Giving Compass' Take:
- The California Endowment shares learnings from 10 years of Program-Related Investments, charitable, mission-aligned investments.
- How can impact investing advance your philanthropic goals?
- Not sure where to start? Read a beginners guide to impact investing.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
Purpose & Methodology
Since its first PRI in 1999, The Endowment’s approach to Impact Investing has developed and expanded dramatically. The report is designed to capture that evolution, provide a retrospective analysis of its work, highlight areas of impact, reflect on learnings, and set the stage for its future aspirations.
The methodology included review and synthesis of internal documents and data regarding the PRI strategy, approach, impact, and evolution; interviews with 26 stakeholders representing The Endowment’s Board, leadership, and Impact Investing team as well as peer investors, impact investing intermediaries, investees, and grantees; and dozens of meaning-making meetings with the Impact Investing team to identify key areas of impact, learning, and change.
The majority of The Endowment’s $250 million Impact Investing allocation consists of Program-Related Investments (PRIs), which are charitable, mission-aligned investments. The Endowment’s PRIs are generally lower-cost loans that require repayment within a specific time frame. The Endowment primarily makes PRIs to community-based nonprofit financial intermediaries that are proximate to community, enabling collaboration that advances community priorities related to health and racial equity, a key social determinant of health.
The purpose of The Endowment’s PRI strategy is to transform capital investment practices into those where community voices and power are centered. Rather than “doing deals” with a traditional mindset of growing its own capital, the desire is to inject capital systemically to democratize solutions and put community priorities first.
The Endowment has a $200 million PRI allocation from its corpus to advance its commitment to health and racial equity. Since 1999, it has issued a total of 56 PRIs into 41 organizations for a total of $179 million in commitments. These PRIs include investments in social determinants of health broadly, including housing, access to healthy foods, health systems, small business, and other community development activities.
In 2015, realizing that capital alone was insufficient to address community priorities, The Endowment added aligned grants to its Impact Investing toolbox. Today, grants are instrumental to expanding its pool of investment partners and reaching low-income communities that are under-invested in by the traditional capital system. Grants can provide wrap-around support for PRIs, seed the PRI pipeline, spur innovation, and build field capacity. The Endowment allocates between $4 to $6 million annually for PRI-aligned grants that are awarded through CEO Programs in collaboration with the Impact Investing team.
Through its twenty-plus years of Impact Investing, and particularly in its more strategic PRI work over the last eight years, The Endowment has been on a continual quest for deepening access to capital and positive impact for lowincome communities. This journey has not been easy — it has required deep listening, reflection, recalibration, and iteration — and remains an ongoing process. In reflecting on this arc of learning, The Endowment and consulting team identified three critical areas to share:
- Embedding Racial Equity
- Redefining Risk