What’s Next for Philanthropy? More Investment and More Cooperation.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Washington-area philanthropy is becoming unabashedly business-minded. Practices such as impact investing and public-private partnerships that were experiments after the recession are now expected to be regular giving habits for many do-gooders. And that’s just for starters. Capital Business caught up with a few local philanthropy thought leaders to see what’s next for local giving in the region:

Jennifer Pryce

President of the Calvert Foundation

The Calvert Foundation does not operate like a traditional foundation, shelling out grants to nonprofits. Instead, it invites individuals to invest in notes backing a portfolio of organizations with social missions, such as education, affordable housing and fighting poverty. This is not a new idea. Calvert has been doing it for 20 years, raising $1 billion over that time. But Pryce said we can expect to see much more of it in Washington this year, as more foundations look to invest their endowments in socially minded concerns. “If their mission is creating jobs, they are looking for investments that are supporting job growth,” Pryce said. “How do you invest the endowment in a way that preserves the capital but you have it invested in good? This is huge in the foundation world and a lot are asking themselves that question.”

Another trend Pryce expects is more partnerships between government, businesses and philanthropists to fund social causes — public-private partnerships. Last fall, then-D.C. mayor Vincent C. Gray explored the idea of offering bonds to fund a project that would reduce teen pregnancy. “Much much more often I’m working in partnership with foundations and the government. It’s really a group hug,” Pryce said.

Jean Case

Chief executive of the
Case Foundation and the wife of
AOL co-founder Steve Case

In June, Steve and Jean Case committed $50 million to the Case Foundation for impact investing. Jean Case said she believes the momentum for impact investing will increase particularly for what is known as pay-for-success bonds, or social impact bonds. If a public project achieves its goal, the government pays back donors with a small profit. There is currently a bill before Congress, the Social Impact Bond Act, that would provide incentives for communities across the nation to introduce these bonds. She said this trend will heighten the standards of performance for the nonprofit sector, even more than it has in the past few years. “It’ll put a heavy focus on measurement and outcomes, which will have a spillover effect to make all of our programs more effective,” Case said.

Tamara Copeland

Head of the Washington Regional
Association of Grantmakers, which comprises area foundations, corporations and agencies

Copeland said the region is still recovering from the pullback in federal spending and cutbacks by major funders, such as Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and others, that have resulted in an estimated loss of about $25 million for local philanthropy. “We’re going to feel that impact for a little while,” Copeland said. Last November, her group published a report on local giving that showed 72 percent of grantmakers planned to continue funding at their current level in 2015, 21 percent plan to increase funding and 7 percent plan to decrease giving.

Source: The Washington Post (link opens in a new window)

impact investing, philanthropy, public-private partnerships