July 1, 2018

New White Paper on Social Impact Investing

Building Power Across the Impact Investment Field
Our newly-released white paper

We in philanthropy must take our missions more seriously now than ever before. At the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, we believe that both our grant making and our investment strategies must be mission-aligned and work concurrently towards a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. The Foundation underwent a seven-month-long search to find a new investment advisor to help us further advance our mission-aligned investing strategies. During our search, we asked potential advisors key questions about how they connected with our values and goals as a social justice investor and grant maker; what “social justice investing” looks like now and in the future; and many more.

We are pleased to announce the release of a white paper that captures the findings from that search.

“While there is growing interest in and demand for social impact investing, there is very little documentation of how investment advisors operate, leaving social impact investors with few tools to navigate that space,” said Steven Godeke, Board Chair of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation. “Our white paper is an attempt to demystify the sector—and build greater accountability—by surfacing the themes that emerged from our open inquiry to the impact advisor community.”

The white paper, titled “Building Power Across the Impact Investment Field,” offers full transparency on the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation’s overall search process, including the historical context behind the foundation’s impact investments, the questions that were posed to the investment advisor community (with a deliberate lens on gender, race, and inclusion), its evaluation criteria for selecting a firm, and recommendations for foundations interested in taking similar steps.

The paper synthesizes a number of findings gleaned from thirty-four responses to Noyes Foundation’s Open Call for Letters of Interest. “We were pleased to see so many thoughtful responses,” said Lenora Suki, Finance Committee Chair of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation. “Still, the industry’s understanding of impact investing ranges widely. Investment products have grown but we need new products to fill gaps across asset classes.”

Another significant finding is the apparent shortage of women- and minority-led firms, leading to a dearth of expertise on how to address gender and racial equality through investments. The report also points to some promising opportunities, including the accelerating pace of innovation in the field, and the important role that philanthropies can play in advancing the sector, through knowledge sharing, collaborative investments, and shareholder advocacy.

“Our hope is that this paper will inspire anyone managing foundation endowments to explore opportunities for mission-aligned investing to generate long-term systemic change,” said Interim Executive Director Rini Banerjee. “We invite the sector to join us in this investment journey to regenerate our land, invest in people-powered solutions, and build stronger, more sustainable communities.”

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