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Total Impact Summit 2023: Investing for People, Planet, and Place Reflections

ImpactPHL's John Moore and Cory Donovan kick off the conference.

By Teresa Araco Rodgers

Total Impact Summit 2023, Investing for People, Planet, and Place took place on May 1 and 2 in Philadelphia. It was the fourth convening sponsored and run by ImpactPHL, Philadelphia’s backbone nonprofit building the ecosystem of impact investing. harp-weaver LLC has been a supporter since its inception. This year’s conference was the best to-date.

The intention of the conference is to bring together people from all parts of the ecosystem including funders of all types (individuals, foundations), advisors of all types (investment, impact measurement), and entrepreneurs of all types (funds, companies, real estate). Philadelphia has become a true hub for impact investing. The conference supported peer-to-peer connections for sharing and learning, with the idea that investments could support thriving local communities, alter the course of climate change, and/or cultivate resilient local economies.

I was struck by many things, but the most meaningful to me was that there were so many private foundation staff and Board Members at the conference. Several of the foundations (many of which have relatively small endowments) who attended also participated in Philanthropy Network of Greater Philadelphia’s Mission Aligned Investing Cohort and many have already made investments. They came ready to share. They were transparent about the process that got them to the point of making their first investment, about the challenges they face, and about the questions that remain.

As I review my notes and make plans to meet with new connections, I realize there are some key takeaways. So here are my top ten takeaways from the two days!

1. There are three important questions about impact: 1. What are you attempting to impact? 2. How are you measuring the attempted impact? 3. Who told you to impact it in that way?

2. We [impact investors] are the tugboats of capital.

3. Risk means not having the cash when you need it.

4. Who is the fiduciary obligation to? Is it to the money or to the beneficiaries of the foundation?

5. A word on investment policy statements – start here, infuse mission and values, and rewrite it to articulate what success is.

6. Stop putting impact investments in traditional models.

7. There is no one right way to do due diligence. Create a more inclusive, yet equally rigorous, means of evaluating asset management firms, investment products, and strategies.

8. Take philanthropy and turn it into equity. (my favorite take away!)

9. An investor can have a fully mission aligned portfolio – you just need to ask for what you want and if an advisor says no or puts up barriers, find another advisor!

Margaret Berger Bradley and John Moore listen to Laura Kind McKenna as she accepts her award.

10. Laura Kind McKenna is a trailblazer with her ‘Just Do It’ mantra. She is not shy to offer lots of smart and practical advice. I am proud to call her a friend and co-investor… she is why I joined Investor Circle (a peer group where members invest in dozens of innovative entrepreneurs who are working to solve major social and environmental problems. The conference closed with a celebration of thanks from the nonprofits and companies she has invested in over the years. Truly inspirational when you think about the impact she has had and will have!

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