Laura TomaskoImproving Lives, Building Communities

By: Laura Tomasko In: 2013 Family Philanthropy Conference| Family Philanthropy| Impact Investing| Philanthropy

29 Nov 2012

Despite having a steady job, a mom in South Carolina, who hopes to help her daughter go to college, cannot afford to pay rent in the city in which she works. A promising entrepreneur in Wisconsin has a great idea to improve his community but cannot get the loan needed to get his business off the ground. All over the country and globe, individuals aspire to live a comfortable life and contribute to their families and communities. Many circumstances contribute to the financial barriers that keep these individuals from achieving their dreams.

Family philanthropists might not share the same mission and see the world the same way, but many are united by a common desire to improve society. Some philanthropists do so by providing scholarships, building health clinics, supporting the arts, or advancing new medical research. Although primarily viewed as grantmaking institutions, foundations also bring together stakeholders, partner with the public sector, and share knowledge and best practices. They also make impact investments that produce a social return, like their grants, and a financial return, which allows them to continue to make grants, hold convenings, and partner to advance their missions.

The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation and the Helen Bader Foundation have made impact investments that allowed the mom in South Carolina to afford to live in her community and helped the entrepreneur in Wisconsin start his business. A program-related investment (PRI) to the Lowcountry Housing Trust, a Community Development Financial Institution in South Carolina that serves low-income people, financed the development of affordable housing for that mom and other members of her community. The Babcock Foundation produced a wonderful video about how the mom’s life was improved. In Milwaukee, the Bader Foundation has supported ventures that improve the economic vitality of the community, especially in struggling neighborhoods, through PRIs.

There are hundreds of foundations making program-related and mission-related investments that improve lives and build communities. As part of the Council’s new initiative to support foundation impact investing, January’s Family Philanthropy Conference in Silicon Valley offers a three-part series on impact investing. Developed in partnership with Mission Investors Exchange, there will be an “Impact Investing 101” session that can serve as a primer or refresher and an “Impact Investing 201” session that will present a framework for implementation, in addition to overcoming barriers and risks. Later on at the conference, Confluence Philanthropy will offer an interactive workshop featuring multigenerational perspectives.

Whatever your level, the Family Philanthropy Conference offers great opportunities to learn about impact investing. Register by Friday to take advantage of the $150 early bird discount. We hope to see you in Silicon Valley!

Laura Tomasko is manager of public-philanthropic partnerships and leads impact investing at the Council on Foundations. Connect with her on Twitter @lauratomasko.

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