Much like 1%’s regular giving, the Impact Fund is being used to support a variety of initiatives; and that path will continue to evolve as the fund does.
When 1% for the Planet launched the 1% for the Planet Impact Fund at National Philanthropic Trust last April, the nonprofit’s CEO, Kate Williams, saw it as an opportunity to engage different audiences beyond what the business-focused platform was known for.
“It’s something outside of our usual membership model, but within our expertise,” she told Sustainable Brands®.
The Fund is completely donor-driven and is currently invested in a portfolio of public impact investments, including Trillium’s ESG Global Equity Fund and Parnassus Investments’ Core Equity Fund (The Planet Impact Fund’s full investment list is proprietary, but an anonymized list shared with Sustainable Brands showed little to no fossil fuel exposure.). Depending on the level of donation, donors can either contribute to the pooled fund or set up their own donor-advised fund (DAF) on the Impact Fund investment platform. The Impact Fund has longer-term plans to migrate a portion of its portfolio towards “high-impact” opportunities in areas including energy efficiency, natural resource conservation and environmental justice.
Impact investing advisory firm CapShift is an active partner with the Fund, helping 1% manage the day-to-day mechanics of running what could be a growing part of the nonprofit’s environmental work.
“The underlying products in this fund are supporting great organizations that are doing climate work,” says Jesse Simmons, CapShift managing director of research & advisory.
The Impact Fund has $350,000 in assets under management through the first 12 months; and Williams hopes to reach $1.5 million a year from now. However, she’s not trying to get too caught up in the numbers.
“We want the number goal to be in the rearview mirror,” she says. “We want to get to the point where we’re leaning more into private investment and can create a bigger impact.”
In May, the Impact Fund will direct funding to its six chosen partners doing reputable work in the climate space — all picked internally through a process similar to how 1% chooses philanthropic giving (Williams says they didn’t want to put nonprofits through an application process “for an uncertain outcome” in the first year, although she expects a separate selection process to come to fruition in the next two years).
The partners include an Indigenous protection group in the Amazon, a farming cooperative network and others — all highlighted in detail on the Fund’s site, and all contributing to real change in their respective areas.
For example, partner Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) played an important role in the cancellation of a plan for a new international airport next to a national park in the southern part of Nepal. The forest serves as a crucial wildlife corridor and habitat for tigers, elephants and other endangered species; according to ELAW, stopping the project saved 2.4 million trees.
In another, regenerative ocean-farming partner Urban Ocean Lab recently launched a series on regenerative ocean farming — including recommendations for how policymakers can talk about regeneration as it pertains to the oceans and why it matters.
Much like 1%’s regular giving, the broader point is that the Impact Fund could be used to support a variety of initiatives, and that path will continue to evolve as the fund does.
Trillium and Parnassus are also leading their own environmental initiatives, although not directly related to the fund. Last spring, Trillium — in a coalition led by leadership accelerator Ceres — met with members of Congress to discuss the inclusion of clean-energy investment provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act. The coalition’s work led to specific additions in the bill — including environmental and climate justice-related block grants for community-led climate solutions, funding to reduce port pollution, support for solar energy for low-income communities, and grants for zero-emission, heavy-duty vehicles.
Parnassus partnered with WM on a range of environmental-justice disclosures, including the waste industry’s first interactive tool to access broadstroke EPA data detailing a number of waste and air figures.
Above all, it’s about using all of these avenues collectively to power needed climate solutions. To track progress, the nonprofit will begin a traditional annual report release specifically for the Impact Fund starting in April.
As Williams says, “The Fund is an opportunity to reach people not in the 1% network and effectuate change at scale by using philanthropy in an innovative way.”