RE: Philanthropy Blog

At the Council on Foundations Annual Conference in San Francisco, there was enormous interest in how foundations can lead together by aligning all of their assets with their missions. However there is one investment nearly every foundation makes, but which many fail to properly evaluate.

While attending the Council on Foundations annual meeting in San Francisco last week, I learned about exciting new trends in philanthropy. The theme that really stood out was the graying lines of business, investing, and philanthropy. For profit companies are being founded with the specific purpose of creating social good. Venture capitalists are measuring a startup's social impact as value, and everyday investors are favoring social responsibility over financial returns. Was this a parallel universe or did I miss something in business school?

Council on Foundations Q&A with Ann Sewill, Vice President of Housing & Economic Development, California Community Foundation

Economic development is at the center of the Maine Community Foundation’s strategic priorities. We believe greater access to lower cost capital will allow entrepreneurs and innovators from both the nonprofit and for-profit world to grow enterprises and expand projects that build off our natural assets, revitalize our downtowns, and strengthen our economy.

Last week more than 200 foundation leaders, policymakers, academics, entrepreneurs, and experts came together at George Washington University (GWU) for an invitation-only gathering to advance the development of what many call the “fourth sector”—for-benefit organizations that primarily pursue social or environmental aims, while raising a substantial proportion of their revenue through earned income or commercial activities. The Federal Reserve Board, the University’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy, the Urban Institute, and The B Team convened the event.

Last week, the Milstein Commission, a national initiative co-chaired by Steve Case and Carly Fiorina, released a report, Can Startups Save the American Dream? The report highlighted over how the past quarter-century, startups and small businesses accounted for 65% of net job creation, yet today, job creation among startups is at its lowest point since 1980.

Here’s proof you don’t need an endowment to have a significant and disruptive impact on your region’s philanthropic landscape.

Many community foundations are recognizing that impact investing can be a powerful tool in our philanthropic toolbox. Mission investments are investments made by foundations to further their philanthropic goals. Since 2009, the Seattle Foundation has committed $4 million of its unrestricted endowment assets to extend access to capital and expand economic opportunities for low income communities in our county.

Laura Tomasko

At the White House this week, foundation executives, including the Council’s President and CEO Vikki Spruill, met with senior Administration officials for a roundtable on the future of impact investing. A complement to charitable giving and foundation grantmaking, impact investing offers a powerful opportunity to provide cash, loans, or equity capital to an organization, fund, or company that intends to generate measurable social or environmental impacts, alongside financial returns.

Jenni Harris had driven by the Southwest Initiative Foundation thousands of times on her way to work, yet she never really knew what the organization did.