Initiative News, Systems Change

Shifting Our Perspective on Investing

rural health image

by Troy Johnson, Chief Finance and Operations Officer

I have spent almost my entire career working in nonprofit organizations. It’s been an incredible journey and an honor to work alongside people who want to bring about a better world for all of us. Since joining the Initiative, I have seen firsthand the transformative power of philanthropy as we work to create a Georgia where every person can achieve their full potential for health. Over the last several months, the Initiative has evaluated all aspects of our work and our operations, vetting our processes and partners against our new mission, vision, and values. As a result, we have begun a journey of mission-aligned investing – the practice of investing in companies and funds that aim to generate social and environmental impact alongside financial returns. We’ve realized that we can truly be change agents and catalysts in every aspect of our work and we see mission-aligned investing as another tool in our toolbox. 

Contrary to popular belief, mission-aligned investments do not have to come at the expense of financial performance. In fact, many have shown competitive returns, with some even outperforming traditional investments in the long run. We look for healthy returns, and at the same time, realize that a lot can happen along the cycle that can also be impactful. For instance, ensuring that we are seeking out and working with diverse fund managers, including first-generation fund managers, aligns with our values and can also help transform lives while helping grow the funds that we invest in communities and organizations in our state.  

We also believe that mission-aligned investing can help leverage the power of the markets to address complex social and environmental problems. Private foundations have long been at the forefront of social change, but philanthropy alone cannot solve all the world’s problems. Mission-aligned investing can be a valuable complement to philanthropy, as it can tackle issues at scale, support sustainable business models, and engage with a wider range of stakeholders, including governments and corporations. By investing in innovative solutions and supporting pioneering entrepreneurs, a foundation can create a ripple effect of positive change that goes beyond the limits of traditional grantmaking. 

We are still very early in our mission-aligned investing journey, but we can already see this approach helping shift the way our Board and staff perceive our work and our potential overall. As we’ve evolved our work beyond traditional grantmaking, mission-aligned investing has helped us embrace creativity, collaboration, and learning: key elements in leading change. We believe that investing in this way is another important tool for creating a future where every person has the opportunity to participate, prosper, and achieve their full potential for a healthy life.