Is Impact Investing the Next Big Thing for Donor-Advised Funds?

Is Impact Investing the Next Big Thing for Donor-Advised Funds?

There is growing interest from donors and investors to better align their resources, including their philanthropic resources, with their values. Donor Advised Funds, now housing more than $85 billion, represent a huge untapped potential to immediately put resources to work to improve the world. But many donors are not yet aware of or engaged in impact investing with their DAFs.

Hear some exciting ideas and insights from 10 leading experts I spoke with for this column.

Recent + Relevant News

  • Going All In - The Nathan Cummings Foundation pledges to put all of their $400M+ of assets behind their mission, becoming the largest private U.S. foundation to go all in.

  • Roadmap for Impact Investing - The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) released a well received and practical roadmap for the future of Impact Investing.

  • Opportunity Zones - Several national groups have helped to highlight the new Opportunity Zone program. The heads of Kresge Foundation and LISC discuss the potential in a recent CNN article.

  • Take It To The States- Progressive groups continue to expand their work to win seats in State Legislatures across the country. Vox and The Nation highlight some of the excellent efforts already showing results. (I also wrote about this last year).

  • Rise in LGBTQ Candidates - Just like the increase in women running for elected office, there is a surge of out LGBTQ candidates running in 2018.

  • Corporate Philanthropy - Cisco announced a five year, $50 million commitment to a much larger public-private partnership to build more than 4,800 units of housing in Santa Clara County. Google is putting up $300 million over the next three years to fight fake news and support digital journalism. Ripple, a virtual currency company, fully funded every DonorsChoose classroom project (35,000 of them) with a $29 million donation.

  • Big Foundation News - The Laura and John Arnold Foundation, with its “technocratic bent,” is raising the debate around pharmaceutical prices before the November elections.

  • Protesting and Suffering - The New York Times offers an important look at new racial justice activists, including those who have recently died.

  • Heart vs Head - Two nonprofit commentators discuss giving from the head versus giving from the heart, raising some helpful questions for individuals to consider in their personal philanthropy.

Recent + Relevant News


  • Philanthropy in Trump era - Inside Philanthropy outlines six ways philanthropy has changed and responded to Trump over the past year.

  • GOP and State Power - A Rolling Stone article details how the GOP has successfully and systemically “rigged” elections through voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering and dark money.

  • Progress on Voting Rights - Organizers in Florida collected enough signatures for a 2018 ballot measure to restore voting rights to 1.5 million former felons, mainly people of color. It needs 60 percent approval in November to become law.

  • Cities & Economic Development - Amazon narrowed their list to 20 cities for their second headquarters location. More thoughtful discussionabout how cities balance incentives and the needs of their communities.

  • New! Opportunity Zones: Will a brand new tax incentive program help drive private capital to under invested communities? What we know so farabout this effort. A new think tank, Economic Innovation Group, helped push the idea in the 2017 tax bill.

  • Climate Change - An in-depth feature in New York reveals the inside story of how Rockefeller family members used their philanthropic resources to pressure Exxon for its climate change denial.

  • Times Up! - 300 prominent actresses and female entertainment executives formed a new initiative, Times Up!, to fight systemic, workplace sexual misconduct beyond just Hollywood, joining forces with farmworkers and domestic workers and others. Read their letter of solidarity.

  • Corporate Philanthropy - JP Morgan Chase announced it would increase its philanthropic work by 40%, giving around $1.75 billion over the next five years.

  • Big Foundation News - Where will the Gate Foundation go with their new study on pathways out of poverty in the U.S.? MacArthur Foundation backs International Rescue Committee and Sesame Street Workshop with $100M in its big bet challenge.

  • Debating the Role of Philanthropy in Democracy - The Stanford Social Innovation Review posts the audio from a 2017 discussion among Reed Hastings and Darren Walker.

Recent + Relevant News, Readings, and Podcasts!

recap of recent news on progressive issues and philanthropy.

  • Climate Action - U.S. businesses, foundations, nonprofits and local and state government officials are at UN climate talks this week in Bonn, Germany to showcase their ongoing commitment to real climate action.

  • Mega Donors - The New York Times reports on a new crop of mega philanthropists changing the norms of big philanthropy by spending quickly and taking on “ hot-button social and political issues.”

  • Criminal Justice - The Bronx Freedom Fund, who has provided bail money to thousands of poor New Yorkers, is expanding nationally, opening more than 30 offices in the next five years.

  • 2017 Election Takes - Four progressive leaders reflect on the recent election outcomes.

  • Tax Policy - The Republican tax plan could have big impacts on charitable activities in the U.S.  

  • Silicon Valley Philanthropy - The Chan Zuckerberg Initiativeannounced the CZI Community Fund to invest in Silicon Valley communities. This comes as there are considerable discussions about how the mega wealthy can better support local Bay Area communities.

  • Right Wing - Inside Philanthropy discusses how a major right-wing mega donor uses philanthropy to fund political attacks.

  • Voting Rights - The New Yorker Radio Hour podcast goes deep on how voter fraud is used as a cover to pass voter suppression laws.

  • Gun Policy - As we continue to work towards real and meaningful gun control policy, Radiolab’s More Perfect podcast is out with an amazing podcast on the Second Amendment.

Part III: Progressive Philanthropy in the Trump Era: How Funders Can Achieve Big Impact Outside the Policy Arena

Part III: Progressive Philanthropy in the Trump Era: How Funders Can Achieve Big Impact Outside the Policy Arena

Progressive donors passionate about social change are understandably drawn to the political and policy arena. But there are also worthy nonpolitical strategies for donors seeking to leverage their resources for an outsized impact. One strategy is to support efforts to reform major corporations, prioritizing systems-level change approaches that can transform entire industries or harness the power of global markets for social good. This space is ripe with opportunity and skilled nonprofits are showing us how to build real influence and pioneer tools to elevate industry standards.

Part II - Progressive Philanthropy in the Trump Era: An Intro to State Based Political Strategies

Part II - Progressive Philanthropy in the Trump Era: An Intro to State Based Political Strategies

Part II of this series introduces opportunities for donors to support meaningful social change initiatives at the state level. Progressive donors must also continue to move beyond election-cycle funding of candidates, and invest in systemic state level initiatives that expand voting rights, educate, register, and mobilize voters, and champion progressive policy ideas.

Part I - Progressive Philanthropy in the Trump Era: A Call for New Donors

This series introduces three strategic approaches for emerging and established progressive donors in the Trump era, especially for individual philanthropists with the capacity to give big. Part I makes the case for bolstering frontline organizations with proven tactics while also supporting upstart organizations and building enduring capabilities and infrastructure for the progressive movement.