Public Policy and Mission Investing Survey Results

Public Policy and Mission Investing Survey Results


Last month, we fielded two short surveys to our members: one about public policy work and one about mission investing. We had 35 responses to the public policy and 33 responses to the mission investing survey. That represents about a 20% response rate – not bad for August. Thank you to all of you who took the time to respond. Following is a quick summary of what we found, and what’s coming up next.

Public Policy


How many Northwest foundations are doing direct public policy work?

Just over a third of respondents reported that they directly engage in public policy activities like holding regular meetings with public officials, providing testimony or other technical assistance to policymakers or coordinating joint funding with policymakers. 64% said they don’t do direct public policy work, but many of those reported that they do fund such work through their grantees. 44% of all respondents reported that they are part of funder collaboratives addressing public policy issues (this includes folks who said they aren't doing direct public policy work).

Who is doing the public policy work?

Of those engaging in direct public policy work, two thirds do it entirely with staff, and the remaining third use a combination of staff and consultants/contract lobbyists.

How much time are Northwest foundations spending on direct public policy work?

Two thirds are spending under 20 hours a week worth of staff and/or consultant time on public policy work, a quarter are spending 40-80 hours/week and one respondent is dedicating more than 2 FTEs to public policy work.

Do Northwest foundations have formal public policy strategy + objectives documents?

By and large, no. Less than a third of foundations doing direct public policy work reported having a public policy strategy and objectives document.

How are Northwest funders working with government agencies?

Funders are actively working with government agency partners. 58% of our respondents, and 100% of those doing direct public policy work reported that they work in collaboratives that include government agency partners. Nearly a third of funders doing public policy work have funded individual positions within a unit of government, such as city or county staff working on homelessness, by co-mingling foundation funds in quasi-public governmental institutions or by placing foundation staff directly in government agency departments through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act. Roughly equal numbers of our members reported engaging with officials at the local, state and federal levels.

How interested are Northwest foundations in connecting around public policy issues?

51% of respondents said they were interested or very interested in being connected with others working on public policy advocacy, another third were neutral, and only 17% said they had little or no interest.

Mission investing

Mission investments are investments made by foundations and other mission-based organizations to further their philanthropic goals. Mission investments cover two distinct categories of investments: Market-rate mission investments, also known as "mission-related investments," are part of a foundation's endowment and have a positive social impact while contributing to the foundation’s long-term financial stability and growth. Below-market mission investments, also known as "program-related investments," are designed to achieve specific program objectives while they may earn a below-market financial return. The following image illustrates the spectrum of mission investments.

How many Northwest foundations are making mission investments now?

Foundations are still getting their feet wet with mission investing. 27% of respondents reported that their foundations currently have a mission investing program. 31% reported that they are interested in mission investing and still thinking about it, or planning to implement. 16% said they are not sufficiently familiar with mission investing yet, and 26% said that they are not interested in mission investing at all.

How are Northwest foundations managing their mission investing programs?

Half of Northwest foundations making mission investments have a formal mission investing board committee. Many respondents reported that their CEO/President and/or their CFO/COO manage their mission investing program. As one respondent reported, “[On staff], our head of program and head of finance collaborate. Same thing at the board level – the program committee vets the program piece and the finance committee vets the finance piece.”

What kinds of mission investments are Northwest foundations making?

Nearly three quarters of Northwest foundations making mission investments reported that they are making both market-rate investments and below-market rate investments. Northwest foundations are using a wide range of investment vehicles: 40% of mission investors reported investing in debt, 20% took equity positions, 20% cash, 10% issue loan guarantees, and 10% reported making other types of investments.

What’s next

We’re really committed to listening to our network and to feeding that learning back to you in real time. We’re going to keep these short surveys coming at a rate of about one per month. The more folks who complete the surveys, the better the data will be and better our network can know itself – and, as a bonus, if you complete the surveys, you get immediate access to live results!