Investing in Impact


What is impact investing?  In short, it’s a desire to get a big bang for your buck. In terms of prospect development, impact giving is not much different.  So how can researchers and fundraisers attract these types of donors?  

Guest Post by Lori Hood Lawson, Working Philanthropy 

Hard to believe #APRAPD2016 has come and gone already! My husband David Lawson and I enjoyed seeing you all there, and we look forward to seeing you in Anaheim next year.

For those of who could not attend, I thought I would share some information from our session on Impact Giving and Investing. Numerous synonyms and phrases exist which all imply the same idea – Social Entrepreneurship, Social Impact, Triple Bottom Line (i.e., social, environmental, financial), Social Capital, Impact Capital. Really – the list goes on and on!

Impact giving in and of itself is not a new idea. Rather, this type of giving was typical of many early philanthropists, such as Rockefeller and Carnegie, where their goal was to dramatically affect society for the greater good. We are now seeing social entrepreneurs who are founding and/or investing in a company or product with a balance between its potential for good and its return on investment. This idea also has a long history. The oldest social enterprise is Goodwill Industries. TOMS Shoes is a more recent prime example of such a company – buy one pair of shoes and another is given to someone in need. TOMS Shoes started as this type of company – a benefit corporation – where profit is secondary to social good. Our session at #APRAPD2016 focused on how impact investors think and how we must think as prospect development professionals with regard to assessing their interests alongside capacity.

Ways to discover your impact investors include:

  • Take a closer look at your prospects/donors affiliated with investment firms. Does the firm have a social good aspect? Does the firm name itself indicate such?
  • Ask yourself these questions: What is the mission of the company associated with the prospect/donor? Is there a clearly stated social impact? If so, who sits on that company’s board?
  • Use tools already at your disposal, such as ZoomInfo, which is also provided via iWave. Search on the various phrases listed above and your organization’s area. Or, if you are a university, search on the various phrases listed above and your university’s name.
  • Determine if your prospect/donor has invested in a benefit corporation or other companies where social benefit comes first. How does your organization fit with that interest?
  • If you can determine the impact investment amount, consider this in your assessment of giving capacity.

One important note – impact investors tend to be highly transparent about their investing activities. Why? Because they believe they can create change through investing in socially-responsible ways, and they wish to influence other HNWIs and UHNWIs to do likewise. People and planet before profits – in the wise words of an influential impact investor, “Where you choose to put your money is a moral decision.”



About the lori hood lawsonauthor: Lori Hood Lawson is CEO and co-founder of, where she only uses data for good. She’s often found on Twitter @WorkingLori.



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