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As organizations rethink how to blend profit and purpose, we encourage you to watch the webinar to learn from RBF’s journey. Here, are a few key themes that came to light:
1. Define your impact
As Jean mentions at the start of the conversation, “impact investing means different things to different people.” At the Case Foundation, we believe that a broader interpretation allows more people to gather around the impact investing table. But that does not relax our expectations around what it means to generate both social or financial returns.
Instead, our definition of impact investing focuses on three necessary conditions to help narrow in on just what each of us means by “impact”:
Intentionality – are objectives clearly articulated across social and financial goals?
Measurement – will the organization track performance across both objectives?
Transparency – does the organization share – or intend to share – insights into their process and performance (as much as is able) to help create more examples around what works and what doesn’t?
2. Know what you own; then develop an investment process that leverages your strengths
The RBF’s programmatic approach spans several sectors, including democratic governance, sustainable development and peacebuilding. The grantmaking arm of the RBF has developed a thoughtful approach to promoting sustainable development, particularly around the environment and climate. When the time came to evaluate how the entire investment portfolio – and ultimately the endowment – could reflect the principles and values of the RBF, they looked to their strengths.
25% of our program dollars go to fighting climate change,” Justin says, “we thought this was so fundamental to the work we do, that we should start there.”
By leveraging a diverse set of tactics, including divestment, an ESG lens (integrating Environmental, Social, and Governance factors), active ownership, and investing with Impact managers, RBF and PWP set out on the task together. With these tools in mind, they looked to activate RBF’s vision on what a thoughtful climate-focused strategy might look like.
We’ve seen time and again Foundation’s struggle between focusing on grantmaking vs. using their investment levers, but as Justin points out, “every foundation has different tools on its tool belt – the endowment is just one of those tools.”
3. Commit to a measurement framework
Once the mission was clear and the rigor made explicit, activating the strategy was next. The RBF and PWP started by shifting the Investment Policy Statement (IPS), transforming the objective of the portfolio from “maximizing returns” to “continue in perpetuity with generational neutrality.”
Formalizing this mission– and bringing stakeholders like the Board, senior leadership, and the Investment Committee along in the process – is a critical step to ensure that impact is sustainably interwoven into the way investments are identified and selected.
Jameela Pedicini also suggests that practices around consistent measurement can lead to broader behavior change. “Regular impact reporting,” for example, “will help us assess long term tends.”