I was delighted to participate in the North American Community Foundations Summit in Mexico City, Mexico on February 5th and 6th. The Summit was co-hosted by three national organizations supporting community foundations in North America – Comunalia, Community Foundations of Canada, and Council on Foundations – and featured 200+ attendees from organizations across the continent.
I had the opportunity to curate and facilitate a workshop at the Summit entitled “Utilizing Impact Investment to Unleash Capital: Case Studies from the US, Mexico, and Canada” alongside three panelists: Trisha Finnegan of Community Foundation of Louisville, Anne McEnany of International Community Foundation, and Brian Toller of Ottawa Community Foundation. Please view our presentation below.
We kicked off the workshop with industry trends and community foundation approaches to impact investing. Noted trends included:
- The market continues to grow, but is still quite small
- Generational wealth transfer and evolving asset owner preferences are driving demand
- Maturing asset manager and advisor landscape, from boutique, focused shops to large, global firms
- Alignment with sustainable development goals
- Increased focus on local, or place-based, investing
- Foundations are innovating, deepening PRI activity and increasingly exploring or implementing MRIs, but still slow to move
Trisha, Anne, and Brian then presented case studies on their respective organization’s transition to impact investing and successes and challenges to date. Then, participants broke up into small groups for facilitated discussions around governance, strategy and structure, and implementation and operations. Themes we heard from the workshop leaders and participants included:
- It is important to align impact investing efforts with the goals and preferences of both the Board and donors, and to engage both groups of stakeholders actively and appropriately
- Program and fund structures are path dependent and are therefore crucial to address upfront and align with long-term goals
- Impact investing in cities and regions without intermediaries (e.g., CDFIs) requires heavy hands-on involvement from program and finance staff
- Implementation often requires flexible, adaptive cross- committee and departmental collaboration, often between program staff and investment and/or finance professionals
I am honored to have been selected to moderate and curate this workshop and to be included in such a thought-provoking dialogue, and enjoyed collaborating with and learning from Trisha, Anne, and Brian. We at Next Street are inspired by community foundations’ commitment to impact investing and are optimistic about the growth still to come.