The New York City-based Surdna Foundation has announced that it will allocate $100 million — approximately 10 percent of its $1 billion endowment — to impact investing.
The foundation, which is celebrating its centennial anniversary, announced that the decision was made in 2014 at a time when the field was still in its infancy and that the allocation will be focused on a combination of mission-related investments (MRI) and program-related investments (PRI), along with a variety of other tools and strategies. Surdna's impact investments to date include a $5 million commitment to venture capital fund DBL Partners III, which invests in companies that deliver strong financial returns while promoting social, environmental, and economic benefits in the countries and regions in which they operate; and a four-year, $700,000 loan to the Business Outreach Center (BOC) Network, a small business development and community development financial institution (CDFI) in New York City that provides loans to minority- and women-owned contractors.
Mapping the Journey to Impact Investing (18 pages, PDF), a report published to coincide with the start of the foundation's centennial, details the nine-month process of learning and exploration that led the foundation to make the $100 million commitment and offers recommendations for other funders, including the importance of seeking out diverse viewpoints, matching the process to the organization's culture, conducting a portfolio analysis to determine what kinds of social and environmental criteria portfolio managers are already using, and creating a model of investing "themes" around which strategies and opportunities can be developed and tested.
"Surdna's current focus on impact investing — alongside many of our peer foundations and an increasing number of pension funds and university endowments — is illustrating a desire by more institutions to align their assets with their values," said Shuaib Siddiqui, director of impact investing at the foundation. "Leveraging our endowment for impact investing will enable us to demonstrate how to invest to achieve positive social, environmental, and financial returns. We hope this will lead to the creation of more funds and tools. In turn, growing the field will create more options for impact investors."
"As we celebrate our centennial, we continue to reach for new ways to advance our mission of fostering sustainable communities and charting the path to social justice," said Surdna Foundation president Phillip Henderson. "Our decision to embark on impact investing is core to who we are. The question for our board and staff was how to align our endowment practices to advance the foundation's mission."