Brad Presner

Keystone Performance Survey: Social Investment 2010

By Brad Presner with Jacqueline Novogratz

Last fall, Acumen Fund worked with Keystone Accountability to develop and execute a survey of all of our investments. This was the first time we had done a portfolio-wide survey in several years, and we felt that we had reached a point in our growth where it was important to pause and take in look in the mirror to see how we were doing as partners to our investees.

The survey was designed in order to provide us with aggregated, anonymous feedback that would help us be better investors. In 38 questions, across 5 categories-General Perceptions, Due Diligence, Financial Support, Interaction and Communication, and Social Impact-we received tremendously valuable insights, confirming some of what we knew and surprising us in other aspects, both in terms of what we do well and where we can improve. For instance, most of our investees felt that our due diligence process was reasonable and straight forward. However, we learned that we can do a better job in communicating what we do with the social impact data we request.

Not one to rest on helping a single organization like Acumen Fund look at our own processes, David Bonbright and his team at Keystone had much larger aspirations. Using a field-tested survey similar to the one we executed last Fall, Keystone will be conducting the first ever benchmarked survey of investees’ views of their investors in the social investing space.

This is powerful stuff. This means that at Acumen Fund, not only will we gain a better understanding of how our investees think we’re doing, but we will also be able to understand how we fare relative to our peers in the sector. What do we do well? Where can we improve? And most importantly, this will all be done while giving our investees a true voice in how we work together.

By creating a larger data set of impact investors, we will, for the first time, be able to truly gauge our performance. Much like the survey last fall, these data will empower us with the information needed to make meaningful changes to our operations. And at the end of the day, this will make us better partners to our investors, making us more effective investors of patient capital in building sustainable, impactful enterprises.

The Keystone Performance Survey: Social Investment 2010 is now open to other interested funds. The survey that will be conducted in May will, we hope, build a large and useful data set for the sector. We strongly encourage our peers to join us in the collective mission of becoming more effective and more thoughtful impact investors. Full details are available on the Keystone website.