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Ellen Remmer is on a new philanthropic adventure and she’s hoping other women will join her.
Remmer, a longtime leader in donor education and advising at The Philanthropic Initiative, recently launched a multi-year campaign to help women recognize they have more power at their fingertips to effect social change. It’s called Invest for Better.
This new endeavor is an evolution of Remmer’s philanthropic journey. She had been actively engaged in her family foundation since 1990 and became President in 2012. However, “for years, I did not pay attention to the opportunity that the investment portfolio offered to help realize the foundation’s goals. When I realized we could leverage these assets as well as my own personal assets to augment our charitable giving, the light bulb went off and I was hooked.”
Research by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute has found that more than 80 percent of high net worth men and women know about impact investing but women are more likely to want to learn about it. Invest for Better fills that need. To Remmer, though, Invest for Better goes further than creating awareness about impact investing.
“It’s about growing the field via engaging women but also about women shaping that field,” she said. “What are the metrics and stories we want to see?”
Invest for Better helps women begin their journey with a library of women’s personal impact investing stories and a broad list of available resources. She urges women to take action by signing the pledge and indicating which of the 11 action steps they commit to. One step is to discuss options with a financial advisor for aligning investments with personal values. That’s something Remmer did and when her financial advisor was not able to meet her needs as an impact investor, she changed advisors.
Remmer is also encouraging communities of women to start Invest for Better Circles, which are peer-driven groups aimed at supporting their members in learning more about impact investing and taking action. To date, Invest for Better Circles are in Boston and San Francisco with interest from a half dozen other cities. An Invest for Better Circle toolkit is forthcoming and designed to help groups of women start their own circles. It includes a curriculum for six sessions, along with many useful worksheets and templates for either group or individual use. Remmer plans to ultimately create a national network of peer-to-peer learning and activation groups.
Remmer has found that it’s rare for women to lead investment committees on nonprofit boards or foundations and family foundations unless they come from the financial industry. Yet, this is an ideal opportunity to learn how the investments are managed, to identify opportunities to more closely align those investments with values, and to fully leverage the portfolio for good. She is exploring the development of a boot camp to train women to serve on these vital committees.
While it’s too early to assess impact (Invest for Better launched in January 2019), initial feedback from members of one circle suggest that the model has great promise. Circle members stated they “are asking more questions of financial advisors,” “talking about impact investing more,” and that they “really value the community we’ve built.” Half have moved more dollars into impact investing and about half have co-invested together. Remmer says that the “circles are designed to help women move to action.”
Although Remmer has never created a campaign like Invest for Better before, she is confident that when women “take control of their assets, think holistically, and bring their values to the table, they will realize their potential and step fully into their power and leadership.” She hopes that many more women experience that “ah-ha” moment as she did.