Tag: impact investing

Government shutdown coincides with slowest time for charitable donations

NONPROFITS | Nonprofit organizations in the Greater Washington region are receiving an influx of calls for assistance during what is typically known as the worst months for charitable donations – and nonprofit leaders are worried about keeping up with the demand. Rosie Allen-Herring, president and chief executive of the United Way of the National Capital Area, said nonprofit groups have emphasized to her that the need they’re seeing around the Washington area is outstripping the support they were prepared to provide. (WaPo, 1/9)

“It’s not just the 800,000 workers we’re hearing about almost daily,” Allen-Herring said. “There’s another rung of smaller, more disadvantaged businesses who contract with the federal government. Those employees aren’t going to be made whole” with potential back pay when the shutdown ends.

– In order to combat structural and institutional racism affecting DC, Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie has introduced the Racial Equity Achieves Results Act, which lays out specific actions to advance racial equity, including designing and implementing a racial equity tool, racial equity-related performance measures and evaluations, and racial equity training for all District employees.

-Diversity and race are top issue priorities for PwC Chairman Tim Ryan. (Chief Executive, 1/9)

Related: Bold Leadership: How Companies are Stepping Up and Speaking Out on Hot Button Issues (Daily, 9/17)

IMPACT INVESTING | A decade-long push has urged foundations to devote more of their endowments to impact investing. But many still aren’t invested in line with their mission. (Chronicle, 1/8)

EDUCATION | Prince George’s schools start fund to buy lunches for children of furloughed workers (WaPo, 1/10)

HOUSING | See How Landlords Pack Section 8 Renters Into Poorer Neighborhoods (CityLab, 1/9)

FOOD | A new mobile pantry vehicle, funded in part by the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, is set to feed thousands in Loudoun County. (Loudoun Times, 1/2)

– The Community Foundation of Northern Virginia announced their 2019 Community Investment Funds Grant Cycle – proposals due: 2/14/19.

– CareFirst will award up to $2 million to support programs seeking to improve birth outcomes and lower infant mortality rates in Maryland, DC, and Northern Virginia – proposals due: 1/14/19.

Social Sector Job Openings 

Grants & Communications Officer | The Crimsonbridge Foundation – New!
Executive Director | VHC Medical Brigade – New!
Director of Development | DC Bar Foundation – New!
Program Manager | Weissberg Foundation – New!
Senior Supervising Attorney, Criminal Justice Reform​ | ​Southern Poverty Law Center
Director of Development​ | ​The Barker Adoption Foundation
Grant Reviewer​ | ​Jack and Jill of America Foundation
Executive Assistant​ | ​Jack and Jill of America Foundation
Administrative Associate | United Philanthropy Forum
Programs Manager | DC127
Development Manager | DC127
Director of Development (East Coast) | Rocketship Public Schools
Director of Development | ECHO
Executive Director | The Volgenau Foundation
President | Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
Program Associate for Strategy, Equity, and Research | Eugene & Agnes E. Meyer Foundation

Hiring? Post your job on WRAG’s job board and get it included in the Daily! Free for members; $60/60 days for non-members. Details here.

Community Calendar

To add an event to WRAG’s community calendar, email Rebekah Seder. Click here to view the community calendar.

Looks like it’s going to feel a bit more like winter this weekend – here’s some DC hot spots where you can find “ridiculously delicious hot chocolate.”

Next week we’ll publish the (Almost) Daily WRAG on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

– Buffy

My Top Three Insights on Philanthropy in 2019

By Tamara Lucas Copeland
President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

On New Year’s Day, I saw a news segment about 2019 diet trends. The key takeaway: there really isn’t anything new. To lose weight, exercise more and eat less. That’s it.

This made me think about philanthropy. What is new in philanthropy for 2019? Anything? Or is the formula for investing in communities still pretty much the same?

For me, the answer is “yes, but no.” The underlying desire to invest responsibly in communities for the social good seems to be fundamental, long-standing, and shared by most corporate giving programs and foundations. The question is, what does “responsibly” mean? That’s the “no” part. I think the definition of responsible investing has changed, a change that shapes how I see philanthropy moving forward. That said, here are my top three insights for 2019 on how philanthropy’s traditional approaches are shifting, at least here in the Greater Washington region.

1. Just the facts

OLD: In order to solve community challenges, we must examine what the research says about different interventions. Data-driven philanthropy has been a hallmark of what is considered effective philanthropy for some time now. No grant application would be successful without the obligatory inclusion of information on what research the suggested intervention was based.

NEW: Having gone through three years of a rigorous focus on structural racism, funders in Greater Washington are increasingly aware that often even the most highly regarded sociological and economic research has minimized, or not even considered, the role that structural racism and implicit bias play in society. “Back-mapping” is the tool that ABFE encourages philanthropic leaders to use to delve deeply into the root causes of racial disparities, a critical first step in determining the most effective intervention for a given issue. Sometimes “the facts” simply don’t portray the whole picture.

This leads me to….

2. Work with communities

OLD: Communities with high concentrations of low-income people often were thought of as powerless, disenfranchised, and needy — communities where people needed to be empowered, by some outside entity, to act on their own behalf.

NEW: This paternalistic way of understanding communities is shifting. Increasingly, the knowledge, and therefore power, that exists in all communities is being recognized. Communities are seen as partners in changing the status quo. Philanthropy has the financial resources to enable the needed intervention and community leaders know what interventions have, and can, make a lasting difference. Equal partners for change.

And lastly,

3. Grow the corpus

OLD: In order to continue to invest in communities, the stewards of foundations must prioritize growing their wealth. To do that, philanthropy must invest in products and services that will bring a handsome return on that investment. There must be a cushion in place in case of financial downturn, so ensuring a solid financial return must always be the goal.

NEW: The practice of impact investing, looking for vehicles that provide a financial return while also benefiting society, continues to grow among foundations. In WRAG’s latest edition of Our Region, Our Giving, we reported that almost 60 percent of WRAG members surveyed are currently engaged in impact investing, or are actively seeking to become engaged. For most of those members, their impact investing started in the last five years. But, there is something on the horizon that reflects even bolder thinking: connecting the financial arm of the foundation to the programmatic arm. It’s not enough for a foundation to set some money aside for impact investments while the bulk of their assets are traditionally invested – especially if those investments might be perpetuating the very challenges that the foundation aims to address through its grantmaking.

Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” From my first day at WRAG, I saw this as a community focused on learning. There is a keen desire to learn and to use that knowledge wisely to impact our region. That learning has deepened and the focus has shifted over time. This philanthropic community will undoubtedly “do better” in 2019.

Do More 24 offers a chance to give back today

GIVING | Do More 24 starts today! Rosie Allen-Herring, president and CEO of United Way of the National Capital Area, discusses why you should support the Greater Washington region’s largest 24-hour online fundraiser, which begins at noon today and ends at noon tomorrow. (Prince William Living, 5/16)

We are hearing from our nonprofit partners on a daily basis about the overwhelming demand for services for the area’s “at-risk” populations, including those benefiting from programs that support school success, financial empowerment and access to health support services.

On Thursday, May 17, more than 270 Prince William County nonprofits will join other organizations throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to take part in United Way of the National Capital Area’s Do More 24. This is the region’s largest online giving day, expected to raise nearly $2 million for local nonprofits.

IMPACT INVESTING | The Urban Institute and Mission Investors Exchange have partnered on a report to explore emerging approaches to collaborative placed-based impact investing in philanthropy. The report mentions Enterprise Community Loan Fund and WRAG’s Our Region, Your Investment initiative. (Urban Institute, 5/15)

– A new hiring platform that helps individuals find temporary work in the region’s restaurants worries labor experts. (WAMU, 5/17)

– It’s not just Amazon: Apple quietly explores Northern Virginia campus for 20,000 jobs (WaPo, 5/16)

BUDGET | DC Fiscal Policy Institute reports that DC’s recently approved budget for next year does not ensure equitable access to health care or fund critical affordable housing needs in the city. (DCFPI, 5/16)

TRANSPORTATION | Greater Washington Partnership, an alliance of CEOs from major companies around the region, have released a report arguing that tolls are the solution for traffic congestion between Baltimore and Richmond. (WBJ, 5/16)

A new debate has taken over the internet, but instead of a dress, it’s an audio clip that says either ‘laurel’ or ‘yanny’. What do you hear? 

(Clearly, it’s laurel.)

– Kendra

Advocates wonder if DC General should close this year

HOMELESSNESS | A few years ago, DC’s mayor announced her plans to close DC General and replace it with smaller shelters throughout the city. Advocates are concerned that the District will be putting some homeless families at risk if DC General closes this year because the other shelters are not ready. (WAMU, 3/14)

“Closing D.C. General is not an end unto itself,” said Amber Harding of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. “If D.C. General is closed in a way that risks the health and safety of the families who live there and other families who need shelter in D.C., then the injustice of placing families there in the first place will be compounded, not alleviated.”

City officials said Bowser’s goal for closing the shelter was always 2018, and that improvements in the rest of the homeless services system and the coming replacement shelters offered the city the chance to make good on that pledge.

AFFORDABLE HOUSINGCiti gave $4.71 billion in funding to affordable housing properties in 2017, making it the top affordable housing lender in the US for the eighth year. Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Capital One are also among the top lenders. (AHF, 2/28)

EDUCATION | Montgomery County, MD students in recovery will soon have another resource to help them continue their education. (Bethesda Beat, 3/14)

IMPACT INVESTING | The Nathan Cummings Foundation has announced that it will put its entire endowment in investments that are creating social change. (Chronicle, 3/13 – Subscription needed)

IMMIGRATION | A federal judge in DC is considering ordering the administration to restart the DACA program. (WaPo, 3/14)

HEALTHD.C. has a high maternal mortality rate. Lawmakers want to know why. (WaPo, 3/14)

– The Environmental Film Festival is returning to the region this week. Check out the films here. (WTOP, 3/15)

– Activists urge Maryland to stop ‘Potomac Pipeline’ ahead of key deadline (WaPo, 3/14)

Why you should give your phone a break sometimes.

– Kendra

Preserving black culture east of the river

ARTS & HUMANITIES | It’s no secret that the next frontier for gentrification in the District is in wards 7 and 8. In anticipation of the change, this local artist and cultural activist wants to preserve the black history and culture of his community. (WaPo, 8/14)

Vernard Gray [the local artist) has picked a pivotal time to start his project. In the face of rapidly encroaching gentrification in Southeast — and with it, the threat of massive change and displacement — he is hoping that Made East River will help the area take charge of its culture and history and preserve a narrative directed by African American residents.

Majority-black Southeast is too often treated “like the backwater of the city,” Gray said. “Gentrification is happening. There’s no way of stopping it. But when they show up, they’ll think, ‘Okay, there’s something happening here.’ And they’ve got to honor that.”

IMPACT INVESTING | Nancie Suzuki, executive director of Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation, discusses why her foundation made the decision to invest in Our Region, Your Investment initiative twice. (Daily, 8/15)

Related: Interested in learning about how you or your organization can invest in affordable housing? Read more about Our Region, Your Investment here

PHILANTHROPY | This is how foundations have responded to the rhetoric and actions of the new administration. (Chronicle, 8/14 – Subscription needed)

– The District is dealing with a shortage of beds for inmates that need mental health services since St. Elizabeths Hospital is full. (NBC4, 8/14)

– What You Need to Know about Opioid Use in DC (DCFPI, 8/11)

BUSINESS | A new analysis by the DC Policy Center suggests the District’s restaurant and entertainment industry boom may be ending. (DCist, 8/14)

ENVIRONMENT | According to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, discolored water coming from the tap in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, MD is okay to drink but don’t wash your clothes with it. (WaPo, 8/15)

The DC Black Film Festival kicks off this Thursday!

– Kendra

Charlottesville, VA reacts to the violence that erupted at a white supremacist rally this weekend

RACISM | One person is dead and nineteen others are injured after a car plowed into a group of anti-racist protesters at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA. The rally began with participants marching through the University of Virginia’s campus with tiki torches early Saturday morning. (Richmond Times, 8/12)

Gov. Terry McAuliffe addressed the white supremacists and nationalists who attended the rally directly in a brief statement.

“You came here today to hurt people, and you did hurt people,” McAuliffe said. “My message is clear: We are stronger than you. You have made our commonwealth stronger. You will not succeed. There is no place for you here. There is no place for you in America.”

– Virginia’s governor has announced that a new proposal on how the three jurisdictions could fund Metro will be coming soon. (WTOP, 8/13)

– With No Place To Charge, D.C.’s Electric Cab Drivers Ask For Help (WAMU, 8/14)

EDUCATION | The District has proposed a new contract for its teachers, which includes a 9% salary increase over three years and other benefits. (WaPo, 8/14)

PUBLIC SAFETY | A new campaign in the District helps teens cope with violence. (AFRO, 8/13)

IMPACT INVESTING | The U.S. Impact Investing Alliance has announced the creation of two new advisory councils that will push for more advancements in impact investing, including the development of metrics to ensure impact. (Chronicle, 8/11 – Subscription needed)

LGBTQ | The District has received a grant to identify historic LGBTQ landmarks in the city. Can you think of any? (WAMU, 8/11)

Watch these stars sprint across the night sky.

– Kendra

Do More 24 to help nonprofit organizations impacted by federal funding cuts

DO MORE 24 | The new administration’s proposed budget cuts will impact many of the nonprofits in our area that provide social services to the low-income and uninsured or under-insured populations. On June 8, United Way of the National Capital Area will host its annual Do More 24 drive to benefit about 600 DC-area nonprofits who may lose funds. (WaPo, 6/2)

Kelly Brinkley, chief operating officer of the local United Way chapter, said that after Trump’s election, people around the country have donated en masse to prominent national organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood. But, she said, the same attention hasn’t been placed on local organizations that provide services such as after-school programs, food assistance and housing.

“We are afraid, we really are,” she said. “One of the challenges is that we know that these organizations are going to come to United Way if these budget cuts impact them, and how are we going to step up and fill the gap?”

FOOD INSECURITYDC’s Grocery Gap Reflects City’s Income Divide (WaPo, 6/1)

EDUCATION | We talk a lot about bullying among students, but what about teachers bullying students? (NPQ, 5/26)

IMPACT INVESTING | These foundations and nonprofits are working on building the impact investing field. (Chronicle, 5/31 – Subscription needed)

HEALTH | Synthetic drugs are a new challenge in Maryland’s fight against opioid addiction. (WAMU, 6/1)

RACISM | The DC region has seen an alarming amount of nooses in the past year. (DCist, 6/1)

TRANSITWill Digital Meters Help D.C. Taxis Survive Battle With Uber? (WAMU, 6/2)

Social Sector Job Openings 

Officer, Philanthropic Networks, Philanthropic Partnerships | The Pew Charitable Trusts – New!
Program Manager: Thriving Germantown Community HUB-Germantown, MD | Family Services, Inc. – New!
Democracy Program Manager | Funder’s Committee for Civic Participation
Communications Manager | Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers
Director of Communications | de Beaumont Foundation
Program Coordinator, Grants and Selection | Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
Director of Programmatic Initiatives | Fight For Children
Major Gift Officer–DC | Urban Teachers
Program Analyst | Clark Charitable Foundation, Inc.
Market Coordinator, Community Affairs Mid-Atlantic | Capital One

Hiring? Post your job on WRAG’s job board and get it included in the Daily! Free for members; $60/60 days for non-members. Details here.

Community Calendar

To add an event to WRAG’s community calendar, email Rebekah Seder. Click the image below to access the calendar.

Today is National Doughnut Day! Get your free and discounted doughnuts here.

– Kendra

Impact Investing in the DC Region: One Foundation’s Journey to Identify Peers and Uncover Best Practices

by Kate Lasso
Director of Finance and Administration
Consumer Health Foundation

As the finance director for the Consumer Health Foundation (CHF), my responsibilities include supporting the management of our endowment and how it is invested. CHF works at the intersection of health equity, racial equity and economic justice and we have been engaged in socially responsible investing (i.e. using positive and negative screens on our endowment) for several years. Recently, we began exploring impact investing as a way to further our mission and positive impact in the region. As part of that exploration, between February and March 2017, I interviewed representatives from 22 DC area foundations to learn about their experiences with impact investing. The questions included:

(1) current level of engagement in impact investing
(2) preference of Mission Related Investments (MRIs) or Program Related Investments (PRIs),
(3) which characteristics of impact investing were more important to them
(4) which social sectors were priority areas for investing for them
(5) what were barriers to engaging in impact investing in the DC region and
(6) how did they find out more about impact investing.

Below is a summary of what I learned.

Barriers and Challenges

The top cited barriers to engaging in impact investing included organizational culture, internal readiness, convincing the board, and lack of education/knowledge. Another challenge, especially related to impact investing in the DC area, was the inability to identify viable investment opportunities. Several respondents expressed reluctance to turn to individuals or groups who had a vested interest in impact investing, usually because they had an investment opportunity or product to promote. Respondents were seeking ways to find information and advice from an honest broker who could help them better understand the impact investing space and identify potential investment opportunities without being “pitched.”

Ideas and Solutions

The need for education about impact investing was a recurring theme, especially for foundation trustees and senior leadership. Increased knowledge and understanding about impact investing could directly address a number of the top-cited barriers including convincing the board to engage in impact investing and improving internal readiness.

Other field-building work that could enhance impact investing in the DC region includes supporting non-profits to help build their capacity as PRI recipients and, related to this, creating an information bank for foundations wishing to engage in impact investing, but who do not know how to find viable opportunities for themselves.

Several respondents noted that their expertise in impact investing came not just from educational opportunities but also from their experience. While trial and error was an effective form of professional development for some, a number of other respondents were looking to learn from the experiences of their peers prior to jumping in. Respondents also indicated that a report on impact investing strategies and opportunities in the DC region, describing both successes and the failures, would be useful in their learning journeys and convincing their foundations to engage.

Another suggested route to creating receptivity on the Board level, especially in family foundations, was to engage the next generation of family members, since the younger generation was often already expressing interest in impact investing.

Developing a clear strategy for impact investing, including clear Board guidance and determining the amount of funds available, were highlighted by respondents as essential to the process.

The final point worth noting is the fact that a majority of respondents were willing to accept a lower financial return on their impact investments in exchange for the opportunity for higher social return.


It’s important to remember that impact investing is a new field which is still developing its term definitions, business practices and relationships with both investors and investee organizations. In addition, measuring social returns is still a work in process, with few reliable indicators for social priorities such as racial equity, for example. But there is foundation interest in understanding and experimenting with impact investments, provided they can be supported in this process by a network of like-minded experts and peers.

Given the potential that impact investing has as a financial tool for the philanthropic sector, I look forward to working with WRAG and others who care about the DC region to engage more fully in this important work.