Surdna Foundation Commits $100 Million to Impact Investing

NEW YORK – The Surdna Foundation today made the first of its centennial year announcements. The Foundation will allocate $100 million of its endowment to impact investing as a way to advance its social justice mission and grow the field. The commitment will focus on a combination of mission-related investments (MRI) and program-related investments (PRI), along with a variety of other impact investing strategies.

As one of the oldest and largest family-governed foundations in the U.S., Surdna is not just investing to further its mission, but also to build up the field of impact investing. In 2014 when the Foundation made the decision to allocate the $100 million, there was not a wide breadth of funds and tools available. As part of its investment, Surdna seeks to share its experience with others thinking about impact investing through its “Mapping the Journey to Impact Investing” publication and to support funds like the Business Outreach Center (BOC) Network, which helps build up women and minority-owned contracting businesses. Surdna’s 2014 investment in BOC leveraged an additional $2.8 million in capital from Goldman Sachs’s 10,000 Small Businesses program.

“Surdna’s current focus on impact investing – alongside many of our peer foundations and an increasing number of pension funds and university endowments – is illustrating a desire by more institutions to align their assets with their values,” said Shuaib Siddiqui, Director of Impact Investing at the Surdna Foundation. “Leveraging our endowment for impact investing will enable us to demonstrate how to invest to achieve positive social, environmental and financial returns. We hope this will lead to the creation of more funds and tools. In turn, growing the field will create more options for impact investors.”

The “Mapping the Journey to Impact Investing,” report charts the journey from the time the Board of Directors and staff began exploring impact investing in 2014 to the decision-making process and experience of implementing impact investing policies. “The Surdna Foundation’s founder, John E. Andrus was committed to inclusion, social justice and sustainability,” said Peter Benedict II, Surdna Foundation’s Board Chair. “By sharing our experience and some of the lessons we learned in this report this centennial year, we will contribute to collective learning in the fields of mission-related investing and family philanthropy and celebrate these core values.”

A few examples of recent impact investments the Surdna Foundation has made to explore impact investing include the following:

  • A $5 million commitment in DBL Partners III, a venture capital fund in Silicon Valley, which invests in companies that deliver strong financial returns while promoting social, environmental, and economic improvements in the regions in which they operate.
  • A four-year, $700,000 loan to the Business Outreach Center (BOC) Network, a small business development organization and CDFI in New York City. The investment began in 2014 and allows BOC to provide loans to minority and women owned contractors working on public and private sector construction contracts.
Surdna will continue with impact investing to reach the full commitment of $100 million through 2017 and into the future.
Five successive generations of the Andrus family have pursued innovation and new ideas, sometimes taking bold risks to advance effective solutions to contemporary social challenges. In 2008, the Foundation redefined its mission to include a deeper focus on Surdna’s social justice goals. This $100 million investment is yet another example of this forward thinking from the Foundation. “As we celebrate our centennial, we continue to reach for new ways to advance our mission of fostering sustainable communities and charting the path to social justice,” said Phillip Henderson, President of the Surdna Foundation. “Our decision to embark on impact investing is core to who we are. The question for our board and staff was how to align our endowment practices to advance the Foundation’s mission.”