Impact Investing

As needs in our communities grow faster than dollars, the Council is joining the conversation about unlocking new capital for social good. For decades, foundations have made impact investments that intend to generate financial and social returns to complement grants, partnerships, advocacy, and other tools in the philanthropic toolbox.

What is impact investing?

We define impact investing as any investment activity that intends to generate positive social and financial returns.

How is the Council involved?

In 2013, the Council is joining the impact investing conversation happening among foundations and other types of investors. As a connector, the Council is:

  • Listening to our members and making connections.
  • Organizing provocative conversations among foundations and other partners.
  • Aggregating resources to demystify the process.
  • Building relationships with thought leaders and intermediaries
  • Hosting an ongoing blog series on RE: Philanthropy.

How can you get involved?

  • Read and comment on the impact investing blog series.
  • E-mail us or take this survey to let us know what your foundation thinks about impact investing.
  • Follow the hashtag #impinv on Twitter.

Last year, I attended an event hosted by the New England Impact Investing Initiative (NEIII) for a conversation with Michael McCreless, Senior Director of Strategy and Impact, at Root Capital. At this event, Michael showed us how to use a tool he developed, a simulator, he calls the Efficient Impact Frontier. The efficient impact frontier seeks to provide investors with tools to efficiently balance risk, return, and impact in their portfolios.

We just concluded the third Council on Foundations Endowments and Finance Summit, where more than 100 foundation CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, board members and other leaders met to consider the future of the philanthropic sector. Based on post-event buzz and input from participants, it seems to have been our best Summit yet.

We all knew that November was going to be a tumultuous month (if you hadn't heard, there's an election today). When the polls close and the dust settles, the country could be set on one of a number of starkly different paths. Perhaps because of this uncertainty, President Obama took the opportunity to lift up one of the few truly bipartisan issues by declaring November National Entrepreneurship Month.

The Council’s Endowments and Finance Summit is the premier annual event for those responsible for the strategic and effective management of foundations’ assets and resources. High level speakers attached to the 2016 convening include Alberto Ibargüen, President, CEO and Trustee, Johnson S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Dr. Jason Wingard, Dean and Professor, School of Professional Studies, Columbia University; Jean Case, CEO of The Case Foundation; Randall Lane, Editor of Forbes Magazine; and Vikki Spruill, President and CEO of the Council on Foundations.

Data gathered in the 2015 Council on Foundations–Commonfund Study of Investment of Endowments for Private and Community Foundations® (CCSF) show that participating private foundations reported an average return of 0.0 percent for the 2015 fiscal year (January 1 – December 31, 2015), down from the 6.1 percent return reported for FY2014, while participating community foundations reported an average annual return of -1.8 percent compared with 4.8 percent for FY2014.

The Council on Foundations’ 2016 Endowments and Finance Summit is just around the corner – Sept. 28-30 – and as co-chair of the convening, I strongly encourage you to register for it! I personally look forward to the summit each year because it’s the preeminent venue for foundation executives to share information about investment trends, challenges, solutions and best practices. It also provides unrivaled opportunities to meet and collaborate with some of the top finance leaders in philanthropy. This is why my organization, the TIAA Institute, is thrilled to once again serve as the summit’s Education Partner and co-sponsor.