Impact investing has always been focused on creating positive social and/or environmental outcomes. At some points, Impact Investing has struggled to define itself as compared with philanthropy. Both require measurable positive outcomes, and some philanthropies accomplish outcomes that startups cannot while some startups accomplish outcomes that philanthropies cannot.
How are we to choose?
One way to choose is to consider Donor Advised Funds (DAF) as a part of your impact strategy.
The way a DAF works is that the investor gives a tax deductible contribution to the DAF that is set up in their name or through a foundation or fund. This contribution is much like giving a donation to a non-profit in that it will not provide a return like an impact investment would, but it allows the donor to plan and grow the funding base that they will have for their future giving strategy.
DAF donors are more intentional about their giving than most people. DAF donors think long term and typically have specific causes that they want to support vs. someone who responds to requests that may randomly come to them over time. A DAF is like a personal Foundation in that it allows the donor to set funds aside to give to their causes over a period of time, but it is unlike a Foundation in that it does not require a five percent minimum donation amount each year.
Once money is in a DAF, it can grow by being invested in Funds or companies that match the donor’s values, but also return market rate returns. For example, if you wanted to give $100,000 to the American Cancer Society, you could put $30-50,000 into a DAF and allow it to grow 2-3 time in size, and then allocate that those returns should be disbursed to the American Cancer Society times three.
By investing in a DAF with investments in impact related investments like the Rockies Impact Fund, the investor gets a multiplier effect on their investments. First, the Rockies Impact Fund invests only in companies that create Primary Impact in Social or Environmental spheres. This means that the investment themselves are causing significant measurable impact. Second, those investments give back up to two to three times the initial capital to the Donor Advised Fund. Third, the DAF may now donate the profits from those investments to the American Cancer Society, or to a suite of causes specified by the donor.
Clearly DAFs are not designed for those who are focused on growing personal wealth since the returns must be designated for non-profit programs, but for those who have a long term giving plan, DAFs are a great way to both increase impact by investing in Impact Funds, and then being able to give two to three times more to causes that are important to them.