The AJL Foundation invests in people, programs and movements that benefit Colorado's youth and families. We recognize that in order to increase impact and better serve more Colorado youth and families, we have a responsibility to align our portfolio and investments as closely as possible with our mission and prioritize both social impact and financial returns.
AJL has found the process of more closely aligning investments with mission to be a journey that requires navigating the complex landscape of varying advisor investing beliefs and philosophies, structures, strategies and capabilities, as well as wading through commonly held myths, confusion and misunderstandings around impact investing. For other organizations that might be interested in this journey, we are happy to share learnings and resources. We have included a timeline of our journey and links to resources below and will continue to update it as we move through the journey to impact investing.
Steps in AJL's journey to impact investing:
- 2015 - 2017: Research, Learning and Networking. AJL becomes interested in the potential social impact and financial returns through impact investing and embarked on a learning and networking mission to better educate the staff and Board around impact investing.
- AJL joins the Impact Investing Forum through Philanthropy Colorado
- AJL attends Exponent Philanthropy’s Connect Conference in Denver, CO which features various speakers and panels on impact investing. AJL also reviews various resources provided by Exponent Philanthropy on impact investing.
- AJL attends CO Impact Days and is introduced to Impact Finance Center (IFC).
- Early 2018: Investment Beliefs and Values Identified and Formalized in Investment Policy Statement.
- Mid to Late 2018: Current Investment Advisor Assessment results in New Investment Advisor Search. AJL assesses current investment advisor’s services and capabilities based on the new Investment Policy Statement and identifies a mismatch. AJL begins search to find a new investment advisor.
- Mid to Late 2018: First Program Related Investment. AJL makes first program related investment, a low interest loan to CASA of the 7th Judicial District, to help purchase a building that will provide offices for CASA of the 7th Judicial District, 2-3 offices for partner agencies, a work-training partnership for youth in foster care with the bagel and coffee shop next door and space designed for and by foster youth. Click here to see PRI details or watch the video to learn more.
- November 10, 2018: Expression of Interest Closes. AJL issued an Expression of Interest and received 40 responses. The EOI can be viewed here.
- December 11, 2018: Request for Proposal Issued. The RFP was by invitation only and AJL appreciated learning more about Natural Investments, Syntrinsic Investment Counsel, The Caprock Group, Sonen Capital LLC, Cornerstone Capital Inc., BSW Wealth Partners, Tiedemann Advisors, Abacus Wealth Partners, Pathstone, Graystone Consulting, and Innovest. The RFP can be viewed by clicking here and responses were due January 11, 2019.
- February 5, 2019: Investment Advisor Interviews Scheduled. AJL selected Syntrinsic Investment Counsel, Cornerstone Capital Group and BSW Wealth Partners to move forward to interview in mid-February 2019.
- Early/Mid 2019: New Investment Advisor Selected and Onboarded. AJL selected Syntrinsic Investment Counsel as our investment advisor and onboarding completed in May 2019. AJL also assessed custodians for opportunities for positive social impact.
- Mid 2019: Commitment to impact codified in revised IPS. AJL codifies commitment to positive social impact and financial return in revised Investment Policy Statement which can be viewed by clicking here.
- Late 2019: Second Program Related Investment: AJL makes a low-interest loan to the Sistahbiz Loan Fund, a small business loan fund dedicated to Black women entrepreneurs in Colorado. Read the details or watch the video here.
- Early 2020: Full Mission Alignment Reached Across Portfolio. AJL's portfolio fully mission-aligned and shared publicly on our website here. Impact and financial progress updated quarterly.
- Mid 2020: Diverse Investment Manager Policy approved and implemented. See details on page 16 of AJL's Investment Policy Statement here.
- Late 2020: AJL sets up two cash accounts with CNote and Native American Bank, two financial institutions that will use the capital to drive economic justice in underserved communities.
- April 2021: AJL incorporates the Impact Management Project's framework for impact evaluation across our portfolio, enabling both impact and financial performance to be evaluated and shared out quarterly to contribute our learnings to the field and hold ourselves accountable to our mission and objectives. See results for 2021 Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4.
- December 2021: AJL closes year with 12 program related investments (PRIs) benefiting families, entrepreneurs, and youth. From low-interest loans to loan guarantees to private equity investments and impact securities, AJL has $1,002,370.21 committed to nonprofits and businesses dedicated to generating positive social impact.
This post is the fourth in a series about AJL’s journey to impact investing. Other posts in the series can be viewed here:
- Part 1: How We Got Started
- Part 2: How to Evaluate Your Financial Advisor
- Part 3: Portfolio-wide Mission Alignment: Strategies and Objectives
- Part 4: Timeline and Resources
- Part 5: Diversity and Finance (coming soon)
- Part 6: What’s Next? (coming soon)
Case Studies and Examples
- Values Proposition: How and Why We Transformed Our Investment Model to Align Our Capital With Our Mission (Nathan Cummings Foundation, 2021)
- Request for Proposal Sample: Nathan Cummings Foundation's OCIO Search (2020)
- Back to the Frontier: Investing that Puts Impact First (The Bridgespan Group, 2021)
- Essentials of Impact Investing: A Guide for Small-Staffed Foundations (Mission Investors Exchange, 2019)
- Investor Handbook on Impact-Financial Integration (Impact Management Project, 2020)
- Impact Investing Handbook: An Implementation Guide for Practitioners (Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, 2020)
- Who's Who in Impact Investing: AJL Foundation Case Study (Denver Business Journal, 2018)
- The Russell Family Foundation (Impact Investing Journey, Case Study and Portfolio Alignment)
- EMEF: An Impact Investment Case Study (Edwards Mother Earth Foundation, 2018)
- Building Power Across the Impact Investment Field (Jesse Smith Noyes Foundation, 2018)
- The Wells Foundation (Impact Investing)
- The Gates Family Foundation (PRIs and MRIs)
- The Colorado Health Foundation (PRIs)
- Confluence Philanthropy
- Mission Investors Exchange
- Social Capital Markets (SOCAP)
- As You Sow
- AJL Foundation Investment Policy Statement
- Advisor Search - Expression of Interest
- Advisor Search - Request for Proposal
- Socially-Conscious Bank Search (Philanthropy Colorado) - Request for Proposal
- Impact Investing: Impact Alignment Across Our Portfolio - Video (July 2022)
Any questions about impact investing or to explore a potential PRI partnership with AJL, please contact Kristi Petrie, Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-308-4431.