Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation and Social Justice Impact Investing

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation and Social Justice Impact Investing

Impact investing is still a fledgling practice in mainstream philanthropy, but its popularity is growing in a big way. While there are lots of enthusiastic proponents out there—extolling the idea of putting more wealth to work, or making an impact and making money—others (including on this very site) are questioning how deeply foundations should be diving into this approach. 

At the same time, just as with grantmaking, the value in impact investing all comes down to the details.

For many institutions, especially those with social justice missions, there are big questions about how exactly to execute a hugely varying set of tactics that get lumped under the same rubric of impact investing. One of those institutions is the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, a small and progressive family foundation with a strong mission for social change—and a $55 million endowment it’s trying to put to best use.

The funder recently released a white paper detailing its unconventional effort to hire an investment advisor, and in the process, increase the sector’s understanding of how investing for social justice works. The report found that the field currently offers a lot more opportunity than in previous years, and that foundations don’t need to sacrifice investment performance to make an impact...

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