Wall Street Without Walls
Purpose Prize Fellow 2008
Helping nonprofits access advice and private capital by connecting them to active and retired finance professionals.
John Eric Nelson had always worked in community development and environmental preservation and was frustrated at the way most nonprofit groups faced an erratic funding stream from foundations and government grants. In 1998, at a Rockefeller Foundation gathering on ways to link nonprofits to capital markets, he met Greg Stanton, a Wall Street investment banker, who had founded an organization of financiers eager to donate their Wall Street expertise. Nelson now leads the group. Financial experts of Wall Street Without Walls help community development organizations think through a financing need, identify the best sources and structures for funding it. The finance professionals share their expertise by connecting capital markets with local economic development organizations that serve disadvantaged small businesses, individuals and families. Nelson has engaged national financial institutions including the Federal Reserve Bank system to give non-profits access to more than $1 billion of new mission capital since 2000. More than 2,500 professionals and 1,000 community organizations have taken on projects such as financing 1,000 units of workforce housing in Washington DC; creating a mortgage loan system for immigrant home purchasers; leveraging under-used federal assets to back a $1.1 billion infrastructure bond in New Orleans; and designing a national investment fund for micro-enterprise organizations. “My entire life’s experience has been my training for this unusual opportunity, and I am ready to take it on, at 61 years of age.”