A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Program Related Investments: A Fit for Your Foundation?

By Peter Berliner, Mission Investors Exchange

Peter BerlinerWhen you scroll through the agenda for the upcoming Exponent Philanthropy National Conference and alight on Amp Up Your Impact with Program Related Investments, you may wonder, “How is this relevant to me?” Program Related Investments (PRIs) are in the realm of the giants—Annie E. Casey, Ford, and Gates. Can a small foundation with only handful of dollars (comparatively speaking) get into the act too?

The answer is, yes. In fact, foundations of all types and sizes throughout the country are already using PRIs and other mission investments to complement their grantmaking. Why? It could be because it makes more sense to loan money than to give it away to meet a short-term need for a construction loan or working capital. It’s also a way to idle capital to use in the neighborhoods you care about by making deposits in a community bank or credit union. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective. In addition, when a loan or equity investment is repaid, you get to use the dollars all over again. What’s greener than recycling cash?

Sachs Foundation invested in Tannery Lofts: Affordable live-work artist studios in Santa Cruz

The Erich & Hannah Sachs Foundation recognized how limited its resources were and decided to use PRIs as its go-to funding method. It’s been doing so since 1998 and has yet to lose a dime. Meanwhile, it has helped to deliver huge benefits to diverse communities.

If you’re attending the Exponent Philanthropy 2012 National Conference, be sure to join me for the session on PRIs on October 7. We will talk about all the ways in which PRIs can be a great fit for foundations of every size.

Not attending the conference? Read Program Related Investments: Leverage Your Assets for Greater Impact or check out the Exponent Philanthropy primer, Leveraging Your Assets with Loans and Other Program Related Investments.

Peter Berliner is managing director of Mission Investors Exchange, formerly PRI Makers Network and More for Mission.

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