Meet the World’s Largest Impact Investing Network

By Meredith Martindale, Investors’ Circle, an Exponent Philanthropy Professional Partner

Investors’ Circle (IC) is the world’s largest and most active impact investing network and has invested over $200 million into more than 330 enterprises dedicated to improving the environment, education, health, and community. The organization was founded in 1992 by a group of successful social entrepreneurs who shared a desire to increase the flow of capital to the next generation of mission-driven companies.

Over the years, IC has worked with other leading organizations, including the Ford Foundation, F.B. Heron Foundation, Kellogg Foundation, and Rockefeller Foundation to build both mission- and program-related investing knowledge base. As IC brought together thought leaders, new initiatives were conceived and incubated, including sector leaders B Lab, Slow Money, and the Patient Capital Collaborative.

In 2009, IC introduced a local network strategy with Philadelphia being the flagship network. Since then, local networks are now active in five other geographies around the country: Boulder-Denver, Boston, New York, Raleigh-Durham, and Washington, DC.

Though the organization is headquartered in Durham, NC, its 230+ members are spread across the country and convene regularly at in-person pitch meetings and investor education workshops.

What is IC’s key to success over the past 25 years?

Our members. 

As such, I’m delighted to introduce you to Annarie Lyles, an IC lifetime member and current president of the IC Philadelphia Local Network.

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Mentoring Young Adults in the Youth Philanthropy Movement

By Sammie Holzwarth, Foundant Technologies

At Foundant Technologies—provider of online grants management solutions for grantmakers and grantseekers—we have always been supporters of the youth philanthropy movement. We began as early sponsors and supporters of Youth Philanthropy Connect (YPC), a youth-led peer advisory network for young people involved in philanthropy. We attended their conferences and even joined them during their on-the-road events in 2015.

Mark Larimer, our VP of Marketing and Client Success, and I were amazed time and time again at how thoughtful and professional the participating youth, ages 8–21, were at making real granting decisions.

It was on the road in 2015 that Mark and I discussed starting a youth philanthropy project in our hometown of Bozeman, MT. Right away I was excited to be involved and work hands-on with the young adults in our community, helping them learn about our community’s needs and the grantmaking process.

Now, in my second year of our Youth Giving Project, I have some tips for those of you who, like me, may have limited experience mentoring youth. Heck, most days I feel like I’m their age myself! These may seem like simple tips—because they are. A youth philanthropy project should be the product of the participants, not the adults advising them.

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My “Mission Sabbatical” and Why Your Foundation CEO Needs One Too

By Beth Gosch, The Western New York Foundation

I went on “sabbatical”! I was still working every day, but my wonderful board gave me “mission time.” Yes, you heard correctly. I was given 3 months to think about our foundation’s mission, its work, and our processes.

What exactly does this mean? Well, to start, we temporarily closed our online portal and skipped a grantmaking cycle so that I could focus my attention on executive matters like… what are we doing and how are we doing. I’m convinced that other foundations must follow suit, because it is so healthful to a single-staffed organization like mine.

I remember being at a session with a group of executive directors, who had been in their positions 10 years or longer, at a recent Exponent Philanthropy conference. I brought up the topic of “mission time” and asked how my colleagues were devoting the time to give it the attention it deserved. Peoples’ eyes popped, and the conversation was hot! We all talked about it as if it were a utopian concept—great but unattainable. Of course this led to conversation about burn-out and the question about how to re-energize ourselves and our work.

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Our Grantees Increase Visibility by Updating Free GuideStar Profiles

By Gwenn Gebhard, Luther I. Replogle Foundation

As a foundation, it can be difficult to find ways (beyond making grants) to support our grantees and, at the same time, improve their visibility in their communities and the wider world. With this challenge in mind, the foundation’s board of directors and I developed a two-pronged project inspired by a webinar I attended in September 2016.

The webinar was hosted by Foundant Technologies, a grants management software company (and our foundation’s vendor since 2009), and GuideStar, a nonprofit that manages public data on all nonprofits operating in the United States. Working together, Foundant and GuideStar developed software called GuideStar for Grant Applications to pull information from organizations’ GuideStar profiles into Foundant grant processes through web-based links. Keep in mind: Using GuideStar for Grant Applications requires nonprofits to complete their GuideStar profiles, funders to accept the data as a means of populating their grant applications, and software vendors to incorporate the technology into their solutions.

After discovering that only five of our 16 current Washington, DC grantees has developed a GuideStar profile, I decided that assistance could be very useful to them. Further research showed that in Minneapolis, one out of nine of the foundation’s grantees has a GuideStar profile. The story is slightly different in Chicago, where four out of six of our grantees has a GuideStar profile. None of our grantees anywhere has a Platinum profile, and only a few have Gold.

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Why Foundations Should Reconsider Warren Buffett’s Advice

By Jeff Cohen, CAIA, Sonen Capital, an Exponent Philanthropy Silver Level Sustaining Partner

It is a risky proposition to take issue with any advice offered by Warren Buffett.

Recently Marc Gunther, a notable philanthropy and sustainability reporter, wrote an article entitled Warren Buffett Has Some Excellent Advice For Foundations That They Probably Won’t Take. In the article, Mr. Gunther quotes part of the renowned investor’s annual letter: “When trillions of dollars are managed by Wall Streeters charging high fees, it will usually be the managers who reap outsized profits, not the clients. Both large and small investors should stick with low-cost index funds.”

Moving past the understandable issue Mr. Buffett has with high-priced investment managers, the endorsement for investors to stick with low-cost index funds is a more nuanced point, particularly as it relates to mission-driven foundations.

I do agree that investors who are purely seeking the best risk-adjusted rate of return net of fees should seriously consider low-cost index options. When it comes to foundations, however, one must first consider the reason foundations exist. That reason is to affect some form of positive social or environmental good, and not to achieve best-in-class investment returns.

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What Would Hippocrates Do?

By Henry Berman, Exponent Philanthropy

Each quarter, I write to our member donors to pass along insights I gather in my dual role as Exponent Philanthropy member and CEO, and to provide a special window onto our activities. My most recent communication—sent last month—sparked many positive notes in return. I’m pleased to share it here with our broader community, and I encourage each of you to consider supporting Exponent Philanthropy.

In the wake of January’s inauguration, President Trump has quickly demonstrated his commitment to change. I’ve spoken with people across the political spectrum in the funding and nonprofit communities, and many have been uneasy at best in these early months of 2017. Although every administration and new Congress experience growing pains, business as usual is being redefined this year. Wherever you stand politically, change certainly is in the air. 

Amid this year’s changes, I paused in my doctor’s waiting room recently, reading a brochure about new medical school graduates that referenced the Hippocratic Oath’s most famous line: First, do no harm. This triggered my thinking (and online exploring) to learn more about the oath. 

I discovered first that Hippocrates didn’t include the well-known phrase in his oath, but in another of his works, Of the Epidemics; regardless of the source, the message is one that I believe aptly applies to all of us who make grants, share knowledge, convene stakeholders, and otherwise act in pursuit of our philanthropic missions. 

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Foundation CEOs Experience Gender Pay Gap

By Ruth Masterson, Exponent Philanthropy

Today is Equal Pay Day, the day when women’s earnings “catch up” to men’s earnings from the previous year. The average American woman would have to continue to work through this date in 2017 to earn as much as the average American man in 2016.

The Pay Equity Landscape

According to the most recent data, women earned 80 cents compared to $1 earned by men for the same work. Research shows that the pay gap is even worse for African American women, Native American women, and Latinas, whether you compare their average salaries against overall men’s salaries or the salaries of men within the same race/ethnicity. Asian American women experience a smaller inequity than women overall, but the pay gap persists for them too.

Nationally and across all sectors, pay equity improved greatly between 1960 (when the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting data) and 2000, from 60 cents on the dollar to approximately 78 cents. Since 2000, however, the rate of progress has slowed dramatically.

Our own salary data for foundation members by gender goes back to 2004 and, as with the national data, also shows a lack of progress in recent years.

The ratio of women’s salaries to men’s does not show improvement over the past decade among CEO/executive directors of Exponent Philanthropy member foundations.

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What Is Behind Great Funder–Nonprofit Relationships?

Often in the complex funder–nonprofit relationship, it seems nonprofits do the asking, reporting, and proving, while donors sit in positions to say yes or no, how much, when, and what’s required. Achieving a different, deeper relationship takes more than just good intentions—it takes flexibility, finesse, and a sincere desire to acknowledge and address the power dynamics at play.

In collaboration with the National Council of Nonprofits, Exponent Philanthropy will gather funders and nonprofits in four locations in the coming months for a half-day of facilitated programming dedicated to helping everyone build better working relationships and increase the impact of their work.

In each location, two pairs of funder and nonprofit partners will share their experiences and help to spark conversations. You can hear from some of the featured speakers below.

Get dates and locations for the upcoming half-day events for funders and nonprofits >>

In your experience, what contributes most to successful funder-grantee relationships?

Wendy Chang (funder, Dwight Stuart Youth Fund): Championing leaders and supporting their personal as well as organizational development. Funder–grantee partnerships are strongest when there is commitment beyond programs—when people, process, and systems matter.

I take pride in having an open door and high level of awareness of the issues confronting our grantee organizations. If every update or discussion with a grantee was just that “everything is fine,” then I couldn’t offer any help or guidance. I find that I am more invested if drawn in by grantees sharing their obstacles or things that may not be working. An opening is created and relationship strengthened when vulnerability is shared.

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Next Gen Voices  

By Nathaniel James, Exponent Philanthropy

Over the years, participants in our Next Gen Fellows Program have contributed significantly to their home philanthropies’ work through strategic, programmatic, technological, and communications efforts.

Many fellows go beyond that by contributing expertise, ideas, and observations to Exponent Philanthropy’s community and to the field at large. Next gen leaders have written and been featured in multiple media since we launched our Next Gen Fellows Program in 2013, including over a dozen posts on this blog alone.

We want to share just some of pieces written by our fellows over the years that we feel are just as valuable today as when they were published.

Learn about the 2017 Next Gen Fellows Program and apply by April 10 >>

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Setting a Strategy and Sticking to It

By Elaine Gast Fawcett on behalf of Exponent Philanthropy

Rhonnel Sotelo doesn’t have a favorite childhood book. He wasn’t much of a reader as a child, and only reached third grade reading proficiency in eighth grade. Yet thanks to several caring high school teachers and two UCLA English professors, he was able to turn around his reading capability later in life and passed that love of reading on to his two teenage daughters. Now literacy and public education are his career and personal passion.

As executive director of the Rogers Family Foundation in Oakland, California, Sotelo in partnership with CEO Brian Rogers and team, works to make sure children have opportunities to attend high-quality schools that provide personalized student-centered learning experiences, as well as ensure that students get off to good starts by being able to read on grade level by the end of third grade.

Education, says Sotelo, has always been compelling for the Rogers family. In 2003, after selling the company they owned for 26 years, Dreyers Ice Cream, T. Gary and Kathleen Rogers, along with their four sons, looked at how they could give back to their hometown of Oakland. Certainly there was no shortage of needs: crime, healthcare, housing affordability, and the list goes on. Yet they realized if there was one funding focus that could help all these issues, it was educating children.

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