Last summer, a unique investment opportunity came Prior Lake Rotary’s way. The project concept was not new – it was a water project in a developing country. And it was with a familiar partner, Jon Kaufman, the founder of H2OpenDoors. But this project was brought forward by Global Water First (GWF), which Kaufman co-founded. GWF is a startup social business changing lives in the developing world in a sustainable, regenerative manner through decentralized networks of safe water enterprises (SWEs). 
Shown above, Joyce Sintoyia Seng’eny, Manager of Safe Water Enterprise at Aitong, Kenya, says, “The women of the village will get money to use to take care of their children, their homestead, and this will empower them to get financially stable and independent.”
When the opportunity, which included a $80,000 investment, was presented to club and Prior Lake Rotary Foundation leadership, everyone got on board very quickly. So, what made this unique, and appetizing? This was an investment, not a charitable gift like a grant project that Prior Lake Rotary and other Rotary Clubs or Districts are used to doing. Global Water First enlisted the Venn Foundation to create a Program-Related Investment.
A Program-Related Investment, or PRI, is not new but isn’t a widely used charitable-giving method.  The model is fairly simple: rather than make a charitable contribution that will be used once, the funds are looked at as an investment where the donor receives a return. In this case, the funds are loaned to GWF through the Venn PRI and paid back, with interest, in 3 to 5 years. This is done through a portion of the revenue-share generated for GWF by the SWE.  Upon return of the original investment, a donor can choose to either redeploy the funds into another SWE or redirect them to another charity. Essentially, one contribution can become a project in perpetuity! 
Prior Lake Rotary’s investment was for two water filtration systems to be installed in two villages in the Maasai Mara in Kenya. Once the filtration systems were installed, safe water enterprises were set up to process and sell safe drinking water to the community at below market prices, but at a profit. Each SWE employs 10 to 12 people who will receive extensive training in plant maintenance, operations, marketing, and sales. 
Through our club’s fundraising efforts, we had funds available to make an immediate investment and impact, which is different than going through the traditional grant process. Said Prior Lake Rotary Foundation member and International Service Co-Team Lead Kyle Haugen, “We were able to be the anchor donor and legacy investor, which opened this opportunity up for smaller clubs, individuals, and family foundations, which was exciting.” Another factor in the decision was for the investment is the club would not have the burden of the administrative tasks including oversight; the Venn Foundation would take care of this.
Said Mitch Popple, Prior Lake Rotary Foundation Chair, “The model of getting our investment back means we have the option to reinvest the dollars to have even more of an impact - this is the multiplier.”
Amos Kipeen, co-founder of Oliveseed Kenya Trust, collaborated on the projects in the Maasai Mara. Kipeen states the Safe Water Enterprises will generate $200k annually, and provide clean water to 20,000 people daily. The net proceeds will be used for the social services in the community.  
It’s not just a water project – it’s an investment to change the lives of people in a community for generations, and we’ll be able to keep passing it forward. A win in many ways!