News and Insights

What Are CDFIs And Why Do They Matter?


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


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 »

Introducing the Catalyst Fellows


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 »

A Northwest Commitment to Place-Based Investing


Here in the Pacific Northwest — Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming — our sense of place results from an incredibly rich, diverse and unique set of characteristics rooted in our cultures, experiences and learning over time. In the foreword to Canopy's new white paper, Committed to Investing in Our Region, Philanthropy Northwest CEO Jeff Clarke frames this place-based impact investing collaborative's mission through our region's culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, generosity and stewardship. more »

Impact in Action: Investing in a Local Food Bank


Seth Benziger, Impact Capital | As a community development financial institutition, Impact Capital has focused on providing financing for affordable housing projects in Oregon and Washington. In the past year, however, we branched out by making a bridge loan to the University District Food Bank, so the Seattle nonprofit could move into a bigger space and serve more clients. As we turn the page on this impact investment, we can review five parts of the story: what prompted this investment, what's been easy, what's been challenging, what have we learned — and what's next? more »

Nine Predictions for Philanthropy in 2016


Jeff Clarke, CEO | Welcome to 2016! Philanthropy’s core DNA is love for humanity and community. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we celebrate a unique philanthropic culture marked by optimism, generosity, civic engagement and stewardship. It rests upon our nation’s unique commitment to philanthropic freedom and donor intent. But above all, our big, diverse place defines us, from Alaska’s North Slope to southern Oregon, and the Pacific coast to eastern Montana and Wyoming. In other words, as American farmer and writer Wendell Berry observed, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.” Looking ahead to what is sure to be a dynamic year, philanthropy, with its ability to gather people around the public good, is more important than ever. more »

Paying for Success in the Northwest


Jeff Clarke, CEO | The Pacific Northwest has a unique and globally influential culture marked by innovation, entrepreneurship, civic engagement, generosity and stewardship. Our region’s commitment to innovation drives our growing leadership in impact investing — leveraging private capital for social good. Impact investors seek opportunities to earn a financial return while also doing something good for society. Their aspirations are changing the way we think about solutions to big social problems like homelessness, poverty and unemployment. more »

Impact Investing in Food Systems: How Will We Measure Success?


Tim Crosby, Cascadia Foodshed Financing Project | Impact investing seeks to combine financial returns with social and environmental benefits. We have long held the tools to assess financial returns, but measuring social and environmental returns is far more complex. Impact investing in food systems gets even more complicated, because we're aiming for environmental and social goals that may not necessarily be aligned — for example, investing in small farmers who use organic growing practices while funding strategies to make healthy food more available and affordable to low-income families. more »

A Continuum of Learning: Investing in Philanthropy and Myself


Katherine Porras, Momentum Fellow | When I moved to Oregon in 2013, I found myself captivated by the beauty of its green valleys and blue rivers. A few months ago, I was thrilled to be accepted to the Momentum Fellowship's investment position at Meyer Memorial Trust. This is a unique opportunity to help serve marginalized communities, while growing professionally with an amazing cohort dedicated to the field of philanthropy. We are fortunate to have this opportunity and we all recognized its potential, not only forging our own career paths, but also for the magnitude of possible contribution when a group of nine diverse professionals striving for excellence work together towards a common goal: making the future of philanthropy more diverse, equitable and inclusive. more »

Impact Investing Continues its March to the Mainstream


Jeff Clarke, CEO | When a small group of foundations came together more than 10 years ago to discuss the prospects for increasing the number of foundations making program-related investments, those of us around the table were energized by the potential of impact investing. At the same time, we also knew it would take a long time — and a lot of hard work to inform and influence — before it would become accepted as a mainstream idea. That meeting was, among other things, the genesis of Mission Investors Exchange. While we certainly had big aspirations for the field, I’m amazed to see how quickly impact investing is evolving, both in practice and underlying regulation. On September 15, the Internal Revenue Service released important new guidance for private foundation managers who make investment decisions, noting that they are not required to select only investments that offer the highest rates of risk-adjusted return. The IRS now recognizes that aligning investment decisions with a foundation’s charitable purpose can be a component of a prudent investment policy. more »