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.”

Remembering Board Member Ann F. Wiener

Ann F. Wiener
Ann F. Wiener

Ann F. Wiener, a granddaughter of Charles F. Noyes, passed on May 12, 2018, after serving on the Noyes Foundation board for over fifty years. Ann helped to guide the foundation as it shifted from awarding scholarships to students from disadvantaged backgrounds to funding grassroots organizations and movements working to bring about a more just, equitable and sustainable world. She also helped lead the transformation of the foundation’s board and staff, bringing on members from outside the Noyes family to create a leadership team more inclusive of the identities and experiences of our grantees.

Ann pursued the same goals as a teacher, school principal, mentor, and educational activist. In the 1950s, after graduating from Smith College and the Harvard School of Education, she helped American soldiers in France to prepare for the high school equivalency exam, and then taught English at Hunter College High School in New York. In the 1980s, she founded the Crossroads School, a diverse public New York City middle school, which she led for 15 years. Ann went on to support the next generation of educational leaders, coaching and mentoring new principals through the New York City Leadership Academy. She also served on the board of several schools, including the Whitby School in Greenwich, CT, the Buxton School in Williamstown, MA, and Amber Charter School in East Harlem and Kingsbridge. In each of her many roles, she was a tireless and effective voice for inclusion and equity in education.

Ann’s fascination and respect for diverse cultures led her to travel extensively, starting with a formative experience as an exchange student in Turin, Italy, where she lived with a host family with whom she remained friends throughout her life. She visited every continent. Even in her 70s and 80s, she took numerous sojourns, often with family and friends, including to Chile, Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Bhutan, Thailand, Vietnam, Morocco, Israel , Palestine, and Antarctica. She approached her travels as a student of the world, eager to learn about different people, politics, arts, and cultures.

Ann was also a fearless adventurer. She raced cars on the track at Lime Rock, CT, soared in gliders, white-water rafted in British Columbia, sailed in the Virgin Islands, rode horses and camped across the American west, and hiked to the Incan citadel at Machu Picchu.

Ann introduced her children to the work of the Noyes Foundation at early ages. Her sons Gregory Houston, Timothy Raphael, and Chad Raphael have served on the Noyes board. Her daughter Jenifer Getz is a current board member, as is Sharese Frederick, daughter of Ann’s daughter Monique Houston. Ann’s children and grandchildren look forward to continuing her work for environmental, social, and racial justice, and embodying the passion for inclusion she brought to the foundation.