Ellen Remmer Presents at the 2023 Innovations in International Philanthropy Symposium

At the upcoming Innovations in International Symposium on September 7-8 in Cambridge, Ellen Remmer will be co-leading a session with Steering committee member Kathleen McQuiggan on “Investing with Your Values” and moderating a session on “Practicing Investing to reach the SDG’s” with Andy Behar of As You Sow, Lisa Hayles of Trillium Asset Management and Margot Brandenburg of the Ford Foundation.

As with the previous two events, the Symposium will bring together donors, foundations, companies, and investors who are actively engaged in international philanthropy and seeking to propel forward the capacity and impact of their globally minded work. The past Symposiums supported the growth of strategic and collaborative international philanthropy by offering participants the opportunity to explore trends in philanthropy, gain practical skills and knowledge to increase the levels and impact of their giving across borders, learn from peers, and network with funders actively engaged in supporting international development efforts.

2023 Innovations in International Philanthropy Symposium is co-hosted by the Network of Engaged International Donors (NEID Global) and The Philanthropic Initiative’s Center for Global Philanthropy.

“PRACTICING IMPACT INVESTING: ALIGNING YOUR VALUES AND YOUR INVESTING”

Date:  Friday, September 8, 2023 at 9:05 am ET

There are many ways to leverage capital. How can you deploy all of your financial resources for social good? Learn how to align your values with your investing.

“PRACTICING IMPACT INVESTING: HOW TO USE IMPACT INVESTING TO REACH SDGs”

Date:  Friday, September 8, 2023 at 2:30 pm ET  

 

 

ABOUT INTERNATIONAL PHILANTHROPY SYMPOSIUM

The 2023 Innovations in International Philanthropy Symposium is organized and co-hosted by Network of Engaged International Donors (NEID Global) and The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI). Jointly NEID Global and TPI offer a long tradition of philanthropic advising and a vibrant funder network to support the creation and design of the Symposium.

ABOUT NETWORK OF ENGAGED INTERNATIONAL DONOR (NEID GLOBAL)

The Network of Engaged International Donors (NEID Global) is a unique peer-to-peer learning network based in Boston that serves a community of passionate & dedicated international philanthropists across the world. For over 10 years NEID Global has been creating community among internationally focused donors to help address the world’s big problems. At NEID Global we start with humility. Through strategic networking, educational opportunities, and information sharing we strive for transformational social change. NEID Global members foster equitable partnerships, learn from each other, connect deeply with one another, inspire each other, and act together to build a world where everyone can thrive.

ABOUT PHILANTHROPIC INITIATIVE’S CENTER FOR GLOBAL PHILANTHROPY

The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) is a philanthropic consulting group whose mission is to promote effective giving and improve the practice of philanthropy around the globe by helping individuals, families, foundations, and companies increase the impact of their giving. For nearly 30 years, TPI has worked with hundreds of donors, foundations, and corporations, has directed more than $1 billion in giving, and has influenced billions more. In 2010, TPI established its Center for Global Philanthropy with a mission to promote and increase effective international philanthropy that strengthens local organizations and positively transforms lives and communities around the globe.

 

Choosing an Impact Investing Advisor: A Conversation with Two Investors

At an Invest for Better Circle meeting in Boston, the question emerged: “Is the role of the advisor to lead or follow you?”  Circle members Amy Brakeman and Maria Jobin-Leeds had a lot to say on this topic, so Ellen Remmer, co-founder of Invest for Better, asked them for an in-depth interview to dig deeper. 

As you’ll read, their responses indicate an evolution in thinking and experience over time. 

ELLEN: You’ve both been at this business of investing for good for a while. When you were first looking for impact investing advisors, what qualities were you looking for?  

MARIA: It was 20 years ago when we first came into this money and I really had no experience. Luckily, we had some time to be methodical about it. I was looking for someone who would look at me (as a woman), be kind to me; who I would feel safe and respected by. I was looking for someone local, who I could have a relationship with. And we were looking for someone who would do good with the money; I think we called it SRI back then. 

We interviewed 4 teams; all of whom were either led by or included females. One guy, however, never looked in my eyes; so he lost the job in 5 seconds. The choice we made included an all female team, including a leader who took a lot of guff when she pushed SRI so many years ago and I really wanted to support her. I continue to adore them and find them respectful, values-centered and welcoming. Later, after the 2008 market crash, we added another research-driven advisor to work with the Foundation, and were happy that the staff included two progressive people of color.

AMY: For me, the money was and wasn’t sudden. My husband was a professional money manager and, in the beginning, we used to talk about all of our investments. As time went by, I got more focused on philanthropy.  When we got divorced, I suddenly had cash that needed to be invested. In looking for an advisor, I didn’t care about geography but they had to be in the top quartile of impact investing advisors; and not just doing ESG in public markets. I care about deeper impact through all asset classes and across all pockets of assets. I didn’t want anybody affiliated with a big bank or who sold product. Given this frame, I mainly found small shops which can be vulnerable to having their business model work so there can be turnover of individual advisors and mergers. It felt like a high stakes decision that couldn’t switch if it turned out wrong – which I’ve learned is not true. I prioritize what my network recommends and I kept hearing about a few advisors from folks in the Toniic and Gratitude Railroad LINK networks. It was at one of those meetings that I ran into both finalists and decided to go with the one that I thought I could have more of a personal relationship with. My lead advisor is excellent; someone who is super connected and committed, who can blend investing and philanthropy.

ELLEN: Now that you’ve been at it for a while, have your views changed on the qualities that you want in your impact investing advisors? 

MARIA: I’m a different person 20 years later. I have more confidence and gender isn’t as important to me. As I keep my eyes open for additional advisors, I have people on the list who aren’t local but I still want a relationship and see them face-to-face. I will press them more on the specifics, their definition of impact and their metrics – which I couldn’t have done initially. At that time I was more focused on finding someone who could make me competent enough to give direction! 

Here’s an example of how I have changed and this informs my thinking about what I would want in an advisor. I remember getting into a 1 hour discussion with one of my advisors who didn’t think that I should put more into CDFI’s because of the impact on my asset allocation. I was practically in tears, because I wanted to put money at the local level in the hands of people of color, but realized that my advisor had been trained for years with this mindset and I was bumping up against it. After a few days, I decided to do it anyway.  

AMY: In the first few years, my advisors led me, which is what I wanted. I wanted them to help me shift quickly from cash to a diversified impact portfolio. I would add a few investments from my networks in Africa and work on education to employment. So all was going well generally. However, I noticed that the private funds and direct deals I added to the pipeline would get stuck in due diligence. 

During Spring 2020, when I noticed the COVID-related health disparity outcomes along racial lines, I started being far more assertive in my investing. As I sourced and wanted to proceed with funds led by Underrepresented People of Color who were launching new funds or ventures, I was often told “Wait until Fund II.” At this point, I dove in to lead and approve selected private investments. Interestingly after my decision to invest in specific funds, other investors at the same advisor would invest also.

In 2021, I have also added two “satellite” advisors to my core advisor so that I have access to a bigger and relevant pipeline and a DD process that meets my strategy around being more redistributive in getting capital and returns to people who have been systematically denied access. My goal is not to make as much money as I can; my goal is to make as much impact in the world while at the same time earning enough for my lifetime. I am risk tolerant and have become aware that the financial system is risk averse and isn’t going to move as fast as I want it to. My new approach is working very well.

MARIA: That is a critical change point that not everybody gets to, but I’m also at that point. All of the things I wished for in that first phase are not adequate for the second phase. How do you find someone who doesn’t have that box around them?  The bulk of what they are doing is incrementally improving on Capitalism 1.0.  I’m looking for 2 and they are harder to find and to some degree it becomes a partnership in this phase. 

ELLEN: What do you think is the role of the asset owner – you – in influencing the impact advisory field?  What about groups like Invest for Better?

MARIA: We have a remarkable ability to change our advisors and that will change the field.  One of my key advisors developed expertise in this because clients were whining about it. She told me that she loved it when I would ask for things because she improved, and the firm improved. In fact, she became so competent, she was snatched away by a major asset owner!    

AMY: I agree completely. And I think that Invest for Better Circles makes for better consumers; if more of us assert our needs; then we will change the system. Then Maria and I won’t be the outliers talking to our advisors. IFB Circles can give more women voice and power, and then the whole advisory system will offer more.  

Invest for Better’s Ellen Remmer Presenting at “We Give Summit”

Ellen Remmer, co-founder of Invest for Better, will be presenting at the We Give Summit. This virtual event will be held on Tuesday, May 2 and is designed for members and advocates of collective giving who want to celebrate their power to disrupt philanthropy.

The We Give Summit is an interactive platform that brings together hundreds of individuals to connect and learn from each other. The summit features dozens of incredible speakers who have made a significant impact at the local, national, and global level. They have done so by joining forces with others who share their passion and vision for philanthropy.

 

 

The summit will cover a wide range of topics and feature sessions, lightning talks, and networking sessions. By registering for the event, you will gain access to all of these opportunities, including Ellen Remmer’s session on May 4 at 2 PM ET/ 11 AM PT, entitled “Unlocking the Power of Finance” (see agenda here).

Ellen is excited to share her insights on the power of finance in philanthropy. Her session will focus on the strategies and tactics that investors can use to create positive social and environmental impact through their investments.

 

 

 

 

Invest for Better presenting at Women’s Philanthropy Institute Symposium

Ellen Remmer, co-founder of Invest for Better, was part of a panel discussion called “All in for Impact: How to use Philanthropy and Impact Investing for Change” at the “All In, All Rise Symposium”  hosted by Women’s Philanthropy Institute on March 28, 2023.

This panel session explored the opportunity for women to magnify their impact on the social and environmental issues they care about through deploying the tools of philanthropy and investing. In a conversation moderated by Maggi Alexander, Senior Partner and Director of The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI)’s Center for Global Philanthropy, panelists shared their journeys to understand and utilize philanthropy and impact investing, including how they seek to integrate both for catalytic change in thematic areas such as gender equity, racial equity, and environmental sustainability.

Speakers included:

Janell Johnson and Mary Hawkins are IFB members.

 

 

About the Symposium

All In, All Rise” is the sixth symposium hosted by WPI since 2005. The two-day event included keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and opportunities for attendees to network.

Women’s Philanthropy Institute’s Symposium is the only gathering of its kind that:

  • Focuses exclusively on the broad landscape of women and philanthropy
  • Convenes speakers with wide-ranging backgrounds and experiences
  • Fosters a community of big, bold thinkers, innovators, and doers who can and will accelerate social change
  • Promotes networking and relationship building by limiting registration to 500 attendees
  • Connects the dots between research and practice, leaving attendees with concrete lessons they can use in their work and their giving

 

 

 

 

“Philanthropy or Investing: Why Not Both?”

“Philanthropy or Investing: Why Not Both?” by Ellen Remmer
is an excerpt From “Feminist Giving: Creating New Frontiers in Social Change”

After 25 years focused on both her own philanthropy and advising others,  Ellen Remmer became persuaded that philanthropy alone was not enough to make big societal changes.

“The deeper I got into impact investing, the more I was persuaded,” says Remmer.  “It connected me to my money in new and different ways, and it was so much more interesting personally. Moreover, I realized that many of the societal problems we want to solve are caused (in part) by problems in the capital markets and/or can only be solved through the capital markets. Think gender and racial equity, for one!”

Remmer is part of a minority of women in our culture who have pursued their interest in impact investing to the point of actually doing it. While more women are finally moving into impact investing today, Remmer wants to add to that momentum and make sure they are equipped with knowledge and guidance to not just do impact investing, but do it well.

A projected $400 billion or more will be directed to impact investments in 2020, a dramatic increase from $80 billion in 2011. But Remmer notes that there is a disconnect between women’s interest in the field and the actions they currently take with their investments.

Invest for Better launched as a project of TPI in early 2019 in collaboration with a coalition of national leaders from organizations like Mission Investor Exchange, Mission Throttle, and the Case Foundation. In 2021, Remmer spun it out as an independent nonprofit, with co-founder Janine Firpo, author of the acclaimed book Activate Your Money:  Invest to Grow Your Wealth and Build a Better World.

“We know that women are hungry to learn more about how to invest with their values,” Remmer says. “We help build their knowledge base and make it easy for them to activate their investments for impact.”

Getting Together with Other Women and Making It Happen

The primary way that Invest for Better gets women active is by offering them the opportunity to join or lead Invest for Better Circles, groups of 6-15 peers who meet either in person or virtually over a 6-month period, using a curriculum based on Janine’s book. As part of the experience, each woman establishes a “move your money goal” and commits to an action step. These action steps include things like, “I will talk to my partner about allocating some or all of our shared investments to impact”, or “I will better understand how my cash is invested and choose a bank that matches my values.” Others may be about finding a new financial advisor or making an angel investment. So far, over 800 women have been part of an Invest for Better Circle  “This is really about accelerating things,” says Remmer, “and getting women to understand that values-aligned and impact investing are possible and there are many ways to do it.”

One way Remmer sees impact investing having big potential is with Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) investments.    “Not enough people know about the opportunity to invest in their own communities through CDFIs,” says Remmer, noting that CDFIs are generally a more secure investment than stocks, and pay a guaranteed return. “I just had coffee with this amazing woman, Catherine Berman, who has started an impact investing firm called C-Note which invests in CDFIs throughout the country.” The annual return on CDFIs through C-Note is 2.75% with no fees. Recently, the firm also launched The Wisdom Fund, which is specifically aimed at increasing capital access for women-owned businesses.

“If you start to change the face of the investing community so women are more deeply involved, you’re going to change the nature of what we’re investing in, and who we invest in,” says Remmer. She sees this happening both in philanthropy and in finance, and has been a frontrunner in both of those movements. She and her sisters and mother started a family foundation about 30 years ago, focusing on disadvantaged girls, an idea that was barely registering on the radar of philanthropy at the time.

While philanthropy directed exclusively to women and girls still only makes up a small fraction of philanthropy, it’s an area of philanthropy experiencing intense growth now, alongside capital investments directed at gender equality. Between the two, Remmer is on a mission to help remove limitations for women, and shift their understanding of the role they can play.

“I’ve been a philanthropic supporter of the work that Joy Anderson of Criterion Institute is doing, and it’s exciting to see so many people trying to get in on it now,” Remmer said. Ranked by Fast Company as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business, Joy Anderson has been highly instrumental in laying the foundation for social impact investing, particularly for women.

Remmer also sees women doing creative things with their Donor Advised Funds, and was an early adopter of these techniques.  “I’ve got about four different deals through my DAF at the Boston Foundation,” she says. Remmer says some of these investments are in the form of recoverable grants and some take other forms, but the bottom line is that money that was formerly “just sitting there” is now activated for social and environmental impact.

Using Donor Advised Funds for Catalytic Strategies

“With my DAF, I’m willing to take higher risks,” says Remmer. “I’ve done a lot more local things with my DAFs. One is a social finance bond here in Massachusetts, and another supports the Boston Impact Initiative, which invests in a diverse and inclusive economy. I also have one with an energy breakthrough group called Prime.

Remmer referenced the expanding realm of vehicles that women can explore if they want to do more impact investing. “The bottom line is that women have to think more about the investing side of things across the board.” Doing so will likely lead to the kind of epiphany she had two decades ago when she started learning about impact investing with a gender lens.

“It used to be that we gave away 5% of our foundation, and we didn’t even think about the rest,” says Remmer, noting that now her family foundation is 100% invested for impact. That epiphany led her to develop a passion for the field, which is now converging with other cultural factors driving the growth of the approach, particularly for women. “The point is, I went through a personal journey with impact investing, and while philanthropy is fantastic, I wasn’t using the power of what I had in all of those other resources.”

Excerpt From:
“Feminist Giving: Creating New Frontiers in Social Change”
by Kiersten Marek.

This material may be protected by copyright.

Veris Wealth Partners: Women, Wealth & Impact

Growing the number of impact investors working to address the world’s most pressing problems has long been part of Veris Wealth Partners’ vision and mission. Co-Founders Janine Firpo and Ellen Remmer were asked questions about Invest for Better and their approach to growing an impact movement focused on empowering women investors.

Lebec Consulting: Interview with Janine Firpo & Ellen Remmer | Women We’ve Been Waiting For

Janine Firpo and Ellen Remmer, our co-founders sat down with Lebec Consulting to talk about why women shouldn’t shy away from investing, but instead gravitate toward it—particularly impact investing—and how they actually make some of the most impactful and successful investors when they do.

Impact Investing Advisor: What Two Investors Look For

In one of the recent Invest for Better Circle meetings of my Boston group, the question emerged: “Is the role of the advisor to lead or follow you?”  Circle members Amy Brakeman and Maria Jobin-Leeds had a lot to say on this topic, so I asked them for an in-depth interview to dig deeper on finding the right impact investing advisor. As you’ll read, their responses indicate an evolution in their thinking and experience over time. 

EllenYou’ve both been at this business of investing for good for a while.  When you were first looking for impact investing advisors, what qualities were you looking for?  

Maria: It was 20 years ago when we first came into this money and I really had no experience.  Luckily, we had some time to be methodical about it.   I was looking for someone who would look at me (as a woman), be kind to me; who I would feel safe and respected by.  I was looking for someone local, who I could have a relationship with. And we were looking for someone who would do good with the money; I think we called it SRI back then. 

We interviewed 4 teams; all of whom were either led by or included females.  One guy, however, never looked in my eyes; so he lost the job in 5 seconds.  The choice we made included an all female team, including a leader who took a lot of guff when she pushed SRI so many years ago and I really wanted to support her.  I continue to adore them and find them respectful, values-centered and welcoming.   Later, after the 2008 market crash, we added another research-driven advisor to work with the Foundation, and were happy that the staff included two progressive people of color.

Amy:  For me, the money was and wasn’t sudden. My husband was a professional money manager and, in the beginning, we used to talk about all of our investments. As time went by, I got more focused on philanthropy.  When we got divorced, I suddenly had cash that needed to be invested.  In looking for an advisor, I didn’t care about geography but they had to be in the top quartile of impact investing advisors; and not just doing ESG in public markets. I care about deeper impact through all asset classes and across all pockets of assets. I didn’t want anybody affiliated with a big bank or who sold product.  Given this frame, I mainly found small shops which can be vulnerable to having their business model work so there can be turnover of individual advisors and mergers. It felt like a high stakes decision that couldn’t switch if it turned out wrong – which I’ve learned is not true. I prioritize what my network recommends and I kept hearing about a few advisors from folks in the Toniic and Gratitude Railroad networks.  It was at one of those meetings that I ran into both finalists and decided to go with the one that I thought I could have more of a personal relationship with.  My lead advisor is excellent; someone who is super connected and committed, who can blend investing and philanthropy.

Ellen:  Now that you’ve been at it for a while, have your views changed on the qualities that you want in your impact investing advisors? 

Maria:  I’m a different person 20 years later.  I have more confidence and gender isn’t as important to me.  As I keep my eyes open for additional advisors, I have people on the list who aren’t local but I still want a relationship and see them face-to-face.  I will press them more on the specifics, their definition of impact and their metrics – which I couldn’t have done initially.  At that time I was more focused on finding someone who could make me competent enough to give direction! 

Here’s an example of how I have changed and this informs my thinking about what I would want in an advisor.  I remember getting into a 1 hour discussion with one of my advisors who didn’t think that I should put more into CDFI’s because of the impact on my asset allocation.  I was practically in tears, because I wanted to put money at the local level in the hands of people of color, but realized that my advisor had been trained for years with this mindset and I was bumping up against it.  After a few days, I decided to do it anyway.  

Amy:  In the first few years, my advisors led me, which is what I wanted.  I wanted them to help me shift quickly from cash to a diversified impact portfolio.  I would add a few investments from my networks in Africa and work on education to employment.  So all was going well generally. However, I noticed that the private funds and direct deals I added to the pipeline would get stuck in due diligence. 

During Spring 2020, when I saw the Covid-related health disparity outcomes along racial lines, I started being far more assertive in my investing. As I sourced and wanted to proceed with funds led by Underrepresented People of Color who were launching new funds or ventures, I was often told “Wait until Fund II.” At this point, I dove in to lead and approve selected private investments. Interestingly after my decision to invest in specific funds, other investors at the same advisor would invest also.

In 2021, I have also added two “satellite” advisors to my core advisor so that I have access to a bigger and relevant pipeline and a DD process that meets my strategy around being more redistributive in getting capital and returns to people who have been systematically denied access.  My goal is not to make as much money as I can; my goal is to make as much impact in the world while at the same time earning enough for my lifetime.  I am risk tolerant and have become aware that the financial system is risk averse and isn’t going to move as fast as I want it to. My new approach is working very well.

Maria:  That is a critical change point that not everybody gets to, but I’m also at that point.  All of the things I wished for in that first phase are not adequate for the second phase.  How do you find someone who doesn’t have that box around them?  The bulk of what they are doing is incrementally improving on Capitalism 1.0.  I’m looking for 2.0 and they are harder to find and to some degree it becomes a partnership in this phase. 

Ellen:  What do you think is the role of the asset owner – you – in influencing the impact advisory field?  What about groups like Invest for Better?

Maria: We have a remarkable ability to change our advisors and that will change the field.  One of my key advisors developed expertise in this because clients were whining about it.  She told me that she loved it when I would ask for things because she improved, and the firm improved.  In fact, she became so competent, she was snatched away by a major asset owner!    

Amy:  I agree completely.  And I think that Invest for Better Circles makes for better consumers; if more of us assert our needs; then we will change the system.    Then Maria and I won’t be the outliers talking to our advisors.  IFB Circles can give more women voice and power, and then the whole advisory system will offer more.  

Want to join our community and continue to learn from other women? Sign up as a member today, and check out our other articles to get started with impact investing.

Reflections, Silver Linings, and Hope

Photo credit: Umarengr, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Umarengr, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

I enjoy the annual rite of reflection and planning that January brings.  But wow, what a year it has been to look back on, and, as January unfolds in unprecedentedly volatile times, what a hard year it is for planning ahead.  As a white, privileged woman with grown kids, whose work largely consists of sitting at a computer, I was spared any significant impact this last year. (In the big picture, does it really matter that my daughter had 12 guests instead of 240 at her wedding? No, and there’s a lot to recommend for it. ) Nonetheless, I am changed forever by what I learned about the deep inequities embedded in our society. I came away from this year with only a stronger conviction that it takes all sectors – governmental, philanthropic and market – to reshape our planet, economy and society.  And despite all the challenges ahead, I believe that this will be a year of hope, healing and collaboration.

 

At Invest for Better it was a year of many silver linings.  While the pandemic forced us to shift our Invest for Better Circle to an online format and Circle members missed the chance to be together in person, it also allowed the model to scale more quickly and widely.  Volunteer leaders stepped up by the scores to launch Circles in our first global Cohort and recruited co-leaders and members from all over the country, and in Canada, the Caribbean and South Africa.  The Circle model clearly met a felt need to be in community with other like-minded women and to problem solve together about how financial investments could make a dent on systemic issues such as racism and sexism.  Circles were able to access awesome expert speakers who would not have been able to attend in-person meetings, drawing upon Invest for Better’s Speakers’ Bureau and their own personal networks.  With the virtual model, Invest for Better was able to help Circle Leaders enroll members from our ever-growing list of inquiries, and to provide Cohort wide programming, such as “Ask the Expert” webinars on investment fundamentals and thematic investing.

 

The Cohort model also resonated with the 60+ leaders of 30+ Circles who met for monthly zoom calls, sharing tips, learning from one another and providing Invest for Better with valuable feedback on ways to strengthen and customize the model for a wide diversity of populations.  I am humbled by their servant leadership, and by their willingness to volunteer their time and energy to bring more women to the table.  We began to feel, collectively, that the movement was building.

 

So I dare to look forward with hope to 2021, for Invest for Better and for the world.  The sustainable investing market continues to gain enormous traction, as evidenced by US SIF’s recent report and investors want to do more.  At Invest for Better, we are launching a new Leader Cohort in April and invite all of you who care about using the markets for social good to join us.   Be a champion and join our movement of like-minded leaders.

Impact Investing, Social Change, and Philanthropy Post COVID-19

Our own Ellen Remmer was featured in this Women & Money episode on “Impact Investing, Social Change, and Philanthropy Post COVID-19” hosted by Jan Mercer Dahms of Mayshad CHOICE. Together with Leslie Samuelrich, president of Green Century Capital Management, and Nezha Alaoui, CEO of Mayshad Group, they explored timely issues related to the rapidly changing context for impact investing and philanthropy amidst the pandemic.