Blog: Amplify

Engaging Donors as Co-Investors

This post is part of the #CF100 Series of blog posts. The Council on Foundations is marking the 100th anniversary of the nation’s first community foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, by highlighting the roles of community foundations with this series.

At the Council on Foundations’ (COF) 2010 conference in Denver, we were inspired by Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin to intensify our efforts to engage individual donors in impact investing as co-investors. A timely Rockefeller grant helped not only The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF), but also dozens of other community foundations through a webinar series co-hosted with the Council on Foundations. The series explained how we assessed the feasibility of donor engagement, and how we structured our program to incorporate both discretionary and donor advised assets.

Much interest was generated in the topic of impact investing as a result of the webinar series. The Council decided to partner with Mission Investors Exchange to create what is now called “Community Foundation Field Guide to Impact Investing.” The guide was unveiled at the Council’s Fall Conference for Community Foundations in San Diego in September 2013. Thanks to contributing community foundations, it is available to all of our colleagues. Read more about it at

Fast forward to 2014, at GCF we are thrilled to report that our board has authorized up to $10 million for impact investments, which is 10% of our unrestricted assets. Twenty-four donors – four of them new to GCF – have elected to participate in seven of the nine deals we have vetted since 2011, which represents 18% of those seven deals. This is a fresh strategy for the 21st century, one that GCF hopes to help grow even more as the field launches into its second hundred years of leadership.

Kathryn Merchant is the President and CEO of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

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