Impact Investing

About this collection: This Content Collection features stories and resources on impact investing and related strategies, including replays of past NCFP webinars on this topic, past NCFP blog posts, and additional resources, guides, and samples from those in our network.

A growing number of family foundations have made the strategic decision to align all or part of their investment portfolios with their philanthropic values and mission. This Content Collection features stories and resources on impact investing and related strategies, including replays of past NCFP webinars on this topic, past NCFP blog posts, and additional resources, guides, and samples from those in our network.

Interested in general guidance on investing and spending policies? Please see the NCFP Content Collection on Investments and Spending Policies for additional information and resources.
Interested in learning more about this topic alongside your peers? Consider signing up for a current or future cohort of NCFP’s Mission Investing Institute & Action Cohorts.

Key Primers and Guides in the Field

Emotionally Invested: Stories of Impact Investing

Passages Issue Briefs
For example, an investor who may be concerned about the effects of climate change, may seek to reduce the exposure to fossil fuels in their investment portfolio, reinvesting the proceeds in either alternative forms of energy or in other investments. Others may choose to invest in solutions designed to increase …

Impact Investing: a Primer for Family Foundations

Report
A foundation is a powerful platform through which families can express their values in society. Yet, most families only use a small portion of their foundation assets to pursue their philanthropic missions. Funding solutions to the world's toughest challenges requires far more resources than are available through foundations' grantmaking alone

Impact Investing: Frameworks for Families

Report
This primer provides family enterprises with clear explanations of the “why,” “how,” and “what” of impact investing, while illuminating the diversity of the impact investing marketplace as it exists today, and providing families with a basic understanding of how they can start making more impact investments more effectively.

Essentials of Impact Investing: a Guide for Small-Staffed Foundations

Report
Impact investing has the potential to enable every foundation, regardless of size, to pursue its philanthropic mission more effectively. It can help individual donors, families, foundations with few or no staff, and all sorts of giving entities put more and different types of capital to work for social good. Even …

Navigating the Territory: A guide to impact investing for donors

Report
The field is young, the terminology is confusing, and the resources available to help them engage are only now emerging. With this guide, the authors hope that you will develop a better understanding of the landscape and identify different ways to learn more and take positive steps forward.

Impact Investing: Mapping Families’ Interests & Activities in 2020

Report
Impact Investing: Mapping Families’ Interests and Activities is part of a multi-year effort to study a problem that many ultra high net worth (UNHW) families have identified as critical, timely, and important: the existing impact investing opportunity set does not fully match their specific investment interests. The 2020 version of the …

Case Studies from Family Foundations

Mission Investing: A Framework for Family Foundations

Report
In partnership with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, NYU Wagner Social Innovation & Investment Initiative analyzed more than 40 foundation-related investments, and together developed a MISSION framework to document its impact investing strategy.

Charting a Course to Impact Investing for The Russell Family Foundation

Article
The idea of impact investing tends to divide people into two groups. Some believe it is the best-of-both-worlds; a way to invest that bolsters their mission while generating competitive returns. Others fear that it is too-good-to-be-true; a distraction that cannot consistently produce returns that are comparable to traditional investing models.

Mapping the Journey to Impact Investing at the Surdna Foundation

Report
This report focuses on how to organize a generative process to learn about and discuss impact investing, using the Surdna Foundation's own experience as a guide. Existing resources in the field can provide the technical blueprints for making impact investments.

Mobilizing More for Mission: Re-Designing Wallace Global Fund’s Endowment

Report
Wallace Global Fund (WGF), a private foundation founded by Henry A. Wallace, Vice President of the United States under Franklin D. Roosevelt, and further endowed by his son Robert B. Wallace, has been at the forefront of this recent trend among foundations to re-allocate their entire portfolios into “mission-related investments.”

Mission Investments at the Packard Foundation

Report
Since the Packard Foundation’s first PRI in 1980, its approach to mission investing has evolved dramatically. This report by Redstone Strategy Group documents key learnings from some of the Foundation’s more innovative, complex deals – experiences that pushed the Foundation beyond the land and facilities PRIs that typified its early …

The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation Signed the Divest Invest Pledge: Here’s Why

Article
Recognizing the disproportionate impacts of climate change on low-wealth people and communities of color in the United States and around the globe, we signed the Divest Invest pledge, a global movement calling for investors "to divest from the fossil fuel industries deepening the climate crisis and invest instead in climate …

3 Reasons Impact Investing Works for Our Family

Article
Instead of aligning all of our foundation’s investments with our mission, we have carved out a small portion of the corpus of one of the foundations under the EJF Philanthropies umbrella. By setting aside this portion, we have not had to put a large amount of money to work.

NCFP Webinars

April 18, 2019

Impact Investing: Dipping Your Toes or Going All In

Experts predict that the impact investing market will be worth more than $300 billion by 2020.  Impact investing – which seeks a specific environmental, social or governance return above and beyond a strictly financial return – can be a particularly valuable tool for foundations and donor advised funds that seek to align their investments …
July 13, 2017

Mission Investing: Resources and Advice for Family Philanthropy

While mission investing is a trend that’s sweeping the field, families may face a variety of unexpected challenges when implementing a mission (or impact) investment strategy. This webinar will highlight family philanthropists sharing insights on how mission investing has worked for their purposes, and how you can make …

October 9, 2014

Mission Investing: Overcoming Resistance and Getting Started

Family foundations and family offices are increasingly turning to mission (more broadly known as impact) investing strategies as a key tool for aligning investments and operations with their mission and objectives. How can you engage your board in a thoughtful conversation about the options and added benefits of the mission …
July 12, 2012

Impact Investing and Family Philanthropy: a One-Two Punch

Interest in impact investing among wealth holders, their foundations, and family offices continues to grow. As a means for providing capital to for-profit ventures with a social mission, impact investing is increasingly viewed as an effective solution for combining the philanthropic aspirations of wealthy families with their financial objectives. This …
November 18, 2010

The Power of Mission Investing: One Family’s Story

As a mid-sized family foundation founded by the creator of the Russell 5000 index, the Russell Family Foundation in Gig Harbor, Washington offers a compelling portrait of the power of mission investing to achieve a funder. This teleconference features an in-depth conversation on options for mission investing with Richard Woo, CEO …
May 10, 2007

How a Family Foundation Employs Shareholder Activism

The Nathan Cummings Foundation has been consciously following a strategy of attempting to influence the companies in which they are invested around key areas of concern to the Foundation for several years. Foundation President Lance Lindblom and Laura Shaffer, Manager of Shareholder Activities & Senior Investment Associate, relate the key …
June 8, 2006

Maximizing Returns: Mission Related Investing

By divorcing grantmaking from investment strategies, many foundations use only a small portion of their fiscal power and influence in trying to make an impact for good. The F.B. Heron Foundation has long experience in using creative strategies for the investment of the foundation's funds to affect some of …

NCFP Blog Posts

Emotionally Invested: A Collection of Articles about Impact Investing

Article
Impact investing seeks a return from one’s investments other than a strictly financial return. For the majority of impact investors, that means they seek a general or specific environmental, social or governance outcome, in addition to a financial return, from their investments.

A Peek into Impact Investing for Foundations

Article
We are seeing more family foundations committing their assets (both endowment and “payout”) to impact investing, regardless of asset size. The reasons are multiple and depend on the family, but we are starting to notice some trends.

Mission Engagement with the “Other 95 Percent”

Article
With help from our advisors and grantees, we will continue to explore how we can maximize strategic deployment of the Foundation’s resources to support healthy ecosystems and sustainable, vibrant communities.

Making Sense of Impact Investing

Article
You’ve seen the research: financial returns need not be sacrificed for environmental or social objectives. You recognize the possible benefit of using your foundation’s investment capital to ameliorate the same pressing social and environmental issues currently targeted by your grant strategy. You hear people in the mainstream financial …

Confronting the 4 Myths of Impact Investing

Article
At the Case Foundation, we work hard at being active listeners in order to be better advocates for change. And as we continue efforts to take the impact investing movement into the mainstream, I want to review some of the myths that we’re hearing, which may be posing barriers …

PRIs: an Underused Funding Tool for Family Foundations and Social Enterprises

Article
This underutilized tool has been gaining traction recently for social impact investors and entrepreneurs as a middle ground between charitable grants and for-profit investments that can provide low-cost capital to mission-driven companies while allowing foundations to stretch their limited dollars for maximum impact.

Program-Related Investment Rules for Private Foundations

Video
This free resource, which covers the basic legal rules for program-related investments, takes about forty-five minutes to complete. The training features "Maya," a program officer that helps participants through the course in a way that reflects actual experiences.

Impact Investing: Overcoming Resistance from Family and Board Members

Article
Editor’s Note: Impact investing is of growing interest to the many thousands of philanthropic families around the world who manage their philanthropy through family foundations and family offices. In this month’s edition of Family Giving News, we present practical solutions and advice regarding one of the most commonly …

Charting a Course to Impact Investing for The Russell Family Foundation

Article
The idea of impact investing tends to divide people into two groups. Some believe it is the best-of-both-worlds; a way to invest that bolsters their mission while generating competitive returns. Others fear that it is too-good-to-be-true; a distraction that cannot consistently produce returns that are comparable to traditional investing models.