My journey to impact investing was a long and winding road. Way too long and winding! It wasn’t from lack of interest or effort. But because I had no support – and in some cases deep resistance – from my financial advisors, family, and peers, it took A LOT of effort, and ultimately, acts of defiance to make it happen.
While the environment for impact investing has improved quite a bit since those days, I still hear some version of this story from women every week: yes, they are interested in values-aligned investing, and yes, they are having trouble translating that interest into action because (1) they don’t have support, (2) they don’t know how to get started, and/or (3) they don’t have the time.
For women in particular, the gap between aspiration and action is particularly large. Research shows that women consistently express more interest in values-aligned investing than men. However, their actions do not reflect that interest, which is likely amplified by the fact that women tend to spend less time (and thus have less knowledge) on investing than men in our time-starved world.
Several years ago, a group of advocates and investors collaborated to understand this disconnect and figure out how to surmount it. Thus, Invest for Better was launched in January 2019 as a campaign to revolutionize the impact investing ecosystem by helping women demystify impact investing, take control of their capital, and mobilize their money for good. The campaign includes (1) a visibility/activation campaign which profiles a wide range of women investors, provides educational resources, and invites women to pledge to take small or large action steps; and (2) resources and support for those who launch Invest for Better Circles: small peer-led groups that help women engage in deep learning, and hold each other accountable for moving money into impact.
Carolyn Fine Friedman, a Rachel’s Network member, is part of the Boston Invest for Better Circle. Carolyn’s family office had begun to work with her on identifying impact investing opportunities, and Carolyn wanted to become a more confident investor as well as identify new pipelines for impact investments. “The group gave me a circle of peers outside of my family,” said Carolyn. “It’s been a great way to both have fun learning about impact investing and to discover new investment opportunities. I look forward to continuing to exchange ideas and learning from the group.”
Another member of the Boston group joined when she and her husband were in the midst of selecting investment advisors for their newly liquid wealth and she, while an experienced philanthropist, was a newbie to the world of investing: “After many years of being told what I should do with my assets, and how I should do it, I now realize that I can be in the driver’s seat. A new world of thrilling possibility has opened up to me. I realize I can marry my deep love of nonprofits with profitable companies that are doing a myriad of things to better the world in meaningful and sustainable ways,” she shared about the group. It was through the Invest for Better Circle that she was introduced – by another participant – to an intriguing new health venture start-up which she subsequently invested in. In fact over 60% of the first year’s participants moved their first or additional money into impact and values-aligned investing.
When it comes to my own experience, I honestly wasn’t sure if the circle would help me move any more money around. My trust was almost fully invested for impact already. The family foundation had finally moved our public equity portfolio to an ESG manager, and began looking at private equity and VC funds in alignment with our interests in gender equality and environmental sustainability. But the circle helped me take the initiative to move some of my donor advised fund principle into a number of highly mission-focused investments in my community as well as in the Prime Impact Fund, a vehicle to invest in companies innovating break-through solutions to climate change. I also called my retirement administrator and made sure they added more balanced fund investment options. And, I renewed my debates with my husband about why this approach to investing made sense for all our portfolio!
New circles are starting up all over the country now that the Invest for Better Circle Toolkit has launched. Circles don’t always use the brand name Invest for Better, and their models and participant demographics are variable, but having a community of peers to learn with and hold each other accountable is a model that works for many women, as evidenced by the long term success of Rachel’s Network!
We invite you to check out Invest for Better and see if you are ready to take the first steps or move deeper into the practice of using all your financial capital in service of the values and goals you hold most dearly. While philanthropy plays an essential role in our civic society – be that through organizing and advocacy, education and service, research and innovation – we also know that the sustainability of new solutions usually requires the markets to jump on board. Be part of the movement and take action!
The Toolkit is free for anyone to access, compliments of a title sponsorship by Bank of America and distribution sponsorships by Wetherby Asset Management and Athena Capital Advisors. This article first appeared on the Rachel’s Network Blog.
Ellen Remmer is a recognized leader in the field of strategic philanthropy. She is a Senior Partner at The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI), the nonprofit philanthropic advisory firm that pioneered the field of strategic philanthropy advising and works around the globe to help donors achieve lasting social impact.