Investors invest because they want a rate of return. But what if investors want their money to create impact as well as return?
“Many people call this concept socially responsible investing, or SRI. But there are so many other terms for it now – impact investing, community investing, mission-related investing, values-based investing, sustainable investing, and on and on,” said IFF CFO Suzanne Leao-Reuter. “Ultimately, it’s about investing with the dual purposes of making a return and creating a positive societal impact.”
As a mission-driven financial institution, IFF attracts many socially responsible investors. In recent years, more and more of those investors are coming from religious organizations. “When convents, religious orders, religious schools, or other faith-based institutions have savings to invest, they usually want to invest in causes that help their community,” Leao-Reuter said.
Since 2001, religious institutions have invested $26.9 million in IFF. IFF’s single largest faith-based investor is Mission Investment Fund, a financial ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, which has contributed $18 million to IFF’s Investor Consortium. The remaining $8.9 million is lent to IFF at below-market rates so that IFF can make affordable loans to its nonprofit borrowers; more than three-quarters of that investment has come in the last four years.
One such investor is Portico Benefit Services, another financial ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA’s “social criteria investment screens” provide guidance for the ELCA Social Purpose funds managed by Portico, and Portico uses this guidance to help ensure the funds support the mission of the ELCA while receiving an appropriate rate of return on investments. While considering adding IFF to the Social Purpose funds, two measures stood out: IFF’s standing as a highly rated CDFI and measurable social impact.
“One of the things that attracted us to IFF is the very concrete evidence of social impact that is reported out annually and shared with the network regularly,” said Kurt Kreienbrink, Portico’s Manager of Socially Responsible Investing and Investor Advocacy. “Every time I hear an IFF story, I think, ‘I’m glad we did this. These are continuous examples of how the investment makes a difference.’ We want to include positive investments supporting economic development, low-income housing, job creation and training, small business development, those types of initiatives.”
To learn more about IFF’s socially responsible investing options, please visit iff.org.