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From the Blog

August 30, 2016 | How to keep good jobs in rural communities through mission investing: A Profile on Granite Equity

Mission investing is a tool we’re using, alongside grantmaking, to advance our strategy...

April 25, 2016 | NWAF Makes Mission Investment in Noribachi, Host to LA Mayor’s 2016 State of the City Address

The Northwest Area Foundation (NWAF) has completed a mission-related investment in...

PEOPLE

We support organizations anchored in the culture of the people they serve. We are dedicated to expanding economic opportunity to connect people to good jobs and the financial capability to build their assets and provide a secure future for their families. Since 2004, we’ve funded our grantees in ways that go beyond grantmaking to draw from our endowment to invest in work that benefits people in our region. We’ve rigorously measured our impact for more than 10 years, a pioneering effort that makes our commitment distinctive.

TWO KINDS OF INVESTMENTS

HOW OUR MISSION INVESTMENTS ARE DISTINCTIVE

MEASUREMENT

Few foundations are rigorously measuring their mission investing or have measured it for as long as we have (10 years, as of 2016). We also work with managers to measure the impact of these investments.

FUNDING ALIGNMENT

MRIs and PRIs support not only our mission, but also are aligned with our grantmaking strategy and its two outcomes: more good jobs and increased financial capability.

OUR COMMITMENT


The commitment of 10 percent of our endowment for mission investing is larger than that of most foundations, as is our $30 million commitment to MRI funding; most foundations only fund PRIs.

OUR VALUES AND IMPACT

We actively search for investment managers whose values align with our own, including rural community investment and funding opportunities not ordinarily considered for mission investing.

STAFF EXPERIENCE


Our Investment Director Amy Jensen and Program Director Karla Miller are experienced in the work, are good speakers, and are steeped in the knowledge of how mission investing is done.

GOALS

We’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. Historically, we set aside 5 percent of our assets for grantmaking activities. Now, we’re committing an additional 10 percent of our assets—beyond the 5 percent for grantmaking activities—to mission investing (MRIs and PRIs). This approach allows us to continue building strong, vibrant communities and increase access to good jobs.

THE NEED TO GO BEYOND GRANTMAKING

However, mission investing also calls for a focus on continued learning and evaluation to be more strategic and maximize impact. More than 10 years ago, we began using mission investing to address persistent gaps in capital to seed and grow businesses, both inside and outside of our eight-state region.

We’ve learned many lessons along the way. For example, measurement wasn’t built-in when we started in 2004. We had to find a way to examine our investments to gain an accurate picture of their impact, and we did so in 2006 by adding measurement as a key part of our approach.

OUR RESPONSE

We found that mission investing—and using our endowment assets—was a great way to do this. We actively searched for external investment managers whose values align with our own and who we can partner with to make our funds go further. When we started this work over 10 years ago, we learned that measurement should be tailored to the social and financial returns that meet our goals. Also, mission investing should complement our grantmaking—not replace it.

We’ve made the decision to invest $40 million of the Foundation’s investment portfolio for mission investing directly from our endowment. This innovative approach sets us apart from others working in our space. Of our $40 million investment, $30 million will be reserved for MRIs and $10 million will be reserved for PRIs.

This approach complements our grantmaking to strengthen our investments in the communities we serve and their efforts to realize good jobs and the financial capability to build assets toward a secure future in which they can achieve economic, social, and cultural prosperity.