Philanthropy is a buyers’ market, and nonprofit leaders are seldom in a position to negotiate aggressively with potential donors. On the contrary, the selection process is (and feels) quite one sided, as though potential grantees are participating in a beauty contest in which the only imperative is to please the judges. So, for better or worse, the views of an individual donor (especially a very large one) can strongly influence grantee behavior. Often this influence will take the form of tweaks to an existing program, or the addition of a new activity, more or less aligned with the nonprofit’s existing strategy, about which a leading donor is enthusiastic. When such an intervention is supported on the donor’s part by deep knowledge of the field, it can provide helpful input to the grantee’s strategy.
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What is the Spectrum of Impact Investing Approaches?
Given the field’s growth and increased number of actors, the last ten years have also seen a proliferation of definitions and terminology related to impact investing. In fact, strong opinions prevail regarding whether or not the term “impact investing” is the best to capture this field. While some prefer mission-related investing or sustainable/responsible investing, still impact investing is most commonly used.
Rather than arguing about the terms, let's discuss three approaches and one overarching strategy to describe impact investor practices. Depending on who you are—and your goals and capacity—you may have the resources and willingness for some but not all of these approaches. See the image of the home as a good metaphor for describing these approaches to managing and being accountable for your assets.
Clean Up: This approach reflects the belief that your assets should align with your values, and by holding or divesting specific assets you can increase that alignment and express your values. For example: Clean and remove toxins.
Renovate: In this approach, you select assets based on specific investment criteria that define eligible and ineligible investments with the goal of incorporating the positive and negative externalities into your investment decision. For example: Paint your house.
Add a Room: By picking a specific theme, you are using your capital to drive the generation of a specific environmental or social impact. For example: Add a new addition to your house.
Manage and Measure: This overarching strategy is to continuously measure and manage the positive and negative impact of your assets and respond to new data and events. You will track the emergence of new environmental and social movements, as they become impact investment products. For example: Maintain and repair your roof.
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors yesterday published its handbook for impact investors, a refresh of a guide they first published ten years ago, a lifetime ago in impact investing. It is a comprehensive (182 pages) guide to the nuts and bolts of impact investing, with some help from a 45-year old avatar investor named Sophia.
With so many people now trying to get themselves oriented in investing their money for social and environmental impact, it is excellent to have a fully updated primer for beginners, and a reference book for the more experienced.
The Handbook is available (for free) at: https://lnkd.in/dH8qK7U