We're All In For Mission Investing

December 18, 2014

by Jeff Clarke, CEO, Philanthropy Northwest

Impact investing is quickly evolving as an important global movement that redefines how socially motivated individuals and institutions can use their financial capital to positively shape their communities. In the philanthropic sector, we’ve long referred to the alignment of mission and financial capital as mission investing. When philanthropists open themselves to asking, “Are there ways other than grants for us to structure and deploy philanthropic capital to deliver our mission and strengthen communities?” it can spur innovation in investment and program strategy, organizational structure and community engagement.

If this innovation around financial capital is important within the rapidly changing world in which you work, how are we at Philanthropy Northwest, as the network backbone organization, working to be a more effective partner in support of your mission investing work?

Today, I’m pleased to share two big pieces of news with you:

First, at our last board meeting, our board of directors approved a resolution to invest 100% of our reserves in market-rate cash products aligned with our mission, i.e. institutions and/or products dedicated to building vibrant communities. We’ll be building our mission investing portfolio in 2015, and we’ll share its details on our website as it evolves. We are very excited to be able to “put our money where our mouth is” and we look forward to sharing our journey as we align our financial capital with our mission.

There's more. In January, Ann Saxton, a former senior executive in the global wireless industry and a capital markets expert, will join Philanthropy Northwest as our first vice president. Earlier this year, Rosalie Sheehy-Cates, long-time CEO of the Montana Economic Development Corporation, joined The Giving Practice to develop and lead our mission investing consulting services. Together, with our Mission Investors Exchange team leading the national conversation, we have a powerful team of mission investing experts working locally, regionally and nationally.

Our commitment to mission investing is not new. It began six years ago when we became the home of and partner to a quickly growing Mission Investors Exchange, the leading national philanthropic mission investing network for those ranging from the simply curious to the deeply experienced practitioner.

For the past two years, we’ve hosted and facilitated Cascadia Foodshed Funders, a philanthropic collaborative that is investing in building sustainable – and profitable – local food systems in the Pacific Northwest.

Earlier this fall, we hosted Doug O’Brien, Acting USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development, who met with foundations and individual impact investor networks from across the region to discuss efforts to work together in the rural Northwest. Given that we are all focused on this “place,” there was great enthusiasm for ongoing communication, creating deal flow and exploring capital / financing structures that could bring individual, foundation and government investors – now largely siloed – together to benefit our communities.

Our sector places equal value on its programmatic interests and wisely stewarding the financial capital that supports it. Not only are more and more foundations becoming active mission investors, a handful are now blueprinting frameworks such as “inclusive economy,” “inclusive capital” and “place” to innovate the next wave of philanthropic capital strategies. Moving forward, Philanthropy Northwest is committed to walking the mission investing talk, sharing our experiences and helping our region think how it can use its financial capital both to “do well” on a balance sheet and “do good” by working across sectors to build resilient communities.