What is impact investing and how can you get involved?
Most people may not know that a $1.164 trillion segment of the global investing industry is as much about making a difference as it is about turning a profit. It’s known as “impact investing,” and you don’t have to be rich to get involved, according to Margaret Gifford, Abundance Capital cofounder and chief investment officer.
“I get frustrated watching the news and social media—as I see problems that need immediate solutions,” she says. “But I realize I can work on it. I have everything I need to work on it. That’s impact investing in a nutshell.”
Gifford, together with cofounder Mike Gatchell, launched the Greenville-based nonprofit “venture philanthropy platform” in early 2022. The big idea behind the platform is simple: marrying investment savvy with philanthropic purpose, to the benefit of the community.
To that end, Abundance Capital exists in the space where donor-advised funding principles (tax-deductible charitable giving) and impact investing (community-focused, solutions-oriented) meet.
“Our founding belief is to move beyond the concept of financial risk into the realm where imagination meets innovation,” Gifford says. “A place where a diverse group of people can bring their big ideas to life.”
In other words, impact investors seek more than financial returns. They’re investing in solutions to some of society’s most pressing challenges, such as affordable housing, transportation, and environmental sustainability.
“We help people put their money where their heart is,” she says.
A Philanthropic Force Multiplier
To gain insight into how impact investing plays out at the local level, Gifford says look no further than Community Foundation of Greenville, where, since 2019, the venerable organization has been shifting more and more of its assets into the impact investment space.
“We have a total asset base of about $100 million and have made about a million dollars in impact investments since 2019, almost exclusively in the affordable housing space,” says foundation president Bob Morris.
Specifically, the foundation directed donor dollars to the Greenville Housing Impact Fund, a nonprofit launched in 2018 for the purpose of supporting affordable housing solutions.
And, as those dollars reap a return, they’ll be invested in other, philanthropic areas within the Community Foundation’s purview.
“It was a good first step for us,” he says. “It was the first time we made a direct investment and will be able to take what we make from it and redeploy into other initiatives.”
But more than that, Morris says he’s learned something.
“Typically, we’re a grant maker, so it’s a totally different skill set to make an investment in a small business or nonprofit,” he says. “We’re a small staff, so we were glad when Mike and Margaret created Abundance Capital. They are positioned to do a wide variety of things in the impact investing arena.”
The possibilities are exciting. “[Impact investing] is a force multiplier,” says Morris. “For example, it’s opened the ability of the Greenville Housing Fund to develop more affordable housing on a much, much larger scale.”
What is Venture Philanthropy?
It’s a renewable form of charitable giving focused on community economic development. Using tax-deductible giving to make impact-first investments, venture philanthropy helps fill a critical gap for flexible, risk-tolerant capital.
Abundance Capital, 1 N. Main St., Greenville, abundancecap.org
Community Foundation of Greenville, 630 E. Washington St., Ste. A, Greenville, cfgreenville.org