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To me, it’s a no-brainer that ALL capital designated for charitable purpose should be optimized to create public good (not just the grant dollars). I have been heartened to see more and more foundations dipping their toes in this space. At the conference, I saw great progress in two areas in particular: mission-related investments (MRIs) and place-based program-related investments (PRIs).
On the endowment side (MRIs), foundations are becoming more aware of the impacts of the investments in their endowment and how those impacts align (or not) with the foundation’s mission. Many are also intentionally investing in companies, funds or financial instruments that screen out negative impacts (socially-responsible investing) or drive positive impacts. Now, it’s easier than ever to learn from and follow leading foundations in this area. Foundations like the MacArthur Foundation are making impact investments and sharing their lessons learned. There are also a plethora of strategies and advisors who can help foundations with MRIs.
By investing in technologies that can scale and have impact in many local communities, we believe we are leveraging our dollars for place-based impact over time. With deep connections in our hometown of Chicago, we can help portfolio companies based elsewhere to develop meaningful partnerships and customer relationships in our community, which brings their impact to the community that we call home. This is a role that foundations could play as well, by investing in product-based impact and leveraging their local networks and relationships to bring those impacts to the places it cares about.