WTF? Invest in Women and BIPOC Founders, now.

A cartoon of a man sitting a top a huge mountain of Cheerios, while two women look at their three little Cheerios. One woman is looking at the man with the thought bubble "WTF?"
Original Cartoon by Liza Donnelly

As published on LinkedIn on June 15th, 2021.

Welcome to SheInvests Newsletter #10.

WTF? In our family it means, what the fudge? That said, the other meaning is appropriate too. Really appropriate. The above drawing, courtesy of my ongoing collaboration with the incredible Liza Donnelly, shows the percentage of venture capital dollars, represented by Cheerios, going to male founders versus female founders. I wrote about these numbers and what it means in great detail in SheInvests #3, the now infamous Cheerios piece. This month, I asked Liza to draw what I talked about in that piece, and with your help, we want to make this image ubiquitous. The image above represents the gross inequity of capital flowing to women, especially women of color, and it is time that we fully acknowledge the far-ranging effects of biased capital, and more importantly, do something about it.

The ‘something’ I am specifically championing is to invest in early-stage private equity funds started by women and BIPOC* founders. And if you are reading this and are thinking, “This article is not for me because I don’t have enough money to invest in funds”, I urge you to keep reading. Funds are successful because the companies they invest in are successful, and that happens when we purchase or advocate for the purchase of the products and services of the funded companies. This means we all have a role to play in democratizing access to capital. We all have the power, through our investing, spending, giving, and advocacy, to shift the financial and economic outcomes for ourselves and for others. In fact, that is what we are doing all day, every day, without even knowing it.

If you already read the Cheerios article, thank you. But if you haven’t, let me briefly catch you up. That newsletter was inspired by the latest data that showed that the most women founders have ever received in a given year was just 2.8% of all venture capital dollars. For Black and Latina founders, that percentage was 0.2%. Put another way, male founders received 97.2% of venture capital dollars. It has been argued that women are less likely to start the types of businesses that attract VC capital, blah blah blah… But even if that is partially true, it is not 97.2% true. Furthermore, as an active angel investor myself, as well as an active early-stage fund investor, I know that the deal flow is robust from women and BIPOC founders. It just is.

A photo of a pile of Cheerios on a counter. Three Cheerios are separated for women, a small pile of crumbs is separated for WOC, and the rest are for men.

This is all incredibly important, because when businesses receive an influx of capital, they generally hire people, often including equity as part of the compensation. This grows the wealth of not only the founders, but those they hire as well. And given that Black and brown founders are more likely to hire Black and brown employees, that wealth is passed on. It is the wealth effect that has served white men forever. But to change the output, you need to change the input. Of course, this is the point in the paragraph where something in me wants to type – yes there are wonderful white men who get money and instinctively care about diversifying their employee base and their board, but the numbers also say that most do not. In this world we live in, we give way too much credit for good intentions, especially as it relates to diversity and inclusion. That’s why I am advocating for following the money trail to better understand commitment to values, not just words.

Another highlight from my Cheerios piece that is worth pulling in here are the numbers related to who makes the decisions regarding where those VC dollars go:

  • 5.6% of all VC firms in the US are women-led, and only 2.1% of VC firms are founded by a woman of color.
  • 4.9% of all VC partners in the US are women, and only 2.4% of all VC partners are Founding female partners.
  • 73% of all women-led VC firms were founded in the last 5 years (since 2015).
  • 23% of women-led firms are currently raising their first fund, and 44% are deploying Fund I.
  • 90% of all women-led funds are considered emerging managers.

Why does this matter SO SO SO much? Because people who share demographics in common, including gender, race, ethnicity, etc., are more likely to invest in people who share those same demographics. If we want to broaden who gets the capital, we simply have to broaden who makes the decisions about where that capital goes. For example, do you watch Shark Tank? I do, a lot, and I both love it and absolutely hate it for a lot of reasons that could probably fill a whole other newsletter. But what I specifically want to note is how often the Sharks opt-in, or opt-out, because the businesses are “not in their wheelhouse”, or because they “cannot relate to the business as a ___”. I admit I do not know the actual statistics from the show, but I can guarantee the women sharks are way more likely to fund the women-founded businesses, and vice versa. Additionally, I’m willing to bet that the Black sharks are more likely to fund the Black founders, etc. If someone has data on this, please share. But regardless, if you assume that human nature is human nature, then in order to change who gets the money, you need to change who is allocating it.

This has been my work (with help!) for the past several months; to identify early-stage funds founded by managers (General Partners / GPs) who are women and people of color, with an emphasis on identifying Black women GPs. I believe that as an investor, and a white woman with capital who wants to align my money with a gender and racial impact lens, funding these Black and brown women is the single, most impactful interventions/investments I can make. Let me explain further, building on the above, after giving you a few more statistics.

In this recent (and fantastic!) article by Stephanie Cohn Rupp of Veris Wealth Partners, she cites these statistics as it relates to the financial health of Black American families:

  • Research from the Federal Reserve Bank at St. Louis showed that between 1992 and 2016 college-educated white Americans saw their wealth increase by 96% while college-educated Black Americans saw their wealth fall by 10%.
  • The Brookings Institute found that the net worth of a typical white family in the United States is 10 times greater than the average net worth of a Black family.
  • Only 44% of Black households own their homes compared to 73.7% of white families.

We all need to care about this. Recognizing that people of a certain demographic, in this case, Black Americans, are systematically financially disadvantaged should not immediately result in the “and what about”s? Yes, we also need to care about improving the well-being of all financially disadvantaged people, but we can also focus on one demographic in terms of interventions and solutions. I simply do not believe in a zero-sum game and neither should you. However, just take a moment to notice how often, especially in today’s media, we are being sold this belief. Don’t believe it. If we want to improve the stats above and close the gap by bringing the wellbeing of all Black Americans up, one powerful strategy is to invest in Black Fund Managers, who in turn invest in Black founders, who in turn hire Black employees, which improves the economic well being of Black families, Black communities, and so on.

In-game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which an advantage that is won by one of two sides is lost by the other. If the total gains of the participants are added up, and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero.

Sidebar: I have this habit of seeding future articles in current ones, so let me plant this seed. Philanthropy and charitable dollars, even when combined with progressive policies, will never be enough to bring low-income, low wealth people into a place where they have the conditions to flourish. We all know this, and yet we continue to act like it will. We place too much hope in philanthropy, and I believe wealthy white women do this the most. We do it by focussing the vast majority of our time and money on charitable versus non-charitable activities. I certainly did this for years, which is why now, I am shifting so much attention to aligning my investment capital with my values. It is also why I wrote this piece about Melinda French Gates, Laurene Powell Jobs, and MacKenzie Scott. As I stated at the end of that newsletter, if and when women of the world align their VAST financial and investment resources with the goal of advancing gender and racial equity, things would change so fast our heads would spin. 

Cartoon drawings of Melinda French Gates, Laurene Powell Jobs, and MacKenzie Scott
Original Drawing by Liza Donnelly for SheInvests

But back to the stats and my theory of change for investing in Black and brown women GPs. This is, after all, the SheINVESTS newsletter. So let’s also take a minute to look at this from an investment perspective. When it comes to my own personal investment philosophy, in addition to always thinking about the good my money can do (I am, after all, an impact-driven investor), I also put my investment dollars to work in opportunities that I believe can generate substantial returns. Not because I’m necessarily determined to add to my wealth with these investments (although if that’s one of your goals, that’s awesome too!), but for the following reasons:

  1. Impact will be created at scale when solutions work at scale. Which means that an impact-focused company, like HelloAlice, one of my investments that also happens to be tackling racial disparities in business, will be most effective when it is most successful. And the byproduct of successful businesses (for investors) is a nice return. And, P.S. HelloAlice, whose cofounder Carolyn Rodz is Latina, just raised $21 million in a Series B!
  2. Those nice returns allow me to amplify my impact. When my investments are successful, that increases the amount of capital I can wield for good, whether it’s through philanthropy or more impact investments.

So with that investment philosophy in mind, let’s get back to the topic at hand – investing in Black women. As Gayle Jennings O’Byrne, one of the fund managers I’ve recently invested in (more about Gayle and the WOCstar fund below!) often says, investing in women of color provides “the biggest arbitrage opportunity in venture investing.” Not only do companies led by diverse teams outperform when it comes to higher returns (30% higher by some estimates, in fact), but they are also best positioned to capitalize on changing trends and the growing purchasing power of both women and communities of color. The spending power of multicultural communities is already $3.9T, and is growing rapidly as multicultural populations shift toward the majority. Not to mention the fact that women control 85% of consumer spending. Investors who fail to recognize the importance of these trends are not only missing out on a massive economic opportunity, but an impact one as well.

Furthermore, investing in black women is good business for everyone. A recent reportby Goldman Sachs found that closing the earnings gap for Black women could create up to 1.7 million jobs and raise the annual GDP by $450B. Not to mention all of the other associated benefits that come from economic equity more broadly, including clean energy, better health outcomes, better access to education. Goldman felt so strongly that they created their One Million Black Women Initiative “which will commit $10 billion in direct investment capital and $100 million in philanthropic support to address the dual disproportionate gender and racial biases that Black women have faced for generations which have only been exacerbated by the pandemic”. The bottom line is that investing in Black women represents a massive opportunity to generate BOTH impact and alpha.

As I’ve mentioned in recent newsletters, over the past few months I have been working with Rose Maizner to find and vet funds led by women and women of color. So far, we have made investments in two outstanding funds: the WOCstar Fund led by Gayle and Pialy Aditya, and The 22 Fund led by Tracy Gray. We decided to invest in these funds for a myriad of reasons and one of the challenges we are trying to solve is how to share due diligence efforts to make investing in funds easier. One thing we know for sure, these two women are amazing.

A close of headshot photo of Gayle Jennings O'ByrneWith an impressive background as a tech investor, entrepreneur, and former finance executive, Gayle (pictured to the right) has more than 20 years of experience investing in and supporting the women of color tech ecosystem. During her 17 year tenure with JPMorgan, she had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the space via co-investment, as well as build up an impressive bench of skills that have served her well as an investor, including deep experience with mergers and acquisitions, due diligence, valuation, and contract negotiations.

Close up photo of Tracy GrayAnd then there’s Tracy (pictured to the left), who is an actual rocket scientist, an impact and cleantech/environmental justice investor, and a long-time champion of investing in overlooked and underestimated teams and technologies. She’s also an expert in international business and economic development policy, and, as a Senior Advisor to the Mayor, she helped to lead the City of Los Angeles’s economic recovery efforts post-Recession by creating a widely respected and replicated plan rooted in supporting manufacturing and export-oriented local businesses.

In short, Tracy and Gayle bring decades of experience to the table, and have crafted thoughtful, meaningful investment theses that reflect their unique domain expertise. They both have countless skills t

hat they have developed over the years, all of which are critical to helping founders to not just successfully scale, but to create as much impact and value as possible along the way. And, in addition to the fact that they are both incredibly qualified and experienced fund managers, they have also been leading voices in the effort to challenge and redesign the systems that have perpetuated such staggering inequality when it comes to the allocation of capital, whether it’s helping us to understand the complicity of foundations in widening the wealth gap, or underscoring the importance of investing in Black investors. As Tracy was recently told by a potential institutional investor, she hasn’t spent the past few years just fundraising. She’s spent them educating. Educating investors about the opportunity. About what is really risk and what is actually just bias or assumption. About understanding the difference between impact-washing and lip service and actually championing–and funding–the women who are paving the way towards a more equitable investment landscape.

This Thursday, June 17th, I will be hosting a LinkedIn Live with Tracy and Gayle, where we will be talking about this theory of change and the importance of investing with an intersectional gender lens. We will be discussing how catalyzing capital toward diverse fund managers creates immense social and economic impact, as well as how these opportunities have been shown to generate outstanding financial returns, often outperforming others in their asset class. I hope you will join us at 12PM ET on Thursday, as I know it will be an incredible and illuminating conversation. AND, it will be my very FIRST LinkedIn Live event! If you click through here, you can push the ‘REMIND ME’ button and you will receive a notification when the event goes live.

A promotional poster for the event featuring headshots of Jacki, Gayle, and Tracy

In the past several years, there has been an unprecedented reckoning around gender and racial justice in the United States and the world at large. And yet, even with companies and individuals paying tremendous amounts of lip service to these movements, when it comes to the world of finance, very little has changed, or in some cases, has gotten worse. But that can change, especially when it comes to investment dollars.

So I invite you to take another look at the image at the top of this article. That image should offend you. Well, actually, it should enrage you, but instead of getting angry, let’s just fix this. Because let’s be absolutely clear. We can fix this. Right now. Folks, this is not a zero-sum game world we are living in. I do not believe that, and neither should you.

———————

This article could be so much longer if I more fully referenced all the people and resources I want to, but below are some links to go deeper.

  • Tracy wrote a fantastic article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, that outlines clear action steps for how to support diverse fund managers.
  • GenderSmart recently published a terrific guide, full of tools and resources, for investors looking to support first-time and diverse fund managers. This is a tool you can use, and also give to your investment advisor!
  • The Gender Smart community in partnership with Wharton created Project Sage which tracks Venture Capital, Private Equity, and Private Debt with a Gender Lens. This document contains lists of funds in all these categories!!! Truly a spectacular resource for anyone looking to invest.
  • My racial equity piece (SheInvests #2) has dozens of resources related to investing with a racial lens. I pulled most of them from the GenderSmart community. Thank you!
  • A great article by Stephanie Cohn Rupp of Veris Wealth Partners titled “There is a Strong Business Case for Racial Equity, But Investors Must Look Beyond the Data”
  • As always, my 650 top reports list to support Gender Lens Investing, Giving, and Action. There is not only SO MUCH data embedded in all of these studies but so many strategies as well.
  • Just released research stating that “the U.S. economy lost out on more than $507 billion in economic productivity as the attainment gap between Black and white women has widened since 1960, according to new analysis from S&P Global (NYSE: SPGI)”.

Please feel free to post other resources in the comment section.

*BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

If you have been forwarded this newsletter please subscribe, and also follow my new company, ShePlace by clicking here.

She Invests #2 – Investing for Racial Equity

A photo of an inspirational quote about investing big if you want to change the world in big ways.
A quote I took a picture of at a conference.

As published on LinkedIn for the She Invests monthly newsletter.

Welcome to She Invests, a monthly newsletter on women, money, and investing. This is newsletter #2! If you have not yet seen the first one, please click here, and thank you for reading and sharing. Be sure to subscribe!

Earlier this year, the Wharton Social Impact Initiative and Catalyst at Large published Project Sage 3.0: Tracking Venture Capital, Private Equity, and Private Debt with a Gender Lens. I wrote about this new report at the time of its release, and how it was an important resource for investors who are looking to apply a gender lens to their portfolio. This week, another report was published by Glenmede, titled Gender Lens Investing in Public Markets: It’s More Than Women at the Top. This report looks specifically at the relationship between performance and five dimensions of gender equity: Women in Leadership, Access to Benefits, Pay Equity, Diverse Supply Chains, and Talent and Culture. This new resource was born out of the desire to provide investors with a metric to gauge gender equity at all levels of a company, instead of just evaluating the highest levels of an organization’s leadership.

Both of these reports are part of a growing body of research in the field of gender lens, or gender impact, investing. This research has grown exponentially since the term was first coined over 10 years ago, and the field of gender lens investing as a whole has evolved dramatically during this time as well. So much so, that it’s starting to recognize the limitations of its initial parameters, while providing expanding frameworks for investors wanting to combine impact with return. For one thing, gender exists on a spectrum, and for another, it’s not just gender equity that should be driving investors’ decisions. The past couple of months have witnessed a global reckoning around issues of racial and ethnic justice, and thankfully, we’re seeing this reckoning extend to the financial sector as well. Specifically, more people are calling for equity on many fronts, not just gender.

One such person is the incredible Suzanne Biegel, who was involved in both of the above reports, and is a globally recognized expert in gender lens investing. I have known Suzanne for a long time and proud to call her a friend and mentor. She is also the co-founder of GenderSmart Investing, and recently wrote about the need to incorporate racial equity into the investment sector. To that end, GenderSmart released a list of resources for investors to help us expand our understanding of racial equity as it relates to investing, which you will find below. When people talk about investing, I often hear that they don’t know where to start. My goal with this newsletter is to help you start somewhere. Additionally, this is a place for me to both share and aggregate a collection of reference material that you refer back to as your interests grow.

Thanks again to Suzanne, Darian Rodriguez Heyman, and so many more for putting together such an incredible list.

Articles

Data, Tools and Reports

Community Voices

Investment-Related Organisations and Initiatives Working to Address Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

  • ABFE, The Investment Manager Diversity Pledge – promoting effective and responsive philanthropy in Black communities.
  • Croatan Institute, Racial Equity, Economics, Finance, and Sustainability (REEFS) – an initiative to address structural racism within finance and to integrate racial equity as an explicit factor of analysis and engagement within total portfolio approaches to investing for social impact.
  • Diverse Asset Managers Initiative  – building a vibrant, coordinated effort to change the culture of the financial services industry as it relates to asset managers.
  • Digital Undivided – a social startup that merges data and heart to develop innovative programs and initiatives that catalyzes economic growth in Black and Latinx communities.
  • Diversity VC – working with entrepreneurs, investors, and universities in order to create an industry that is free from bias.
  • Fundright – a VC initiated movement aimed at ensuring a more diverse ecosystem, at both VC level and portfolio company level.
  • Intentional Endowments Network (IEN), Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Working Group – improving endowment investment decision-making in higher education to better incorporate factors related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).
  • Racial Justice Investing  – a group of investors, asset owners, and business leaders who are taking action for racial justice within their own organizations, as well as in their engagements with portfolio companies.
  • The Diversity Project  – a cross-company initiative championing a more inclusive culture within the Savings and Investment profession.
  • Transform Finance – a community of practice for asset owners and other finance practitioners exploring how to deploy capital for social change in accordance with the principles of transformative finance.
  • UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, Midwest Investors Diversity Initiative – a coalition of institutional investors dedicated to increasing racial, ethnic, and gender diversity on corporate boards of companies headquartered in six Midwest states.
  • VC Include   – consulting venture capital and impact fund managers, and assisting multi-asset class allocators to create a more efficient process for investing in Black, LatinX, People of Color (BIPOC) and women-led fund managers.
  • WOCStar – early-stage investment fund focused on tech innovation being brought to market by inclusion teams and women of colour (“WOCSTARS”).

If you want to add your own resources please do so in the comment section.

What does it mean to have IMPACT?

Published on LinkedIn Influencers on September 23, 2013

Statistics reveal that in 2012 over $316 billion was donated to charity in the United States alone. There were 120,810 private foundations in 2010 with assets of $582 billion. Philanthropy is both something we do every day in choosing to help and serve others, and it is a huge business. The business of trying to do good. With non-profit companies continuing to provide increasingly vital services, they rely mostly on the generosity of individual donors, foundations, and other grants, but with over 1.5 million non-profit organizations registered in the United States, simply donating money can be a daunting task filled with overwhelming options. That is why many foundations are increasingly hiring professional staff members to help them be effective. Staffed or not, when we asked many women who are giving at the million dollar level what they were hoping to achieve with their giving the most common answer was this. They wanted IMPACT!

This word has gained so much prominence in the world of philanthropy that Women Moving Millions decided to make it the theme of this year’s Annual Summit in New York City. I have just returned from this Summit, and a three-day journey through The Story of Impact + The Impact of Story, and I literally can’t sleep because my brain cannot stop thinking about everything that was discussed this past week. In particular, participants of the Summit looked at the concept of impact in regards to philanthropy, looking at why people give their time, treasure and talent to help others, and what they hope to achieve through this giving. We were challenged to think about how individually we might be having impact, but also how we might as a collective. Our summit opener was no other than Gloria Steinem who asked us the question “what can we together than cannot be done separately?” Then thankfully she left us with a ‘to do’ list.

When curating this unique summit we did some of our own research on what leaders in philanthropy had to saw about IMPACT but quickly recognized we needed to pull in some outside expertise. We approached the Center For High Impact Philanthropy to see if they could find a definitive definition for the term impact, and whether or not impact could be measured in terms of philanthropy. The result is a report titled What Are We Talking About When We Talk About Impact?, a summary of which can be found here, and this report served as the launching pad for our discussions this past week in New York. Almost 100 leaders in private, corporate and institutional philanthropy were present.

Drawing its information from research, expert opinion, and field experience, this report sets out to examine the many different views of impact in philanthropy, and not surprisingly, the resulting findings reveal that there are currently many different conflicting definitions of impact, as well as the actions and change needed to achieve it. While this report yielded many insights as it studied the many misunderstandings that surround the relationship between action and change, there are a couple that stand out.

One significant insight is the description of the difference between outcomes and impact, as this was the one area where the most commonality could be found among the many different opinions. By examining the publicly available materials of non-profit organizations and foundations, this report discovered that most of these mandates distinguish between the more short term and definitive outcomes, and the more long term and abstract impact when describing their philanthropy goals. Organizations often produce easily measurable outcomes, such as 100 meals served or 50 schools receiving educational materials, but the impact of these outcomes can sometimes take years to manifest. They pointed out how important it is to understand the difference between outcomes and impact, because while donors may want to achieve impact, it is an inherently human trait to respond to the more immediate outcomes. A clear example is the incredible giving that happens after natural disasters. Is responding to that need awesome and makes a huge difference? Yes of course, but what we are talking about here is a both/and. Therefore, when thinking in terms of giving, it is important to always keep the overall impact of the outcomes in mind when deciding where to donate.

Even more importantly, this report reminds us that some of the biggest social changes occur when nothing actually changes, and instead, the charitable works succeed in maintaining the status quo. This is particularly relevant today when considering the work of women’s rights advocates in fighting against the restrictive health care measures that have recently been enacted in many states. Furthermore, the report points out that when outcomes do turn out to be ineffective, this does not necessarily indicate that the action was ineffective, but rather it is often the case that the interests of donors do not necessarily fall in line with the goals of the organizations, thereby creating an unintended barrier to success.

Finally, the report describes how actions that are undertaken with the goal of positive change can sometimes produce negative change instead. Not all impact is positive! This often occurs when philanthropic organizations operate in what is described as a top down manner, meaning that the goals of the donors are pursued without any input from the intended audience or beneficiaries. Alarmingly, this has been found to be particularly true in the philanthropic area of advancing women and girls, where many organizations fail to include female voices in the conversation about how to enact positive change. The report proposes an alternative strategy, described as the bottom up approach to philanthropy (though maybe the better terms are human-rights based, respectful and inclusive, holistic and sustainable), where the designated recipients are included in all levels of planning for the intended action for change. This would result in a more efficient process of giving, and would ensure that all resources are being used to their full potential. People ask me this all the time – “Jacki, as the CEO of an community of 200 women ( and a few good men) that give at the $1 million plus level what is the common feature of their philanthropy or theory of change?” This would be it. Many give and invest with a deep and profound sensitivity to understanding the needs and wants of the people they are hoping to assist and serve. We believe that this approach is absolutely necessary for high IMPACT and is why we are creating a report that illuminates this approach and features the stories of people you are doing this to tremendous impact. (Please contact the Women Moving Millions office for more information on this.)

So what do we gain from these insights? We know that successful philanthropy is so much more than just writing a check, but have we made it too complicated? While it is important to have specific measurements to gauge whether or not our resources are being spent wisely, how do we quantify the long-term social change that we wish to enact? If anything, this report reveals that there will never be a definitive agreed upon definition of impact giving, but the report does leave us with some sound advice. It suggests that before embarking on your own personal journey of impact philanthropy, ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. What is the difference I want to make?
  2. Is this difference meaningful to the intended beneficiaries?
  3. How will I determine if I am moving in the right direction towards making that difference?

By asking yourself these questions, the report predicts that you will engage in a more meaningful and significant dialogue that will hopefully give you the tools needed to achieve your giving goals. Sounds good, right? Let’s take it one step further and allow me to make this personal.

This past week I couldn’t wait to meet Molly Melching, founder of the organization Tostan, who was coming to be speak on the last day of the WMM Summit, and one of the reason for my eagerness was due to a quote I had read from Melinda Gates, one of the most high profile philanthropists in the world. In describing the day she met Molly, Melinda says, “I have not thought the same way about the work I do at the Gates Foundation since that day.” I wondered what it was about Molly that could inspire such a reaction from Melinda Gates, and I couldn’t wait to find out. Molly’s session was this past Saturday and I now know what Melinda meant, as simply listening to this amazing woman and her theory of how to enact change has changed my life. Her theory of change is exactly what this report made reference to.

What they do is have programs that puts rural communities in Africa in charge for their own future. Their approach is human-rights based, respectful and inclusive, holistic and sustainable. The outcomes have been amazing and need to be read to be believed. What was the GAME CHANGER for me was that I so clearly saw how it is the process that is most important and leads to the outcomes. What also became additionally clear to me is how important the leadership of an organization is. In Molly’s case she is both the founder and the leader and thus I can be 100% sure that she is holding her team accountable to implementing that process. If I were to order what I think is important in choosing an organization I would list process or theory of change first, leadership and team second and indicators of success third.

So here are my revised list of questions that I am now going to use when I am in dialogue with organizations about a major gift. (And I define myself as a social change funder.) These questions are numerous, but some key ones for me are: What is the outcome this organization is hoping to achieve? How do they define success and over what time frame? What is their theory of change? Do I understand it? Does it make sense? Do I connect with and trust the leader of the organization to make it happen? Do I feel like they are trying to sell me something or have me buy into something? (hopefully the latter) I often ask them about their failures and what they have learned from them? What is your biggest challenge in doing the work that they do? After asking all of these questions, and absorbing the answers, am I excited to be jumping on board? When I ask them what I can do to help them advance their mission do they give me an honest and clear answer? Please notice that the question “what percentage of revenues go to operating expenses? is NOT ON THAT LIST AND NEVER WILL BE.” As for the gift to Molly I pledged on the spot – “She had me at hello.”

The term impact investing may have only been coined in 2007, but the idea of wanting to make a positive difference in the lives of others in this world is as old as time. Whether you are a multi-million dollar foundation, or a young child about to make your first charitable donation, everyone wants to know that their money will be put to good use. Last year, $316 billion was given in the US with the hope of creating a positive change in this world. I am not suggesting that every $1 you give should come with a million questions, but this does mean that organizations you give your money to should not have great answers to them and be held accountable for delivering against the metrics THEY THEMSELVES suggest are the right ones. Their websites and outreach materials should have clear messaging as it relates to their theories of change, their goals, their success measurement and one of the things we hope to do at Women Moving Millions over time is help to make best practices in capturing that impact available for organizations to learn from each other.

One of the long term IMPACTS of the Federal Reserve continuing to “print money” to feed economic growth is that each dollar will do less for us. Our money is being devalued. Now is the time to think deeply about how our limited resources that flow to incredible organizations doing incredible work might have the greatest impact. Though hard to define let’s trust ourselves to know it when we see it and feel it, and trust in the leadership of organizations with a thoughtful theory of change. Yes, measurement is important, but let’s not confuse what we can measure with an outcome of positive social change. At the end of day giving should give us joy and the science is now saying it does in fact do just that.

PS – I thought our summit was going to be about IMPACT but really it was all about connectedness. Connectedness is what leads to IMPACT. That will be one of my next pieces.

Join us for an ongoing conversation about impact at #WMMimpact and follow us on twitter for updates at @wommovmillions. Also and #impact.