Blog: Amplify

Go Small or Go Home: Building an Impact Investing Program

Ask the Expert!

Want to learn more about Impact Investing? Join us for webinar discussion, Impact Investing and Community Foundations: The Nuts and Bolts. Trisha will join her colleagues Kelly Ryan (Incourage Community Foundation) and Lisa Richter (Avivar Capital) to talk you through the steps and questions you'll encounter.

Thursday, July 30 at 3pm ET

Register Today!

Impact Investing is a hot topic for foundations, philanthropists and investors alike. And rightfully so. The ability to do good by offering financial support with capital that can be recycled over and over for multiple initiatives and missions is an attractive compliment to traditional grantmaking and other support. Creating the ability to greatly extend community impact, it is no wonder that organizations and individuals are responding to this funding mechanism.

Seeing the growing swell of interest in the topic, the Council on Foundations included significant programming at their annual conference this year. One session, featuring Stuart Comstock-Gay of the Vermont Community Foundation, Kathryn Merchant of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Marc Rand of the Marin Community Foundation and Susan Barry of the Community Foundation of Louisville, went beyond the nuts and bolts to share information on challenges related to Impact Investing and how program successes have been achieved. For us, at the Community Foundation of Louisville, success is being built through small, steady victories created one step at a time. 

We certainly applaud the many for whom developing large-scale programs has created tremendous success and significant impact. We celebrate the work and admire the portfolios of great leading organizations such as the FB Heron Foundation, the Calvert Foundation, and the Case Foundation, among others. However, for the Community Foundation of Louisville, we needed to and chose to start small. Thanks to our President and CEO, Susan Barry, we approached this work by pacing and sequencing our program development and growth. We chose this path based on our environment; our community and non-profit needs, our expertise, our funds available and our board of directors’ sense of our role in community. By setting and steadily achieving milestone after milestone, we are growing our Impact Investing program. And, for others who may be starting or working to grow your efforts, we invite you to consider if elements of this approach can support your program goals.

For us there were several key steps to creating a solid program:

  • Building board support
  • Leveraging external expertise to build internal capabilities
  • Creating committee and sub-committee structures
  • Identifying community partners and great investment opportunities
  • Evaluating, measuring and reporting our progress
  • Defining paths to growth

As we worked to build the program, we started out with a relatively small program focus and pool of funds. By following a measured approach, we are demonstrating our capabilities, building trust among all parties and measuring the impact of our work; all elements needed for a successful program.

We applaud all pursuing the paths that lead to their greatest possible community impact. We encourage all who are interested in Impact Investing not to feel intimidated by getting started. We will continue working to grow our program by continuing to build our skills, community interest and readiness and our portfolio of work. And we are finding that great leaps can indeed be made one small step at a time. Perhaps you may find some elements of this approach can support your program, as well.

Trisha Finnegan is Vice President, Community Leadership, at the Community Foundation of Louisville.

Add new comment