Impact Investing

Ground Truth: Between Nonprofit & For-Profit Paths for Impact

01/19/2017

Tim Crosby, Cascadia Foodshed Financing Project | The recent election cycle has reminded us that even though the United States is one nation, we have many different ideas on how to make our country better. As I've been sharing Cascadia Foodshed Financing Project’s recent market research over the past few months, commissioned to identify strategies to grow Washington and Oregon's food economy, I've had a similar realization: We can all read the same research yet come to different conclusions about how to grow our regional food economy. Not surprisingly, our nonprofit and for-profit reviewers have come up with different investment recommendations. This divergence can be attributed to a logic model gap, or a difference in the tools used by different departments to implement a shared mission. For instance, a foundation program department may seek opportunities to catalyze system transformation, while the same foundation’s finance department seeks a positive financial return. As we "ground truth" our research, we are also seeking to understand if the conclusions touch on real investment opportunities. more »

Food Systems Research Reveals Funding Opportunities

08/22/2016

Tim Crosby, Cascadia Foodshed Financing Project | If we want to catalyze a thriving food economy in the Pacific Northwest, where should we invest our philanthropic funds? We commissioned research into the production costs of six categories — no-till grain, grass-finished beef, organic greens, organic storage crops, pastured chicken, and hoop house pork — to identify differentiated and viable production systems aligned with our project's five overarching principles of health, social equity, family wage job creation and preservation. The results have revealed intriguing insights for our regional food economy, venture philanthropy and impact investing. We want to achieve system change to increase more sustainable food production and to build resiliency in rural communities. We want to support enterprise success so that rural communities can generate livable wage jobs and investors can at least preserve capital. We now know where we can do each; we seek the opportunity to do both. Now we're asking a new question: How can we advance system change by supporting success at the enterprise level? more »

Building a Beautiful Portfolio: Where to Begin

08/08/2016

Leslie Christian, Catalyst Fellow | Are you a trustee or executive at a foundation that shares Philanthropy Northwest's vision of communities with vibrant, healthy futures that honor our past, our people and our cultures? Have you read the list of companies in which you are invested — not the names of the funds or managers, but the actual holdings — and wondered how you can reconcile these names with your mission and values? You are not alone. The alternative — a Beautiful Portfolio — provides a path to authenticity and honesty in our financial lives. more »

Foundations Should Work With For-Profits, Too

07/17/2016

Rosalie Sheehy Cates, Catalyst Fellow | Business is changing the world. Foundations are built to make grants to nonprofits, but if foundations want to influence change, we have to work in the for-profit business sector, too. It's that simple. The tool for this is investing. If we don’t do this, our foundation efforts are limited to the capacity of the nonprofit sector to steer the course, or clean up the mess. more »

Mobilizing Every Penny of Philanthropic Capital

06/20/2016

Leslie Christian, Catalyst Fellow | What would the world look like if every foundation committed to using every one of its pennies to advancing its mission — even if it meant rearranging staff, giving up on “market returns" and coming to terms with the fact that nothing, including foundations, lives in perpetuity? This may seem like a radical premise, but it’s the direction philanthropy has already begun taking. Major foundations in the Northwest and nationwide are being designed to be time-limited and moving to “spend down” strategies. Tech billionaires are sharing their wealth through community foundations, LLCs and social enterprises rather than the more conventional family foundation model. And philanthropy isn’t just about making grants anymore — it’s about impact investments, advocacy and public policy work and being thoughtful about sustainability and place. more »

Seizing the Momentum for Impact Investing

05/25/2016

Rosalie Sheehy Cates, Catalyst Fellow | It’s not every day you find the top officers from the biggest foundations in the United States chatting about their commitment to impact investing. It happened, though, at the Mission Investors Exchange (MIE) biennial conference in Baltimore, Maryland. From May 9 to 11, the CEOs of Meyer Memorial Trust and the Ford, Kresge, MacArthur, McKnight and Surdna foundations each took the stage to share their stories, commitment and strategies for "Seizing the Momentum" of impact investing. The size and stature of these foundations are a testament to MIE’s organizational reach and impact investing’s increasingly mainstream appeal. It may be a little overwhelming however, for smaller foundations and organizations just beginning to explore this tool. The MIE conference can feel like the arcade at the state fair: Over here we have real estate strategies to fight gentrification! Over there are fisheries, already accelerated to Version 2.0!  And over there, how to invest our way out of climate change! I think this is overwhelming in a good way, though. more »

Canopy Launches The Map: Data Visualization of Our Investment Ecosystem

03/29/2016

Sarah Mahlab, Canopy | As an organization focused on place, it seemed natural for Canopy to build a map for the benefit of regional communities. Over the past six months, we have collected data on regional stakeholders and capital flows to build an investment map for the Pacific Northwest. "The Map" is unique in that it allows users to overlay three distinct layers — stakeholders, capital flows and demographics — and adjust transparency on these layers to better understand how they relate to one another. more »

What Are CDFIs And Why Do They Matter?

03/16/2016

Judith Olsen, Impact Capital | Whenever I introduce myself as the president of a CDFI, a community development financial institution, I'm often asked, “Just what is a CDFI?” I would put it like this, “As a CDFI, we provide loans to nonprofits, small businesses and individuals who can't access the capital they need to create safe, equitable, vibrant communities; communities filled with affordable housing, lively commercial corridors, schools, parks, healthcare and fresh food.” In other words, CDFIs leverage impact investments from place-based foundations, banks and government leaders to assess, understand and respond to community needs. I am proud to be part of this work, and I look forward to many more exciting projects in communities across the Northwest. more »

Impact in Action: Investing in a Habitat Store

03/07/2016

Ken Ristine, Ben B. Cheney Foundation | We've known about impact investing for a long time, but most of the groups the Ben B. Cheney Foundation works with need equity, not debt. As a result, it took a special situation to create our first program-related investment (PRI) last year: a loan to a Habitat for Humanity Store in Lakewood, Washington. As we look for other impact investing opportunities, we are reviewing the five parts of this story: what prompted this investment, what's been easy, what's been challenging, what have we learned — and what's next? more »

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