More than forty years ago, we began aligning our endowment investments with our mission by choosing to invest in companies that aim to generate social and environmental benefits along with financial returns to support our grantmaking. We started with negative screens to divest from companies that were profiting from harm (e.g., tobacco and weapons manufacturers), expanded to proactively invest in companies that are building the better world we envision, and broadened further into direct investments like low-interest loans to nonprofits generating positive social impact.
Our approach hasn’t been perfect, but we are learning as we are doing. We recently joined the Net-Zero Asset Owners Alliance — a group of investors that have pledged to meet targets rooted in the latest climate science in order to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. We are now doing the work to align and refine our investments accordingly. We joined more than seventy groups to uphold the Due Diligence 2.0 Commitment, which supports processes and practices that catalyze movement of capital to BIPOC and women asset managers instead of adhering to historical industry standards for due diligence that reinforce social inequities.
We are deepening our commitment to this area of work in part because mission-aligned investment strategies work. It is possible to align all assets for positive impact and get competitive returns. For example, within the past five years we have seen an annualized positive return of between 7-13%. Even with fluctuations in return, we are financially positioned for the long-term while contributing to a more sustainable, better future. For example, we know that dismantling racial barriers unlocks economic opportunity that contributes to building a new economy that is inclusive, resilient, and prosperous. To this end, we are exploring investments with democratized and alternative ownership structures, within Minority Depository Institutions, and in companies that increase access to reproductive health, affordable housing, and financial technology. We see the unique opportunity that philanthropy has to provide the capital needed to build a new economy by supporting funds and organizations that counter mainstream products and practices and get resources to the hands of underserved and overlooked communities.
Some of the recent investments we’ve made include:
- Common Future, a BIPOC-led organization that deploys capital to build community wealth, shifts powers, and builds equity
- Bronze Venture Fund, a fund that invests in companies that eliminate disparities and promote equity
- Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, a fund that invests in scalable, purpose-driven Indigenous-led social enterprise
- Hope Credit Union, a community development financial institutional (CDFI) fund that provides loans in low-income communities in places like Mississippi where we focus our grantmaking
- Rhia Ventures, an organization that aims to create systemic change and catalyze investments to improve reproductive and maternal health outcomes for women of color, low-income women, and others directly affected by systemic inequities
In addition to shifting our investment portfolio, we have shifted the cash accounts that cover grantmaking and institutional overhead to values-aligned banking institutions such as the Opportunity Finance Network, Stone Castle, Oweesta, and Amalgamated Bank.
Mission-aligned investing yields positive value to our organization beyond values alignment and financial returns. For example, our Investment Committee members have a deepened understanding that their fiduciary duty goes beyond monitoring investment performance and adherence to supporting investment strategies that increase positive impact on the communities we seek to serve, including Black and Indigenous women and women of color. For example, we recently developed a new Investment Policy Statement in close collaboration with our Investment Committee, our investment advisors, Tiedemann Advisors, and external reviewers, including two of our grantee partners, as part of our efforts to democratize investment approaches. We made the Investment Policy Statement publicly available to increase transparency about our investment directions and to encourage other asset owners to explore the policy statement’s approaches.
We are grateful to be a part of a growing group of foundations that are aligning their investments with their mission to advance equity and justice. We look forward to continuing to share our successes and challenges in this journey. Please reach out to our president Rini Banerjee (firstname.lastname@example.org) to join us in our collective efforts.