Community Foundations Centennial

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.

How can we engage older residents while tapping their expertise? In 2006, The New York Community Trust responded to an invitation from Atlantic Philanthropies offering challenge to get people over 60 involved as they improve life for everyone in their communities. Atlantic’s effort, called the Community Experience Partnership, used this tagline: “in the 60s they changed the world, in their 60s they might do it again.”

Think back to high school. Senior year, let’s say. How did you spend the Sunday after your prom? Let me go out on a limb and guess that it wasn’t spent in a conference room, debating other high schoolers about which of 23 grant applicants would receive a total of $10,000 in grants.

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.

”The universe is made of stories, not of atoms,” said poet Muriel Rukeyser. Just a year ago, Ruykeyser’s words proved to be transformational for the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation. As a program officer listening to a grantee report about a local man facing a terrible disease with amazing dignity, I felt called to capture this inspirational story using a medium that could convey its energy. Grantee interim reports are usually full of data, but this was different; this one had soul.

The problem was as vast as the ocean – or in our case, the Gulf of Mexico, floor. Over time, the reef system in the Gulf waters bordering Collier County in SW Florida had been destroyed by hurricanes and shifting currents. For fish and other marine life, there was nowhere to run – or hide – and the impact on Collier County’s environment and tourism industry was significant and growing more severe.

Smart investors believe in California. They flock to it for the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship that has made it the world’s 8th largest economy. Now, with Los Angeles County facing a major college graduation crisis, these same smart investors are backing the educational future of low-income students. They realize that giving isn’t just good, it’s good for business.