Where It Counts
Jane Gerloff, Ph.D.
Many of us, as individuals, invest strategically
to create change. But can we say the same for the organizations
we donate to?
You can if you have a donor-advised fund
at the Vermont Community Foundation (VCF), says Faith Brown,
its vice president for finance and operations. By mandating
that 5% of its assets be invested in the Vermont communities
it serves, the foundation is leading the way in how community
foundations make their investments. "By investing some of
our assets in Vermont, we're making a conscious effort to
align our investment strategy with our grant making and
our business model, so that we can better serve our mission
of creating healthy, vital Vermont communities," Brown says.
The foundation's Vermont-invested assets
reached $3.3 million by the end of 2004.
Currently, these investments are divided among community
development financial institutions, a community-directed
bond portfolio, and locallybased venture capital investments.
Goals for the Vermont investments program
are more jobs, housing, economic development, and financial
services for low-income Vermonters; a high social return,
as well as a reasoned investment return; current as well
as future impact; and promotion of the program in order
to engage other Vermont institutions.
How have donors reacted to this investment
initiative? "As a mission-based organization, our donors
expect something more of us than they do from a for-profit
investment firm," Brown explains. She adds that donors are
comfortable with the VCF's new direction. The VCF is also
beginning to look at the rest of its investments-the other
95%-as part of an overall plan to make sure its investments
and mission are in alignment. "The way we see it," says
Brown, "taking our mission into account when we decide how
to allocate our investments is simply part of our fiduciary
The VCF has statewide investment opportunities that match
its mission as a statewide community foundation. Other community
foundations might consider targeting community development
differently, based on their own geographic focus.
For more information about the Vermont Community
© 1990-2005, More Than Money, All rights reserved