info Session Webinar
  • November 16 – December 11  Recommended Phone Screenings
  • November 17 – December 11 Application Office Hours
  • December 18* Deadline to Apply
  • Early February 2021 Round 1 Decisions
  • February 2021 Round 2 Video Interviews (Due to the competitiveness of the Portfolio, only a subset of applicants will be invited to a Round 2 Video Interview)
  • March 2021 Portfolio Grantees Selected

*We understand the current surge in COVID-19 cases may be impacting some employment social enterprise operations. If your organization’s operations are being directly impacted and this is interfering with your ability to complete the Growth Portfolio Application on time, we are offering an extension to December 31 at 11:59pm. If you require this extension, please email REDF at growthportfolio@redf.org before December 18.

Eligibility Requirements & Recommendations 

Organizations eligible for the Growth Portfolio must meet the following criteria:

  • Nonprofit or for-profit community organization, including certified benefit corporations, legally able to operate in the United States
  • Currently employ REDF’s population focus (individuals with low-incomes at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level who face significant barriers to employment) in W-2 jobs through social enterprise and pay wages that meet local minimum wage standards. For a full list of REDF’s population focus, please see the FAQs below.
  • Graduated from REDF’s Accelerator program or participated in a qualifying REDF program between 2017 and 2020. Organizations who have participated in qualifying programs have been notified by REDF of their potential eligibility for the Growth Portfolio. If you did not receive this notification and have questions about your ESE’s eligibility, please reach out to growthportfolio@redf.org.
  • Not a current or previous member of REDF’s 2016-2020 Venture Philanthropy Portfolio.

It is highly recommended that organizations meet the following criteria:

  • At least $400K in annual (fiscal or calendar year) earned revenue across all business lines. Given COVID-19, REDF understands revenue may have decreased in 2020. As such, 2019 revenue may be used to qualify. REDF considers earned revenue to be revenue generated by selling goods or services, and tied to the employment provided by the social enterprise.  While organizations who do not meet this earned revenue recommendation can technically still apply, we do not recommend this unless the organization is close (likely able to hit this level within a year). Organizations that do not meet this revenue level but are still interested in applying are highly recommended to sign up for a phone screen to discuss with REDF staff. Additional information about the revenue threshold can be found in the FAQ below.

Questions regarding eligibility criteria can also be discussed with REDF staff during a phone screen.

top of page

Who Should Apply

Growth stage ESEs with ambitious goals

REDF is seeking ESEs that have a stable business and program model, are ready to grow, and can significantly expand their impact through improved profitability, programming, and employment. We are looking for ESEs who aren’t satisfied with incremental improvements or waiting for organic growth, but instead have long term vision and well thought out, innovative, and attainable plans for intentional growth. We want to work with ESEs that believe their business and program model can do even more for their community or could create impact beyond their community.

REDF recognizes that ESEs have been significantly impacted by the ongoing COVID pandemic, and growth may look different than it did before. We understand that this may change the timeline and scope of your growth plans and will take these current events into consideration when assessing growth plans.

Demonstrated commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

REDF is seeking ESEs working to advance DEI within their organizations and community. ESEs are committed to advancing racial equity and creating equitable outcomes for all program participants.

Data tracking & reporting capabilities

REDF is seeking ESEs who are committed to a culture of continuous learning through leveraging data and participant feedback. This includes a willingness to share data and report key metrics.

Active partnership with REDF and ESE peers

REDF is seeking ESEs ready to partner and eager to exchange learnings with peers and REDF. ESEs have the capacity for REDF’s hands-on engagement and advice.

This includes ESEs that are interested in contributing learnings to the greater ESE field.

top of page

What to Know Before You Apply

Information to Prepare

  • 2019 or 2020 earned revenue
  • Revenue projections for 2021 – 2023
  • Number of people employed in program in 2019 and 2020
  • Projections for number of people employed in program in 2021 – 2023
  • Demographics of staff and board

Documents to Prepare

  • Leadership team bios or resumes
  • Organizational chart
  • Most recent audit
  • Current year budget

Partnership Criteria

REDF envisions the Growth Portfolio as a mutually beneficial partnership in which we are learning from ESEs as much as we are providing support. To facilitate this partnership, we will be reviewing applications based on the following criteria:

  • Leadership: Demonstrated interest and capacity in being an active portfolio participant to learn from, share with, and teach others. This includes leadership who are diverse, adaptive, receptive to feedback, and who have strong organizational commitment, structure, and governance.
  • Organizational Capacity: The organization is in an overall strong position – both operationally and financially – to build on what already exists and with the right support and resources, grow over the next 3 years. The organization has data reporting and tracking capabilities, the ability to execute on TA projects, and financial sustainability.
  • Business & Program Models: The ESE has stable business and program models that can serve as the foundation for growth. The growth plan is clear, comprehensive and realistic while offering a compelling vision based on feasibility, market need, and job-type fit for the population served.
  • Partnership: Capacity and eagerness to partner with REDF and portfolio peers. Demonstrated commitment to DEI efforts and your community.

REDF’s Reporting Needs 

Participation in the Growth Portfolio includes meeting REDF’s reporting needs. This may include providing the following kinds of data or collaborating with REDF to create data collection strategies:

  • Financial data: earned revenue, other funding sources, business and program costs, and financial forecasting
  • Program data: people employed within REDF’s population focus, participant surveys, and graduation statistics
  • Post-placement data: employment status, wage increases, and promotions 1 year after ESE exit

More information on REDF’s outcomes measurement and data collection will be shared soon.

REDF’s Commitment to DEI in the Growth Portfolio

REDF aspires to advance racial equity in our programs and funding decisions, and generate significant impact in terms of employment for individuals overcoming barriers. We understand our privilege and power as a funder, and recognize that if we are not actively working to advance racial equity, then we are  contributing to the systems of inequity, oppression, and underinvestment in communities of color. In addition, REDF also believes that leaders of color and leaders with lived experience bring invaluable experience and expertise to their work and to the sector, and so we seek to increase the allocation of REDF resources to leaders of color and leaders with the same lived experience as the population they serve.

The actions REDF is taking to ensure more racial equity in the Growth Portfolio include:

  • Engaging with an external consultancy to audit the Growth Portfolio program and application process, and hold us accountable to activities that actively build power for people of color
  • Capturing leadership demographic data in the application process to help manage and mitigate bias in the selection process. The data is optional to provide, and will not be evaluated as part of the initial application, but will be used to check for and mitigate bias in the first round application review, and will be taken into consideration in the final stage of selection as part of REDF’s effort to select organizations with diverse leadership teams
  • Adapting our application and selection process to have a less burdensome written component, offer application coaching office hours, include interview and video components, and conduct blind reviews with multiple reviewers for each applicant
  • Determining our eligibility requirements and recommendations by reviewing past data, and assessing whether the organizations led by leaders of color would be unfairly excluded.
  • Being intentional about including diversity in leadership as one of our portfolio goals

Additionally, REDF has intentionally moved towards offering general operating support dollars to provide as much autonomy as  possible to ESE leaders. Our goal is to ensure that leaders of color and with lived experience have access to this flexible capital.  Once we begin working with ESEs, we will also prioritize providing support and engagement around their DEI goals and practices.

REDF recognizes that in our effort towards anti-racism, we will sometimes fall short. REDF welcomes feedback on how we can continue to improve our programs and processes to advance racial equity.

Growth Portfolio Info Session

REDF hosted a brief info session on the 2021 Growth Portfolio and walked through eligibility requirements, basic details, and the application. 

A recording of the info-session is available along with the deck here.

top of page


Application Logistics

Where can I find the application?

The application is available and submitted through the REDF Application and Awards portal: https://redfworks.force.com/portal. The application link closes on December 18. 

Users with portal access can search in their inboxes for an email with the following subject: Welcome to the REDF Application and Award Portal! Please note usernames are not email addresses but do end in redf.force.com.

Additionally, we have a copy of the application that you can download here: REDF 2021 Growth Portfolio Application Word Document

If you need help accessing the application, please email programadmin@redf.org

Can I edit and re-submit my application after it’s already been submitted?

If you have already submitted your application and need to make edits, please email  programadmin@redf.org prior to the deadline of December 18th. We will do our best to reopen your application within 24 hours. We handle these requests during 9am-5:30pm PT.

If I miss the application deadline of December 18, can I still apply?

We are not able to accept applications after December 18, 2020. However, please note the REDF Growth Portfolio has rolling admission – we encourage you to apply next year.

What does the application ask?

The application contains questions regarding ESE leadership, organizational capacity, data capabilities, financial status, fundraising, business & program models, growth goals, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts, and community engagement.

How long will the application take to complete?

Depending on the accessibility of key data, the time it will take to complete the application will vary. However, we don’t anticipate the application taking more than 10 hours.

If you choose to participate in the phone screen and application office hours, we anticipate each of these activities will take an additional hour of your time (for a total of 2 additional hours if participating in both conversations). 

  • Phone screens should take 20 minutes, but you will need to gather some information in advance
  • Application office hours are 45 minutes – we ask applicants to come prepared with specific questions on the application.

Can I save my work? Should I plan to submit my application in one sitting?

Yes, you can save your work and revisit the application in multiple sittings. Please also note some answers in the application have been pre-populated if REDF has the information on file for your organization already – this applies to information on the Organization Profile, Business & Program Model, and Business Line sections.

If I have questions or challenges applying for the portfolio, who should I reach out to?

We encourage you to contact our team by emailing growthportfolio@redf.org.

How do I fix an error in my application?

If you realize you submitted incorrect information in your application or would like to update a response please email us at growthportfolio@redf.org. If you submit an incomplete application we will take that into account during our reviews and it will decrease your likelihood of admission into the portfolio.

Am I applying for a specific project with this application?

No – in the Growth Portfolio, REDF is funding enterprises, not projects. While you may have previously received funding from REDF for a specific project, your application for the Growth Portfolio does not need to be project specific. 

How much funding should I apply for? Will my chances be better if I apply for less than $300,000?

All grantees will receive the same core funding: a three-year grant of $300,000, disbursed in $100,000 increments per year.

How do I qualify for the additional $150,000 in project funding?

The additional project funding is only available to organizations accepted into the portfolio and receiving the core funding of $300,000. Organizations accepted into the portfolio will work with a Portfolio Manager annually to determine additional critical needs not covered by the core operating support grant.

Eligibility Criteria

What if I’m not an Accelerator Alum and I haven’t participated in a qualifying program?

For organizations that are not an Accelerator Alum and have not participated in one of the qualifying REDF programs, they may still qualify for the Growth Portfolio by going through the REDF Accelerator program in 2021 or a subsequent year.

In very rare and exceptional cases, starting next year, REDF will consider organizations who are not Accelerator Alumni and have not participated in a qualifying program. We encourage you to contact our team by emailing growthportfolio@redf.org if you believe this applies to you.

If my organization went through the Accelerator, but the Accelerator Fellow has since left the organization, or the business unit focused on in the Accelerator has closed, is my organization still an Accelerator Alum?

Following completion of the REDF Accelerator program, the organization itself attains Accelerator Alum status. This status stays with the organization regardless of the Fellow leaving or business units changing. If your organization has completed the Accelerator, you have Alum status to qualify for the Growth Portfolio.

What qualifies as earned revenue?

Earned revenue refers to funds generated by an ESE for providing goods or services through the business (i.e. sales revenue). Note this includes all business lines within an ESE. Qualifying earned revenue should also be tied to the social enterprises’ employment model. For example, revenue from leasing facilities space would not be considered unless facilities rentals is a business line that  also employed individuals

Donations or grants do not qualify as earned revenue and so cannot contribute to meeting the $400k threshold. 

Government funding can qualify as earned revenue depending on the type of funding. If it is a government grant or contract that procures business services from the enterprise, then REDF would consider that as earned revenue. If it is a government grant or contract that subsidizes wages or other program costs NOT in return for products or services, then REDF does not consider that as earned revenue.

How is the Growth Portfolio different from the Accelerator?

The Accelerator is a 5-month program that focuses on developing and supporting social enterprise leaders, providing them with the tools and skills needed to set big goals for their social enterprises and reach those goals. It is cohort based and meets three times a year. It is meant to focus on social enterprises that have expressed interest in growing, but are not yet equipped to scale up. The Growth Portfolio is meant primarily to serve as a further catalyst to enterprises that have successfully completed the Accelerator and have identified that they are well positioned to grow significantly and rapidly.  REDF understands that not all enterprises completing the Accelerator are ready for rapid growth: some may realize they need to rework their business model, refine their value proposition or keep iterating towards product market fit. Especially during a time of recession, some enterprises may be facing a period of contraction or focusing on stabilization. REDF hopes to continue supporting those enterprises through the REDF Community and alumni network.

How are the revenue thresholds different for Accelerator and Growth Portfolio?

The Accelerator program serves post-revenue start up and early stage organizations. The current earned revenue range for Accelerator applicants is $100,000 to $2,000,000. The Growth Portfolio is designed for organizations with enterprises past the start-up stage who are in the early to growth stage. For the pilot year of the Growth Portfolio (2021), the earned revenue range for Growth Portfolio applicants should be $400,000 to $10,000,000.  In both programs, REDF will consider applicants below or above the range on a case by case basis. However, it is worth noting that applicants above or below the ranges will be less competitive.   REDF also reviews the revenue ranges before every application cycle to recalibrate- so the ranges for 2021 may not apply for future years.

Why does the Growth Portfolio have a minimum earned revenue threshold?

The primary reason for a minimum recommended amount of earned revenue is to ensure that organizations are a good fit and have the bandwidth for the capacity building programming that is core to the Growth Portfolio. As part of REDF’s strategic plan, we are going to triple the size of the portfolio – from 22 organizations in 2016-2020 to 60 organizations in 2021-2025. In order to do this, we are refining the portfolio funding and technical assistance to be more standardized across all grantees.  Our technical assistance program has been redesigned to specifically serve organizations in the early/growth stage of their enterprise life cycle. The standardized offerings require a certain amount of staffing structure, programming, operational capacity, and administrative support to be effective. REDF is looking at earned revenue as a proxy for business size and internal capacity to help us understand whether the social enterprise will have the ability to take full advantage of REDF’s capacity building program.

Will a $400K minimum earned revenue threshold disproportionately impact enterprises led by people of color or led by people with lived experience of their target population?

We believe not. We have reviewed the available revenue data for the pool of eligible participants and took leadership demographics and diversity into consideration when choosing where to set the recommended minimum revenue for 2021. Though we believe the revenue threshold does not disproportionately impact leaders of color and leaders with lived experience of their target population, REDF commits to reviewing the results of each selection process, and continuously reassessing and updating the eligibility thresholds as needed for future application cycles.

If an organization does not meet the income eligibility threshold, should they still apply?

If an organization’s earned income is far below the recommended threshold of $400K, it is better to sit out this application cycle and wait for future ones. REDF will revisit the earned revenue threshold each application cycle, and will apply what we learn each round, including what the impact was on organizations led by people of color or with lived experience. During the webinar, we spoke of flexibility around the written criterion to address cases on the margin – for example, if an organization earns $375K a year, and has seen double digit growth the past couple years – we would certainly still view them as competitive, even though they do not clear the $400K bar. We wanted to allow flexibility for situations like this, which is why we spoke of organizations still applying despite not meeting the threshold. However, if a social enterprise is earning far below $400K, and is unlikely to reach $400K in the next year, then we would not recommend applying this year. If you are unsure still, a short screening conversation can help assess whether it’s worth your time to apply based on specifics of your social enterprise. 

How much is an organization penalized for not meeting earned income eligibility threshold?

If your social enterprise is close to the income eligibility threshold–able to reach that level within the next year – then there is not a penalty for not meeting the earned income guideline. However, if your social enterprise is far off –more than $50K away- it’s worth a screening conversation to see if this year makes sense to apply. Organizations with earned income far below $400K are not likely to be selected.

What if my earned revenue is below $400k? Can I still apply for the Growth Portfolio?

If annual earned revenue is below $400k across all business lines, applicants are encouraged to wait another year before applying to the Growth Portfolio. If you are under $400k and would still like to apply this year, you are welcome to discuss this during the phone screening.

Please also note REDF will review the revenue minimum for the Growth Portfolio annually and will adjust if necessary.

Is there a maximum earned revenue for the Growth Portfolio?

REDF is using an annual earned revenue of $10M maximum as a soft proxy to assess whether an organization is too big for the Growth Portfolio. Organizations that exceed this limit are still encouraged to sign up for a pre-screening to share their organization’s growth plan and explore their fit for the capacity building services that will be provided to Growth Portfolio grantees.

How do I know if I’m currently employing REDF’s population focus?

REDF’s population focus includes the following:

  • People impacted by the justice system, including individuals who have been arrested, convicted of a crime and/or spent time in prison
  • People living with a mental illness, including those with a substance use disorder, major depression, anxiety, mood disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, or schizophrenia
  • People who are or have been homeless, sought emergency shelter, or do not have a fixed/regular residence
  • Young people (between the ages of 16-24) who are disconnected from work and school
  • People with refugee or asylee status
  • Survivors of domestic violence and/or trafficking (People who have experienced significant trauma hindering them from obtaining work may also be considered. Please speak to REDF)

Application Process

What are the phone screenings for?

While not mandatory, phone screenings with REDF staff are highly recommended for all applicants. This is simply intended to help organizations determine if they are a strong applicant for the Growth Portfolio. REDF highly values each organization’s time and doesn’t want applicants spending significant time on the written application if they are unlikely to be a competitive applicant this year.

Phone should last about 20 minutes.

Applicants can sign up for a phone screening from November 16th to December 11th. Please us this link to sign up for a screening call.

Who does REDF want to speak to in phone screenings, application office hours, and Round 2 interviews?

For phone screenings and office hours, any staff member who is familiar with their ESE’s operations and growth plan is welcome to chat with REDF. This may be a member of the senior leadership team or a grant writer that is completing the application for their ESE.

For ESEs that make it to Round 2 interviews, REDF would like to speak with senior leadership during the interview. More detail on interviews will be provided after Round 1 decisions are made.

What are Application Office Hours?

Application Office Hours are an optional opportunity for applicants to ask clarifying questions on the application prior to submitting. This is done through a 45-minute phone call with a member of REDF’s staff. Please note, REDF will not provide feedback on your application during office hours but can help clarify the intent of a question and how a response might be structured.

If I am not selected for the Growth Portfolio in 2021, can I receive feedback?

Absolutely! Applicants not selected for the portfolio will have a chance to receive feedback from REDF on the strengths and weaknesses of their application. While being rejected is never pleasant, REDF values the time you took to complete the application and we care about your success as an organization. If this program is not the right fit for you right now, we would welcome the opportunity to help you strengthen your application for next year.

Due to capacity constraints on REDF staff, feedback will not be available until after the selection process has concluded in March. More information about how to request feedback will be available to applicants at a later date.

If I am not selected for the Growth Portfolio in 2021, can I reapply next year?

Yes. Any eligible ESE that is not selected in 2021 can reapply for the Growth Portfolio in subsequent application rounds in 2021 and 2022, providing that the ESE still meets eligibility requirements.

Growth Portfolio Details

What type of growth is REDF looking for in ESEs?

REDF is open to and looking for a variety of growth paths that strive to increase an ESE’s impact. This could be growth in people employed, success after graduating from the ESE, earned revenue, geographical footprint, etc. For any type of growth, REDF is looking for the growth to be achievable and rooted in reality. REDF is looking for ESEs who are thinking about and planning for how they can expand their impact beyond incremental improvements or organic growth.

As part of REDF’s efforts to scale and streamline its portfolio experience, grantees will participate in the Growth Portfolio for three years. With that limited time frame in mind, REDF encourages ESEs to be positioned for growth prior to applying to the Growth Portfolio and to then apply to the Growth Portfolio when the extra support and capital can significantly enhance your growth goals.

REDF recognizes that ESEs have been significantly impacted by the ongoing COVID pandemic, and growth may look different than it did before. We understand that this may change the timeline and scope of your growth plans and will take these current events into consideration when assessing growth plans.

How many grantees will be selected for the Growth Portfolio?

Approximately 12 organizations will be chosen to join the Growth Portfolio in 2021. The goal of the portfolio is to choose 12 ESEs each year, resulting in 60 ESEs in the portfolio through 2025 (as active or alumni members due to the 3-year grant structure).

REDF estimates we will receive 40-60 applications for the Growth Portfolio in the 2020 application process.

What will my participation in the Growth Portfolio entail?

Participating in REDF’s Growth Portfolio entails a willingness to engage in REDF’s hands-on approach, which includes a significant commitment of time by each ESE, especially its leadership. This includes a commitment by members of your leadership team to attend monthly meetings and partner with REDF to execute capacity building projects, as well as meet data and reporting needs.

Glossary of Key Terms

Below are explanations of key terms used on this webpage as well as in the Growth Portfolio Application. Please feel free to contact REDF at growthportfolio@redf.org if you have questions.

  • Accelerator Program: The REDF Accelerator is a unique, hands-on program designed to support the leaders of employment social enterprise. Described as a “mini-MBA for social entrepreneurs, the REDF Accelerator provides training and connection, helping ESE leaders strengthen and grow their businesses.
  • Baseline Assessment: An analysis conducted by REDF (with data supplied by the ESE) that helps generate an initial understanding of the ESE  and how it scores across factors REDF believes are critical for long-term success.
  • Business Line: A product or set of related products that serve a particular customer transaction or business need. Some ESEs have multiple business lines; for example, they may run a café as well as a catering business.
  • Capacity: The maximum output of an ESE given available resources. ‘Output’ can be defined as people employed or services/sales provided by the business, but is essentially the impact of the ESE.
  • Capacity Building Support: REDF’s advisory services that support an ESE’s mission and growth. This includes TA projects, leadership support, and access to REDF workshops and other resources to help an ESE scale its impact.
  • Earned Revenue: Funds generated by an ESE for providing goods or services through the business. This is distinct from other sources of revenue an organization may have, such as donations or grants.
  • Employment Social Enterprise (ESE): Mission driven, revenue-generating businesses that employ, empower, and invest in the potential of people. These are businesses that both provide paying jobs and help employees stabilize their lives with extra services – ones that help them build their skills and develop a work history. When employees are ready, social enterprises help them find, and keep, good jobs in the competitive market.
  • Farber Fellow: MBA students from the country’s top business schools who spend the summer learning about the employment social enterprise field. The focus of their summer is 8 weeks of full-time work with a REDF ESE working on critical strategic projects.
  • Growth Stage: A life cycle phase for a business or organization. Prior to the growth phase, proof of concept is completed and a strong foundation is formed for the ESE’s business model. As the organization moves into a growth phase, its focus becomes scaling its business model and impact.
  • Lived Experience (LE): In this context, LE refers to a member of an ESE’s leadership or staff that shares the same barriers as the organization’s population focus.
  • Operating Support: Unrestricted funding that invests in a grantee’s mission rather than a specific project or program. Grantees can use operating support funds as they see fit to achieve their goals.
  • Placement Rate: The percentage of program graduates who are successfully placed into permanent employment positions (as defined by the program’s mission).
  • People Employed: The number of program participants who are transitionally employed by the ESE for a given span of time.
  • Population Focus: The group ESEs actively recruits and is focused on providing work experience and supports to (e.g. people who have experienced homelessness, people who are in active recovery, etc)
  • Program Outcomes: The results of the ESE’s programming; resources and activities are structured to drive toward outcomes. Outcomes can be short- and long-term — for example, a short-term outcome is the percentage of program participants who successfully graduate the program. A long-term outcome could be the percentage of program graduates who maintain gainful employment 3 years post-graduation.
  • Program Participants: The individuals who participate in the ESE’s programming and are the focus of its mission. These individuals are transitionally employed by the ESE and generally receive supportive services while part of the program as well.
  • Relationship Manager: A member of REDF staff who serves as the key point of contact for an organization within REDF’s network.
  • Retention Rates: How long someone stays employed, both within the social enterprise as well as the job they get after they graduate from the social enterprise.
  • Rolling Admission: For the Growth Portfolio, applications will open annually from 2020 through 2024. Organizations will be accepted into the Growth Portfolio each year, with a 3-year commitment for each portfolio participant (portfolio participants will exit the portfolio at different points depending on their 3-year span).
  • Supportive Services: (also referred to as employee supports) Assistance provided to employees who have barriers to employment. Examples include: case management, resume preparation, job search support, assistance dealing with barriers like getting driver’s licenses, etc.
  • Technical Assistance (TA): REDF’s specialized business and capacity-building advisory services to ESEs that help amplify impact. TA projects can span across functions, including: growth strategy, market analysis, employee support strategy, program design, recruitment and placement strategy, data capture and analysis, talent management, and systems implementation support.
  • Theory of Change: A methodology that defines long-term goals for an organization and maps backward to identify necessary pre-conditions (inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes) to achieve the goals.
  • Transitional Employment: A program or service that temporarily places employees into employment in a training-like environment to familiarize and acclimate them into a work environment. Over a period of time, the employees are transitioned into a full-time, less accommodating environment.

top of page

Our Guiding Principles

We’re continuing to improve our transparency practices at REDF, and so we want to share our guiding principles for managing the 2021 Growth Portfolio.

  • Trust: We seek to develop a partnership that is founded on trust between REDF and grantees. At the core of REDF’s intense engagement model are relationships. Relationships must be founded on trust in order to achieve the impact REDF and their partners seek.
  • Transparency: We believe in developing a grantmaking process that is transparent. We want grantees to have a clear understanding of who we seek to partner with. We believe having a transparent process is the first step in developing a trusting relationship and makes progress towards having a more equitable grantmaking process.
  • Balance: Expectations of ESEs are bold, but not at the risk of negatively impacting the SE. Quality outcomes are as important as scale (i.e., people employed vs. profitability).
  • Diversity & Equity: We seek an array of ESE models (for profit, nonprofit, industry, size,  population focus) as well as ESE leadership (people of color, lived experiences). REDF seeks to select a portfolio that provides equitable access and opportunity to all ESEs, especially those traditionally overlooked by philanthropy.
  • Partnership: REDF considers ESEs an equal partner. REDF recognizes the perceived power imbalances in the philanthropic field between funder and grantee. REDF seeks to eliminate this perception and ensure applicants and grantees feel like we are on common ground. REDF must consider the impact on the ESE and population focus during grantmaking, decisions making, requesting information, providing advice, etc.
  • Continuous Improvement: There is always an opportunity to improve on our work through reflection, seeking feedback, and learning from others.

top of page

Additional COVID-19 Resources for Employment Social Enterprise

We will continue to provide additional resources for our community of employment social enterprises as we face the COVID-19 crisis together.



top of page