Geographies | March 11, 2020

The three dozen investors putting Chicago on the impact investing map

Dennis Price
ImpactAlpha Editor

Dennis Price

ImpactAlpha, March 11Chicago’s 36 impact investing funds and intermediaries comprise one of impact investing’s most active local ecosystems. Since the 1980’s, the group has made at least $10 billion in impact investments, according to a new survey from Impact Engine. 

Some are becoming household names: Iroquois Valley Farm REIT, Entrepreneurs of Color Fund and S2G Ventures. Half are venture or private equity funds: Mazarine Ventures, Torana Group, True North Venture Partners and more. Others are community investment stalwarts: National Community Investment Fund and Chicago Community Loan Fund

Women-owned Impact Engine itself  has raised two impact funds and backed more than two dozen ventures. “I don’t think most people realize how much is happening here and how strong the momentum is today,” says Impact Engine’s Jessica Droste Yagan. “Chicago was home to some of the earliest impact investors in the form of Community Development Finance Institutions and we continue to see leaders emerge here.” 

San Francisco and New York remain major U.S. hubs of impact investing, but ecosystems are developing in Philadelphia, Oakland, Austin, and Boston and other U.S. cities.

Place-based. Only six investors exclusively invest in the Windy City, including Abundant Venture Partners, Benefit Chicago, Chicago Community Catalyst Fund, Chicago Community Loan Fund, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, Sustainable Local Food Investment Group. Six of the funds focus internationally. Not on the list: private foundations like Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation, which has committed more than $600 million to impact investments since the early ‘80s and raised about $100 million for Benefit Chicago (see, “‘Chicago Model’”)

Upstarts and equities. A dozen Chicago fims began investing with impact in the last four years, including climate-solutions fund Buoyant Ventures, “inclusive” VC Chingona Ventures, and sustainable-food investor Tilia. Three-quarters of the firms measure and report on impact. The five ESG fund managers on the list actively engage management, including Kabouter Management and High Pointe Capital. Public equity managers in the survey represent 51% of capital deployed.