News and Insights

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 »

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 »

Introducing the Catalyst Fellows

03/03/2016

Jeff Clarke, CEO | Poet William Blake wrote, "The true method of knowledge is experiment." Here at Philanthropy Northwest, we honor Blake and the countless others who have offered similar encouragement by taking initiative to conduct learning experiments. Our latest? The Catalyst Fellows, a place-based experiment in thought partnership and network learning. We’ve designed this program to begin and steward ongoing conversations about the important role that different types of capital, each integral to philanthropic strategy, play in creating and sustaining vibrant, equitable and inclusive communities. While there are many important forms of capital, we’ve chosen to begin this work by focusing on influence (advocacy), financial (impact investing) and natural (sustainability) capital. more »