Owning Your Investor “Identity”

I’ve been out socializing over the last few months, meeting a variety of new people at work events and friends’ homes. We had some typical “nice-to-meet-you” conversations covering the usual territory: “How do you know the hosts?”…. “Wouldn’t it be nice if there were more snow so we could ski?”…and “What do you do?”

I spoke with one woman about my work with Invest for Better and our mission to inspire and mobilize more women to become impact investors. She was curious and a little confused. For starters, she doesn’t consider herself an investor. This is, unfortunately, a pretty common refrain that I hear. We women are multi-dimensional and consider our identities for the scenarios they’re in when asked. We often identify vocationally: I’m a doctor, a teacher, a senior vice president of marketing for a software company, retired; or we identify by our family position: I’m so-and-so’s mom, I’m so-and-so’s wife, an empty nester. Other identities follow: skier, runner, traveler, foodie, and philanthropist. But investor? Unless she’s an advisor, venture capitalist or other investment professional, that’s a rarity.

To help this new friend to recognize that she is actually an investor (and plant the seed that she can become an impact investor), I started with the basics, something presumably non-offensive or considered private: do you have a bank account? “Yes, of course!” she replied. This makes her an investor and gives her the potential to be an impact investor.

Where we bank has an impact. An op-ed in the New York Times gets to the heart of the matter. The article Want to Do Something About Climate Change? Follow the Money by Lennox Yearwood Jr. and Bill McKibben lists several of our country’s major banks among the world’s largest investors in fossil fuels, citing one example where a bank is financing an oil pipeline that would run from Canada through tribal land in the American Midwest.

That’s not an investment I want to be a part of. That’s why about five years ago my husband and I switched our deposits from a well-known global bank to a regional credit union. This credit union invests in my community (not fossil fuel projects), advocates for financial inclusion, and, as a member, gives me a voice.

Meanwhile, while attending a professional gathering to talk about money and meaning, I had an encounter with a woman who identifies as a philanthropist. She has the track record to prove her impact. Yet, when I told her about Invest for Better, she got very excited. It hadn’t even occurred to her that she could invest for impact. This smart, sophisticated and well-networked woman had believed in a separation that impact pursuits are limited to charity, and in turn, never identified as an investor.

As we begin to identify as investors, I encourage us all to consider our values and the impact we want to have. In a role-reversal over lunch with a friend (we discussed multiple identities during that hour: entrepreneur, mom, and investor), she brought up impact investing. She wanted me to know that over her husband’s objections, they moved their investments to a new asset manager who invests with a social impact lens, and that they’d over performed their prior performance. Hooray! I’ve seen it for myself. My husband remains content to invest more conventionally. Me? I have been the one educating my advisor on impact and socially responsible funds. I enjoy outperforming my husband, quarter after quarter.

For women to become impact investors, we first need to identify as investors. Then we can follow the action steps recommended by Invest for Better. As an investor, we have a responsibility to know what we own. Once we have a handle on our investments we can decide which are in keeping with our values and make changes accordingly. For those with more capital to potentially invest, educate ourselves. I participated in a Women Angels in Training Experiential Investment Workshop led by the Northern New England Women’s Investor Network, a powerful and talented group of women who identify as investors. And talk to someone you trust, whether that’s your partner or your financial advisor or another female investor. Consider launching or joining an Invest for Better Circle with a group of women in your community. It’s by educating each other that we’ll be able to move money toward solving some of the more daunting challenges of our times.

Circling Back: Invest For Better, One Year Later

One year ago, we launched Invest for Better, a nonprofit campaign aimed at helping women demystify impact investing, take control of their capital, and mobilize their money for good. A year later, we’re seeing great success with women creating positive social change and taking a lead in developing the impact investing field at large. I recently had the chance to talk with Jen Jope, Editor-in-Chief at Giving Compass about Invest for Better’s first year and what is coming next. For more, read the blog post below.

-Ellen Remmer

This post originally appeared on the Giving Compass blog (Jan 9, 2020). Authored by Jen Jope.

Women nationwide are joining forces to become savvy impact investors: Learning together, moving money toward social change, and seizing opportunities to go beyond traditional philanthropy.

And you can join them.

Launched in January 2019, Invest for Better brings together a library of women’s personal impact investing stories and a broad list of resources, including simple action steps and tips for choosing a financial advisor, to help women begin their journey. The goal is to demystify the traditionally male-dominated field of investing and empower women to make decisions about their wealth that are aligned with their values.

“It’s going to behoove us all to get savvier so we understand what is really impactful and what isn’t,” said Ellen Remmer, senior partner at The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI), which oversees Invest for Better. “Women who are already active in philanthropy are the perfect audience to start taking up the mantle of impact investing.”

Invest for Better Circles

According to research by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, high net worth men and women have nearly the same level of awareness about impact investing, but women are more likely to want to learn about it.

Invest for Better circles — inspired by the success and popularity of giving circles — are intended to help grow this knowledge by convening small groups of women committed to learning together, taking action, and increasing their impact through investing.

The circles typically last 12 months and are comprised of women with varied levels of knowledge. Some members have investing backgrounds, but lack a community of women or an understanding of a given impact area. Other participants may have experience in philanthropy, but want to build their personal investing knowledge beyond their work with a financial advisor.

“[I want] people to realize that they don’t have to be experts to actually host a circle,” Remmer said. “It’s building that community and you can bring experts in.”

A toolkit provides a roadmap for women who want to launch and manage Invest for Better circles. A year into the initiative, there are Invest for Better circles in San Francisco, Boston, Colorado, Houston, New York and even Johannesburg, with more to come. While they share the goal of educating and inspiring participants to move investment assets into impact, some circles focus on addressing local issues, while others aim to address global challenges.

Over the last year, Remmer said interest has grown among circle participants in using donor-advised funds (DAFs) for impact investing. For women who may not be ready to use their personal investment portfolio yet, a tax-advantaged DAF can act as a tool for experimentation.

“We’re seeing that the DAF sponsors are trying to be more responsive and recognizing that putting the money to work while it’s sitting in a DAF is appealing to a lot of DAF holders,” Remmer said.

While some of the Invest for Better circles are informally investing together, the intention of most is to help women activate their personal investing based on their goals and interests and feel confident doing so.

Is It Working?

The initial Invest for Better circles have been successful. According to a survey of Invest for Better circle participants, 80 percent said they started asking questions and talking about impact investing with their family, friends, and advisors; 60 percent said they moved money. Approximately half of the members in one circle reported they wanted to continue past the one-year mark, which Invest for Better helped facilitate.

“I’m really looking forward to building a community of these Invest for Better circles and catalyzing more circles and connecting them and supporting them,” Remmer said.

Next, Remmer is working on a new tool for women seeking to amplify their philanthropic impact through investing and to “help people think through how their role as investors relates to their role as philanthropists.”

“So many women — I know this from my philanthropy advising practice — don’t really appreciate that their opportunity to shape social and environmental issues through investing is immense,” Remmer said. “It really would give them a lot of power beyond their philanthropy.”

Funding Solutions for the Environment: Q&A with Angel Investor Annarie Lyles

Annarie Lyles got started in impact investing after a midlife crisis. In 2010, overwhelmed by news about environmental issues like climate change and the sixth extinction, she knew she had to do something.

That crisis compelled Annarie to join Rachel’s Network and to experiment with seeding investments in hopeful, early stage companies that prevent pollution and disease, improve energy efficiency, and aid agricultural sustainability. Today, she also serves on the boards of Rachel’s Network, As You Sow, and a local land stewardship organization, as well as leading the governance council of a family enterprise involved in water and environmental contracting.

We asked Annarie what she’s learned during her years as an impact investor.

You’ve been involved in several funder/investor networks like Social Venture Circle (formerly Investor’s Circle) and Rachel’s Network. Why do you think it’s important for funders to work together?

Environmental and social problems are wickedly hard to solve and it’s hard to predict what will work years from now, so I have tried to create a portfolio of bets. Dividing resources across a portfolio, for most of us, means we need to co-fund. Thus, impact making is a team sport. Flocking with people that share passions is downright fun and sustaining during spells of funder fatigue, which are almost inevitable during the years it takes to make change or grow a business.

Investing for impact can be risky, and even riskier for those who don’t know what they are doing. Groups like Social Venture Circle and Rachel’s Network offer educational programming; some have professional sponsors that can bring legal, accounting or other advice to the table.  More experienced group members frequently mentor newer ones.

Funder groups also pool diverse expertise for due diligence, notice different issues, divvy-up time-consuming tasks, and help their members invest with more discipline and success. When investors team up, they spare entrepreneurs from repeating due-diligence with each potential investor. This helps founders because time is one of the scarcest start-up resources.

Anonymity is an additional impetus to invest with others. Only a fraction of ventures that seek capital actually get funded. Requests for help from needy entrepreneurs can feel overwhelming. Organized investor groups have processes to accept and screen applications. Members can easily refer interesting deals. Pitches are to the group and, up to the time they write a check, individual members may choose whether to identify themselves. During due-diligence and negotiations, it can be helpful to channel tough and awkward conversations through a less-personal team. After all, most seed-investors don’t want to start out as the “bad guy” in a relationship that could well last a decade.

Do you approach grantmaking and investing differently?

Like effective philanthropists, impact investors often have a problem they want to solve. They support entrepreneurs who intend to generate beneficial outcomes, in addition to jobs and profits. Because seed-investing is high-risk, angel investors typically aim to build a portfolio of at least a dozen deals. They need to be long-term thinkers, willing to wait patiently, perhaps a decade, for financial returns. Fortunately, the psychic returns of positive impact tend to start flowing almost immediately!

What criteria do you use to evaluate a potential project?

This is a topic worthy of whole books and courses! I only look at projects that fit my investment focus on “healthy living systems.” After that, one typically wants to see a great jockey on a good horse, in other words, an excellent team of entrepreneurs with a great idea. Also, I like to co-invest with a trusted colleague who will get involved at the board level, or get involved myself.

You served as president of Investors’ Circle Philadelphia for three years. What did you learn from that experience?

Even though our group might deploy several million dollars in a year, we seldom had the resources to be the sole or lead investor. We needed to network with other investor groups. It is a joy to learn from each other and from the entrepreneurs we try to help.

Rachel’s Network, an organization you serve as a board member, recently divested its reserve fund from fossil fuels. How did that come about?

Rachel’s Network ran webinars and learning circles around impact investing in the 2000s, before this was a big “thing.” Some members helped found the Divest-Invest movement or have100% aligned their foundation investments. Members expressed interest in moving away from dirty banks and funds, at the very least. In 2015, when the organization refreshed its vision, there was a mandate to think more broadly about impact investing.

Rachel’s Network has, through prudent management, built up a modest reserve fund. We first tried moving some of the organizations’ reserves into a fund of public equities that were screened for sustainability. However, the management fees were high and there weren’t attractive fixed income (cash) products. We started looking for other options and eventually decided to partner with Amalgamated’s Aria Funds, which are fossil-free and screen on issues such as inclusion and gender equity. The process of shifting was super interesting in a couple ways:

  • Few environmental nonprofits seem to be making this sort of mission-aligned investing shift, perhaps because ideas of what it means to be a financial steward are polarized. Does fiduciary duty mean all assets should be deployed in the service of the mission, including as an activist impact investor, or does prudence mean incurring the lowest fees and highest returns?
  • Available investment products for tax-exempt organizations seem mostly aimed at communities of faith. Although environmental groups may not like sin-stocks and bonds, such as guns and tobacco, our focus is on the more globally existential issues of climate change, pollution, and extinctions.

What projects/initiatives are you most excited about right now?

Increasingly, business owners are aspiring to be more of a force for good, and there is a movement to think about stakeholder value rather than narrow investor interests. It is inspiring to to spend time with entrepreneurs via Social Venture Circle. who are trying to design businesses for the greater good,

I’m enamored with the work of groups like As You Sow, which organizes shareholders and fund-holders to help them understand what they own, vote their shares, and engage via shareholder resolutions. When a big business changes a practice, like shifting away from irresponsible use of antibiotics in meat production (a project Rachel’s Network co-funded with As You Sow), it can be tremendously impactful! And, it is fun to engage in one’s rights as an owner.

What advice would you offer to those just getting started in impact investing?

First, take baby steps! Test the waters by moving a small portion of your funds, say 1%. For example, opening an account with a discount brokerage and buying a little bit of stock yourself, is a terrific way to learn.

Second, join a group that shares your interest. Third, find a financial advisor that “gets” you. Or point your current advisor to helpful tools like Invest Your Values by As You Sow –  financial advisors work for you and by helping to educate them, you can will make ripples that will help other clients.

Women’s Wealth Can Change the World

Money has power. Capital flows reflect our values, whether we admit it or not. Our priorities for money create our society. Many of us recognize this at the macro level, but we don’t think of the role we play as individuals, nor do we think our financial lives have any impact on the larger dynamics at play. But they do. Collectively, women have a tremendous opportunity to shift our societal norms. Consider the #MeToo movement. We can also shift our thinking about money. And in that shift, we have the potential to change the values that underpin our economy and our society.

For centuries both money and power have been in the hands of men. Men earn more money than women; men have more net worth. Last year almost 98% of venture capital in the United States went to men, meaning that female entrepreneurs received only 2.2% of investments.1 It is not surprising that money supports the things men value. That is why many of the things women care about — our communities, women’s health care, products that meet our needs — often get short shrift.

The systems have been stacked against us. They have been made to disempower women and their money, and one result is that we lack confidence in our ability to invest and grow our wealth. Only 9% of women believe that they are more capable than men when it comes to investing, though research shows that when women do invest, they outperform men2. Managing and investing our money seems so overwhelming that it is often the least favored item on our “To Do” list. The majority of us hand that responsibility to the men in our lives, without a second thought. Although women influence 83% consumer spending and make the money management decisions in our homes3, only 13% of us are responsible for long-term investment decisions.4 When we hand over the control of our money, we are perpetuating the system. We are giving up our stewardship, our power, and our potential for change.

As most of us aren’t involved with our money, we don’t often think about impact it has in the world. The choices you make — or don’t — to spend, save, and invest your money have an impact. Does it align with who you are? Is it in service of the things you care about and the things you want to foster in the world? Or is it in service of the very things that you complain about and worry over?

When we don’t take an interest in our money, we don’t have any idea what it supports.

A growing group of women imagine a different path. They believe that if women were empowered, confident investors who knew about the opportunities to invest their money purposefully, more money would be invested in local communities, other women, socially conscious businesses, and the planet.

Do you know the impact of your investments today? Is your money in alignment with your values? If your answer is “I don’t know” or “No”, then it’s time to take action.

The Good News

Today, women have discretionary control over 50% of the money in the United States, whether they act on it or not. That percentage is expected to go up to 65% by 2030.5 In addition to the increase in women’s wealth, the death of the Baby Boom Generation will lead to one of the greatest transfers of wealth in U.S. history, with $36 trillion expected to be transitioned to the next generation of men and women in the coming decades.6 That is an amazing opportunity for conscious female investors.

The number of female financial experts is also increasing. Many of these leaders understand the need for a different relationship between women and our money. Sites like Ellevest, personal finance bloggers, and financial advisors are working hard to help women build their financial acumen. These pioneers encourage women to learn about investing and support women in building wealth. They are helping women bridge the confidence gap, overcome long-held taboos about talking about money, and reclaim their financial agency — and we applaud them.

There is now an opportunity to take the conversation farther to support women in aligning their money and their values. Currently, too many female-focused advisors are recommending traditional investment strategies and financial products that are designed to optimize financial return regardless of social cost. This strategy does not align with many women’s values. It does not serve our communities and our planet. We need better options.

Morgan Stanley reports that 84% of women and 86% of millennials want more from their money.7 We are demanding BOTH a social and a financial return. We want to direct our dollars toward a future of prosperity, inclusivity, and sustainability. We want to see our children, our communities, and our planet flourish. We want our lives to matter, and we want the ways that we show up to be in support of our values. We want to walk our talk.

Thankfully, there is an answer. Over the past 20 years, a socially responsible investment approach has been evolving. Innovators have used their money to experiment, build, and test new financial instruments, proving that it is possible achieve both a financial and a social return. Though the sector was primarily developed by high net wealth individuals, institutional investors, and foundations, the rest of us can join the movement. At the end of 2017, more than 25% of total assets under professional management in the United States were invested in sustainable, responsible, and impact investing (SRI) assets.8 This type of investing is becoming mainstream across many asset classes and available to all investors (accredited and unaccredited).

Call to Action

Conversations about women, money, and values need to be one conversation. As women take their place at the financial table, they need to build a new table crafted for them: one that provides financial education and supports the alignment of money and values. Demand for this financial alignment has already started and will grow in the months and years to come. This is a movement. It is a monumental shift in thinking about the possibility of money. The time is now, and women are poised to lead.

Join us and become part of the movement.

This article first appeared in Medium.

1. https://techcrunch.com/2018/11/04/female-founders-have-brought-in-just-2-2-of-us-vc-this-year-yes-again/

2. https://www.fidelity.com/about-fidelity/individual-investing/better-investor-men-or-women

3. http://www.genderleadershipgroup.com/the-inclusionary-leadership-blog/210

4. https://archive.investforbetter.org/

5. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/careers/leadership/article-will-the-transfer-of-wealth-to-women-take-sustainable-investing/

6. Havens and Schervish. A Golden Age of Philanthropy Still Beckons. 2014.

7. Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing. Sustainable Signals: New Data from the Individual Investor. 2017.

8. US SIF Foundation. Report on Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends. October 2018. https://www.ussif.org/trends

Invest for Better: A Campaign to Help Women Invest for Social and Environmental Good

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.

1-2-3 Start an Invest for Better Circle with Our New Toolkit

Are you looking for a support system to help kick start your journey to impact investing? Are you ready to dive deep into the learning process and better understand how you can invest for good across any asset class? Do you prefer to work in a circle of support that is comprised of all women?

Around the country, small groups of women have been coming together over the last year to learn about values-aligned and impact investing and how they can begin or do more of it. In Boston, one group of women calls themselves an Invest for Better Circle. In San Francisco, there is a Values-Aligned Investing Club. The name doesn’t matter as much as the fact that these women have found a community to help them confidently and purposefully activate more of their capital toward the social and environmental causes they care about – and get the financial return they seek.

Today we are delighted to be publishing the Invest for Better Circle Toolkit, a downloadable resource to help individuals and organizations launch their own circles/clubs/communities of women who want to learn more about values-aligned and impact investing options and are committed to purposefully moving their money. The Toolkit provides a curriculum for six sessions (with ideas for additional sessions), including sample agendas, readings, and worksheets. While the Toolkit was developed as part of the Invest for Better campaign and aimed at bridging the “aspiration gap” between women’s overwhelming interest in impact investing and their actual behavior, its curricula and resources are applicable to any community of aspiring impact investors.

The results of the first Invest for Better Circles are highly promising. Eighty percent of respondents said they are asking more questions of their financial advisors as well as talking more about impact investing with others. Sixty percent made one or more new investments and 50% shifted more resources into impact investing over the 12-month period of the Circle.

“After many years of being told what I should do with my assets, and how I should do it, I now realize I can be in the driver’s seat! A new world of thrilling possibility has opened up to me. I can marry my deep love of non-profits with profitable companies which are doing a myriad of things to better the world in meaningful and sustainable ways,” said one participant.

Volunteers are starting or exploring Circles around the country and beyond, including in San Francisco, Boulder, Dallas, Chicago, Washington D.C., New York, Rhode Island, Maine, Scotland, and the Caribbean. We hope this new resource helps spawn the creation of many more. Our vision is to create a community of practice among the groups around the country, beginning with a webinar happening this fall, which will include leaders from existing Circles. Please stay tuned for more details.

If you are interested in starting or joining an Invest for Better Circle, please contact us.

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.

Why More Women Should Invest for Better

It was the hook that drew me into the arena of impact investing. I first heard about the concept of gender-lens investing from the innovative people at Criterion Institute 10 years ago. Immediately, I thought, “this is for me.” From there, I became a donor and a cheerleader for Criterion Institute and their cause of creating a new investing viewfinder that would lift up women, and improve the world.

Like the tip of the iceberg, this epiphany revealed a whole new world beneath it. I dove in and have spent the last five years moving as many assets as I could into gender lens and other impact investing products and ecosystems. Thus began my journey into the world of impact investing as I learned to move my capital to create positive social change.

Ten years later, I am delighted and amazed at how much the term and its practice have taken hold and evolved. New products and methods of investing now exist, and the gender-lens focus has spawned new investment movements; investors can now focus on lenses such as racial equity, human rights, environmental sustainability, etc. As the concept of impact investing has evolved, so has my affinity to it.

Now I am proud to wear the banner of an evangelist for impact investing. While I continue to use the gender viewfinder as one of my primary investment themes, I am also focusing my energies on another aspect of gender-lens investing: increasing the participation of impact investing among women investors. In partnership with some incredible field-building partners and impact pioneers like Mission Investor Exchange, Mission Throttle, Case Foundation, and others, The Philanthropic Initiative has launched Invest for Better, an initiative to help women demystify impact investing, take control of their capital, and mobilize their money for good — to gender lens and any other social and environmentally focused purpose.

Our goal is to unlock as much capital, as quickly as possible, from a target market which is expected to control almost 65 percent of financial resources in the U.S. by 2030 — women. Studies overwhelmingly show that women want to invest with purpose; yet less than half of those interested are actually doing so. The reasons why are not entirely clear, but we believe there are a variety of underlying causes for this lack of engagement. For example, women are not spending as much time on investing overall.

As a result women feel less confident or knowledgeable about investing. Moreover, women and men are not aware of the many exciting options available to them and how to get started on impact investing. To help combat these barriers, the Invest for Better initiative seeks to inspire women to engage in impact investing, educate them on how to get started and the options available to them, and activate them to take small and large steps forward. Invest for Better offers educational resources, connections to investor networks, such as Invest for Better Circles, inspirational stories of other women who have taken the journey, and an invitation to pledge to take any one of 11 simple action steps towards investing with impact.

When women fail to recognize the potential of their investments to negatively or positively impact society, not only are they missing an opportunity to exert more influence on the world we live in, but they are also leaving the power to make substantial social change on the table. Invest for Better seeks to help women take that power back and, in the process, bring purpose and meaning to the investing process.

Want to help move the needle on gender equality issues in the workplace? Visit Gender Equality Funds and apply a gender lens to nearly 5,000 of the most commonly-held U.S. mutual funds. Gender Equality Funds enables investors to align their investment with their values. It reveals which mutual funds are investing in the companies that lead the field in terms of gender balance and equality. Investors can easily search the Gender Equality Funds database to see how specific funds are scored, find responsible options that track leading companies in terms of gender equality, and compare financial returns. Sign up here for updates on Gender Equality Funds.

This article first appeared on the As You Sow Blog.

Invest for Better: Women Lead the Way

International philanthropy has consistently been on the leading edge of the movement to use market forces to stimulate sustainable social change. Organizations like the Grameen Bank and KIVA, for example, taught donors the power of providing access to capital to change the statistics of poverty for women and low-income entrepreneurs in far-flung communities, and paved the way for an explosion in micro-credit lending programs. Acumen pioneered the use of philanthropic capital to invest in innovative for-profit enterprises, with the promise of scaled solutions to tough social challenges. It is heartening to see these models, along with many others, are being emulated both domestically and abroad. More recently, interest in mission-related investing with a foundation’s corpus or a donor’s investment portfolio has also been on the rise. Yet as long as both donor and foundation leaders’ interest in impact investing far exceeds their actions, an enormous opportunity gap still exists.

To that end, Invest for Better is adding its unique voice in support of the important work done by leaders such as the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and others who are changing how philanthropists not just think, but act on this front. Invest for Better is an open-source, non-profit initiative focused on helping women seize the power of their investment assets to become more effective change-makers and thereby accelerate and positively shape the mainstreaming of the impact investing ecosystem. We are pleased to collaborate with key founding partners such as Mission Investors ExchangeMission Throttle, and the Case Foundation, as well a Steering Committee of field-building pioneers.

Why women?

First, women continue to control more and more of global personal wealth. Estimates are that women control 40 per cent of global personal wealth today, with that number increasing annually. In the United States, women have already passed the halfway mark in monetary control.
Second, while the vast majority of women report high interest in and support of impact investing, too few are making the proactive decisions that support their values. In fact, too few are taking the time to participate in investment planning and decision-making at all, whether as an individual donor, as part of a family office or as a foundation investment committee member. The number of women on foundation investment committees is so low that benchmark data only reports on the percentage that have at least one woman on their investment committee.

Third, when women do invest, they deliver robust financial returns. Recent studies by Fidelity Charitable and Barclays have shown that individual women investors deliver stronger returns than men, and Bloomberg research suggests that investment committees with strong female membership deliver greater returns as well. Moreover, women who join governing boards and investment committees can deliver a shot of adrenalin to their networking and career arcs, for a mutual win-win.

Women face unique hurdles that may be social and cultural, such as ‘time poverty’ (as coined by Melinda Gates) driven by the multitude of demands on their time, or even personal, such as lack of confidence or interest in the investing process. But we believe that the keys to eliminating these hurdles come down simply to education, experience and connection. That is the gap that Invest for Better aims to close, with free resources, guides, and opportunities to connect to existing national investor networks or an emerging group of Invest for Better Circles which seamlessly encourage both first and subsequent action steps. The initiative profiles dozens of women who have discovered meaning and influence through impact investing, and invites all women and their allies to pledge to take some kind of action, ranging from the simple task of talking to their partner to starting an Invest for Better Circle, to moving their investments.

What’s possible

Even in the few short months since Invest for Better launched, we have come to more fully appreciate how inspiration, education, and activation of women around impact investing can deliver outsized returns for donors, investors and boards. Women participating in our pilot Invest for Better Circles are not only moving money that was passively and traditionally invested by the sole metric of financial returns into high impact enterprises and funds, but they are talking about the possibilities of impact investing with their financial advisors, friends, donor advised fund sponsors and foundation boards. And the ripple effect begins.

Women are stepping up to address global challenges through their purchases, their giving and their votes. We believe that as more women begin to explore and gain confidence in their investment capabilities, a re-energizing and re-awakening of their power to create and guide social change through impact investment will literally increase our communal capacity to change the world for the better.

This article first appeared in Alliance magazine.

What If All Women Invested for Better?

Here’s a radical idea. (Or maybe not.) What if women around the country, of all ages, ethnicities, and income levels, demanded that their assets be invested in a way that didn’t disrespect people, the planet, or their own values?

What if women en masse decided to seize the power they already hold in their savings accounts, retirement accounts, and investment portfolios and use it to make the world better by supporting companies that promote diversity in management, set rigorous sustainability benchmarks, or create products that have positive global impact?

What if women — whose voices have rocked the world through their truth-telling, marching, and advocating — activated their financial resources purposefully? What would be possible?

When women can define how their hard-earned capital is used, entrenched financial systems can change. Say goodbye to our current reality, where fewer women run big companies than men named . When we choose what we invest in, our funds don’t have to include investments in fossil fuel producers or handgun manufacturers.

Most of us have intermediaries who control how our money gets invested, whether it’s our employer’s 401(k) provider, our own financial advisor, or even our own partners or spouses.

It can be hard to talk to your financial advisor about the integrity of your investments. The traditional financial advisor ecosystem isn’t geared toward women’s interest in values-based goal setting. Did you know that fire their long-time financial advisors because they want to work with someone who listens to them and who understands their goals? Whoa.

Right now, only control household investment choices. Women tend to be in their investment knowledge than men, and on investing activities than men do. That means to bring up money matters at home, too.

If you’re having two-way, meaningful conversations about your investments with your partner and your advisor, excellent! If not, take a look at this and arm yourself with talking points to fend off pushback and make your case.

But despite all that, I’m optimistic we will overcome obstacles like these. Women control , and I think a sea change is on the horizon. According to the Boston Consulting Group, between 2010 and 2015, private wealth held by women globally . By 2020, we are expected to hold $72 trillion, 32% of the total. And most of the private wealth that changes hands in the coming decades is likely to go to women.

So if enough women decide to invest with purpose, we have a shot at actually transforming the capital markets. At accelerating the movement to a financial system based increasingly on long-term global sustainability rather than a single-minded focus on short-term shareholder profit. At pivoting markets to not only do less harm, but also to address tough local and global challenges, like equity, sustainability, and human rights. And those women would inspire their partners, their children, and their friends.

What if all women invested for better? What if you invested for better?


This article first appeared in Ellevest Magazine.

Here We Go

We began with a simple question

Could an intentional and strategic focus on women be pivotal to accelerating the growth of the impact investing ecosystem and help to ensure that it is inclusive and transformational? The answer, we believe, is yes. Research shows that women are overwhelmingly interested in investing according to their values, yet only 40% of women have integrated sustainability into even a portion of their investments and many fewer have made impact investments.  The time to change that is now. Women are controlling more and more of the world’s wealth. They are speaking up and strengthening their impact on issues that matter. Women can further amplify this collective voice, and find personal fulfillment and agency, through purposeful investing. In so doing, they will lead the way in developing the field at large.

So what is Invest for Better?

In the 2018 Road Map for the Future of Impact Investing, the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) called for the field to “launch a broad, global campaign to reshape mindsets about the role of capital in society.” Invest for Better responds to that call for action. We aim to make it easier for women to do what they want to do—invest with purpose—by addressing their need for information, inspiration, community, and support. Our national visibility and activation campaign shares moving stories of all kinds of women impact investors, curates some of the best learning resources, connects women to like-minded communities, and invites them to take a range of simple action steps. We have launched the first Invest for Better Circles—small, peer-to-peer learning and activation groups—and will provide a toolkit and support to others who want to start circles around the country. Please have a look around the site to learn more.

Who are we?

The Invest for Better campaign was created through the collaborative efforts of dozens of women investors, donors, and field leaders. I became a passionate champion for helping women activate their capital for better after my own personal journey along that path. As a result, I feel connected to my assets in a very personal and powerful way. It’s not just about what they are doing for me, but how they are shaping the world I want to live in and leave for my children.

We are a non-profit, non-transactional, open-source initiative, housed at The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI), and overseen by a phenomenal Steering Committee.  We do this because we are passionate about the impact investing movement’s potential to produce transformational change in our society and believe that women can and should lead the way.

Join us! 

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