Impact Finance Center (IFC), a nonprofit impact investing academic center founded in 2013 and based in Denver, believes that philanthropy is an investment and that every investment has an impact. IFC works with philanthropists and investors to understand those impacts on a broader scale and maximize the benefits of every deployment of capital.
IFC uses research, education, and special initiatives led by a powerful team of leaders in the fields of academia, social entrepreneurship, philanthropy, investing, fundraising, and financial services to achieve the vision of catalyzing $1 trillion of investment by 2035.
National Impact Investing Marketplace
A vision of such magnitude requires an equally compelling blueprint: The National Impact Investing Marketplace. CO Impact Days and Initiative, a proof of concept statewide marketplace, provides this blueprint to scale and replicate. How do we create billion-dollar institutional investments across every stage, asset class, and impact focus? We invest in infrastructure and capacity building to inventory and grow impact investors and social ventures.
In 2016, IFC and CO Impact Days and Initiative identified 350 social ventures (e.g., projects, nonprofits, for-profits, and funds) that represented over $500 million in investment opportunities (IFC estimates this sum represents only 1-10% of the Colorado pipeline). More than 200 philanthropists and investors participated in CO Impact Days and Initiative, representing over $4 billion in assets. Just imagine what could happen if we could inventory and scale the $50 billion of investment opportunity by state into regional market-places and create the corresponding institutional products the marketplace needs! This logic can go even further. Imagine if there were a $500 million angel fund of funds focused on a certain area of interest where an impact investor such as an individual, donor-advised fundholder, foundation, family office, corporation, or pension fund could invest $25 million of their endowment capital and ultimately invest in Colorado-based startup companies? The possibilities for growth are endless.
But first, supply of capital must meet demand. IFC is leading the charge to bridge the gap with top-down (investor training and engagement) and bottom-up (social venture priming) approaches. IFC’s vision for a national marketplace has already begun to be realized, with a successful and growing Phase 1 in Colorado and early planning in place to expand to two or three more geographies. In addition to catalyzing direct investments into social ventures, IFC has worked with several asset owners to upgrade their governance (e.g., investment beliefs, ESG screening, philanthropic evaluation, and evidenced-based attribution) with their existing investment advisor, or to assist in selecting a new investment advisor or outsourced chief investment office through a Request for Proposal process.
Phase 1: Statewide Marketplace: CO Impact Days
The vision for a National Marketplace begins with the CO Impact Days and Initiative. The initiative was started as a multi-year strategy designed to elevate and accelerate impact investing in Colorado, to eventually be replicable regionally and nationally. The flagship event, CO Impact Days (March 2016), was the first multi-track, multi-stage, and multi-asset-class marketplace devoted entirely to assessing and expanding the impact investment opportunities in in Colorado. CO Impact Days 2017 (November 15-17, 2017) is poised to expand on the inaugural event’s success and catalyze even more impact investments in valuable Colorado social ventures.
Phase 1 Continued: Inventory and Capacity Building: CO Impact Initiative
The statewide marketplace is only as strong as the place-based capacity building that occurs through the preceding year. CO Impact Initiative features a series of workshops aimed at impact investing competency: “investor readiness” workshops for philanthropists and investors; nonprofit and impact investing workshops; for-profit and impact investing workshops; “deal doctor” workshops; and corporate innovation and impact investing workshops. Leading up to CO Impact Days 2016, IFC gave more than 50 outreach and educational presentations and workshops, with a similarly robust lead-up planned for CO Impact Days 2017. These workshops are backed by robust research and curriculums, and are poised to be replicated and presented around the country as part of the launch of the National Impact Investing Marketplace.
In addition to more conventional capacity building, IFC has also launched two experiential education concepts to engage investors:
- Impact Investing Giving Circles: How many individuals and institutions want to support social ventures in Northwest Colorado, led by women, or in the sector of behavioral health? IFC believes that one of the key strategies for increasing the flow of capital into impact investing opportunities is to create opportunities for philanthropists and investors to find one another and then move forward with first steps that enable them to experience impact investing in a low-cost, low-risk way. IFC has developed the framework for “Impact Investing Giving Circles,” where philanthropists, investors, and organizations donate to a charitable fund for impact investing at a community foundation. These “IIGCs” are executed in tandem with an Impact Scan.
- Impact Scans: Impact Scans is a term IFC uses to describe a way for impact investors to identify the number and quality of social ventures (e.g., projects, nonprofits, for-profits, and funds) available and/or the number and type of impact investors available for a given community. Assessments of debt, assets, and social enterprise opportunities are important for identifying nonprofit social venture investment opportunities (e.g., lines of credit, scholarships, and mortgages), opportunities for asset efficiency improvements (e.g. building renovations), and social enterprise or nonprofit earned revenue projects within a certain geography or sector.
IFC believes that impact investing is the powerful tool that will empower philanthropists and investors to use their existing resources to leverage larger impact in their communities and the world. With the vision and strategy in place, IFC is ready to engage with early adopters to make the vision of a National Impact Investing Marketplace a reality, starting with building a robust model in Colorado.
Gripne, Stephanie L.; Kelley, Joanne; and Merchant, Kathy (2016) “Laying the Groundwork for a National Impact Investing Marketplace,” The Foundation Review: Vol. 8: Iss. 5, Article 8.
The Impact Finance Center is dedicated to catalyzing investments that produce enduring value for the investor, society, and the environment.
Dr. Stephanie Gripne is an academic entrepreneur, impact investor, philanthropic advisor, researcher, educator and the creative force behind the Impact Finance Center and CO Impact Days and Initiative. Stephanie founded the Impact Finance Center in 2012. The Impact Finance Center is a national impact investing think-do tank that produces rigorous and relevant research, education, and develops transactions in the area impact investing.
Doug Johnson is senior advisor at Impact Finance Center and CO Impact Days and Initiative. He is also Chair of Tiger 21, a private group of successful wealth creators who have had a liquidity event and want to be directly involved in their investments.
Nicole Bagley is senior advisor at Impact Finance Center and CO Impact Days and Initiative. An experienced entrepreneur and philanthropist, Ms. Bagley is also President of the Brenn Foundation, which is based in St Simons Island, Georgia.