This post is an excerpt from the complimentary resource Essentials of Impact Investing: A Guide for Small-Staffed Foundations, created by Exponent Philanthropy and partners Mission Investors Exchange and Arabella Advisors. Want to align your investments with your mission? Download your copy >>
By Lucy Cantwell, New Belgium Family Foundation
Many people are beginning to intuitively grasp the promise of impact investing but struggle with how they might participate. Finding a balance between the traditionally “hard” skills of finance and the “softer” considerations of impact is an opportunity for foundations and advisors alike.
We started, as many foundations do, by incorporating the beliefs and intent of our founder. Kim Jordan started the foundation with her family after New Belgium Brewing Company— the company she co-founded and runs as CEO—became 100 percent employee-owned through an employee stock ownership plan in 2012. In addition, the company has a long history of environmental and socially responsible practices, and we wanted to ensure the foundation would reflect that history. We knew that we wanted to pursue impact investing, as it dovetailed with Kim’s belief in the transformative potential of business, but we didn’t know how to execute that vision.
Interviewing investment advisors and learning each of these groups’ definitions of impact investing helped us articulate our own goals. Although financial return was important to us, we cared more about maximizing our potential impact—a surprise to many advisors. We realized that a 100 percent commitment to impact for our then $7 million portfolio was essential—a way of activating our 95 percent as well as our 5 percent payout. We wanted to support thoughtful businesses like the one created by Kim, and we also wanted to help signal to the mainstream financial system that there are investors who privilege value creation that goes beyond shareholder value. During this time we also refined the core values of the foundation and added an emphasis on taking risks and collaboration. After talking with potential advisors, and learning what leeway there was to support our vision of impact investing, we settled on a boutique impact investment firm to manage our corpus.