Catalytic Capital | May 6, 2024

Foundation Playbook: Leading endowments seek to model seek diversity, equity and mission alignment

Dennis Price

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ImpactAlpha Editor

Dennis Price

“There has never been a more crucial moment to bring together the leading impact investors into one city and one room,” Matt Onek of Mission Investors Exchange declares in a curtain-raiser for this week’s MIE National Conference in Los Angeles.

On stage, the Who’s Who of foundation asset owners and their partners will share how they are incorporating racial equity in their investment management, building climate-resilient communities, catalyzing private capital and – slowly – aligning their philanthropic endowments with their philanthropic missions. On the sidelines, conversations at private dinners and after-parties will take up campus protests, threats to democracy and ways to counter the backlash against ESG and DEI.

“MIE is dedicated to empowering our members to deploy more capital for social and environmental good,” Onek writes.


As the conference media partner, ImpactAlpha has compiled a briefing package and conversation-starter.

ImpactAlpha partnered with MIE to highlight how the chief executives, chief investment officers and directors of leading foundations and family offices are shifting billions into climate, racial equity and impact investments across their portfolios.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Zoila Jennings advocates for “Changing how capital flows through communities to improve health.” California Wellness Foundation’s Rochelle Witharana explains how “Investment manager diversity matters when investing for health equity.”

Kresge Foundation’s Erika Brice makes “The brilliant case for impact investing in America’s HBCUs.

Builders Vision’s Bruce McNamer lays out “The climate transition and investment opportunities for family offices.”

Essma Bengabsia describes how Annie E. Casey Foundation is “Addressing the broken child care system with impact investments.” And Cynthia Muller of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation shares “Lessons from the Kellogg Foundation’s $310 million in mission-driven investments.

All of these posts are outside of our paywall, so share away.

AI and impact investing

Omidyar Network, Ford Foundation and Nathan Cummings Foundation recently took small stakes in Anthropic, a competitor to OpenAI. New AI tools must be scrubbed of implicit (and explicit) racial and gender biases. In coming weeks, shareholders of Alphabet (Google) and Meta (Facebook) will vote on proposals around disinformation and artificial intelligence. And some impact investors are cutting against the doomer narrative with bets on AI to upskill workers and pave the path to good jobs.

ImpactAlpha’s David Bank will lead a discussion on “The intersection of impact investing and artificial intelligence,” with Ford Foundation’s Margot Brandenburg, Illumen Capital’s Daryn Dodson, Arjan Schütte of Core Innovation Capital and Gaurab Bansal of Responsible Innovation Labs, at the Mission Investors Exchange conference, Wednesday at 1:45 PT

Leadership moment

On the main stage will be La June Montgomery Tabron of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, John Palfrey of MacArthur Foundation, Tonya Allen of McKnight Foundation and Nicole Taylor of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, among other foundation leaders. Expect to see Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, along with Mellody Hobson of Ariel Investments and Jay Brown of Roc Nation and Marcy Venture Partners.

Ford Foundation’s Roy Swan will interview filmmaker Ava DuVernay, whose latest film, “Origin,” was produced with investments from Ford Foundation as well as Melinda French Gates, Laurene Powell Jobs, and others, modeling a new wave of impact investing in film (for context, see “Shutdown of Participant challenges other investors to drive impact through film”). Read Onek’s full preview.