Nicole Motter (J.D. ’12) has been passionate about social change for as long as she can remember. However, after beginning her career working on the ground level in nonprofits, she became frustrated with many aspects of the nonprofit world.
“I felt that bigger change needed to happen, but there were institutional-level problems,” she said. “From a historical and legal perspective, the nonprofit sector was not designed to eradicate problems. It can’t accommodate that.”
She wanted to find a larger platform for social change than the tax-exempt space allows for, and she realized a law degree could give her some of the tools to do so.
Motter watched the social enterprise field emerge while she was a student at Georgia State Law, and she began to see an alternative — a better way to scale ideas.
Now she’s the founder and chief strategist of Social Innovation Strategies, an advisory and legal services consultancy for social enterprises. As they’re getting started, Motter helps social entrepreneurs select and set up legal entity structures. She also works with foundations to finance social enterprises through a legal tool called program-related investments (PRIs).
“PRIs allow private foundations to use grant money as seed capital — certain kinds of loans and equity investments — for organizations doing work that aligns with their mission,” she said. “They enable social enterprises to test their ideas and spark innovation and scale in ways that other types of funding don’t allow for.”
Jeffrey Vinokur, founder and CEO of Generation Genius, an educational technology platform designed to inspire students in science, technology, engineering and math, can attest to the power of PRIs.
“Nicole enabled me to get a PRI by showing me how I could present my company to a foundation,” Vinokur said. “She also helped the foundation understand how it could further its goals.”
Motter said she’s glad to see her legal alma mater offering a course in social enterprise law. “It’s great to give socially minded students a different perspective. It’s a market that’s continuing to evolve.”