In 2017, The Nathan Cummings Foundation (NCF) decided to go "all in" for a mission-related investment approach. The Board set a goal of putting all $443 million of its endowment towards investments in line with the mission of the foundation.
Nathan Cummings Foundation had a history of integrating its values into its investment management. Prior to committing to a full impact investment strategy, the foundation had been involved in proxy voting and shareholder activism. It had set aside a small portion of its funds for impact investing as early as 2013. These actions had paved the way for a decision to move to a full impact strategy.
Impact investing or mission-related investing had been a hot topic for the investment community for some time. Traditionally, endowment managers had focused on their fiduciary duty, evaluating investment policy and assets looking for appropriate risk and return to protect and grow the assets of their organizations, which could then provide funds for activities that supported the organization's mission. Looking to create a diverse portfolio of assets, many analysts recommended investments across sectors and varied investment types.
But some philanthropic organizations had begun to ask if their investment strategies should reflect the organization's long-term vision and focus on investments that supported the organization's social goals. A few foundations had begun to make moves toward mission-related investing. The Heron Foundation had made a 100% commitment of its $300 million endowment, and the Ford Foundation had announced its intent to direct a billion of the $12 billion endowment over 10 years to mission-driven investments. But the Nathan Cummings Foundation's decision to move to 100% mission-driven investment was considered a bold move by both insiders and outside observers.
The Nathan Cummings Foundation Investment Committee and Board of Trustees had studied the decision for over a year, guided by Sonen Capital consultants. The Board voted 100% to support this new direction and new goals for financial investments, but many questions remained. How could NCF operationalize and integrate this new strategy? What changes would it need to make to support the investment strategies' long-term success? How could NCF measure and track its progress and success with this new strategy?
Publication Date: March 27, 2019
Suggested Citation: Ellie Campion, Dwayne Edwards, Bradley Wayman, Anna Williams, William Goetzmann, and Jean Rosenthal, "Nathan Cummings Foundation: Mission-Driven Investing," Yale SOM Case #19-011, March 27, 2019