News and Insights

Foundations Forge Ahead: DEI and Investing

11/26/2018

Rosalie Sheehy Cates | Behind every great foundation is… a lot of money. We know those funds have to be invested to generate returns that pay for grants and operations. But can the money at the heart of the foundation business model be responsive to a foundation’s important values of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)? The answer to this question is yes. You can read all about it our new report that includes interviews with executives at eight large foundations that have embraced organization-wide DEI efforts. more »

Local Matters: Why Not Invest Where You Live?

09/06/2017

Rosalie Sheehy Cates, Mission Investing Catalyst Fellow | Philanthropy Northwest is exploring a bond fund that would give members an easy new way to make investments in the communities they care about. Modeled after a successful effort in Minnesota, we’re excited to explore this opportunity with our members. I’ll be hosting a lunch meeting during the annual conference where members can learn more and share ideas.  more »

Mapping a Foundation's Impact Investing Journey

02/22/2017

Rosalie Sheehy Cates, Senior Advisor | One hundred million dollars.

That’s how much money Surdna Foundation has now allocated to impact investing, just in time for its 100th anniversary. It’s an exciting decision, and you can read all about the private foundation's decision-making process in Mapping the Journey to Impact Investinga new report researched and drafted by Jan Jaffe, senior partner of The Giving Practice, Philanthropy Northwest's national consulting team. more »

Our Pursuit of Deeper Impact

02/13/2017

Haley Millet, Cascadia Foodshed Financing Project | As Cascadia Foodshed Financing Project works at the intersection of food, finance, and philanthropy to transform the Pacific Northwest regional food system, we ask the question, “how good is good enough?” With regards to individual investment opportunities, does the investment meet a need expressed by the community? What ripple effects might the investment have? Social impact advisor Katherine Pease of KP Advisors asks this critical question of the impact investing field at large. more »

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 »

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