News and Insights

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 »

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 »

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 »

A Northwest Commitment to Place-Based Investing

02/24/2016

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

01/26/2016

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

01/12/2016

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

12/21/2015

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?

12/08/2015

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 »

Pages