To achieve a vision of equitable prosperity for all communities, place-based philanthropic institutions, especially community foundations, must become partners with communities and put more of their endowments to work at home, invested to create more housing, increase food access, expand childcare, and support entrepreneurs. There are over 750 community foundations working across the country with a mission to improve the quality of life in the communities they serve. In 2021, VCC’s LOCUS Impact Investing team estimated that approximately 50 of these community foundations were local impact investors, collectively deploying hundreds of millions of dollars into their communities. But that is a fraction of the assets they are stewarding for their communities. How do we build on that number and create a true movement of community foundation local investors? That has been a guiding question for the LOCUS team over the past five years and two paths have emerged as effective strategies for advancing this movement.

In 2021, LOCUS, in partnership with the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, set off down one path by launching the first Local Impact Investing Accelerator, a peer learning process that provided community foundation staff and board members with the opportunity to create and commit to a local impact investing strategy, engage community stakeholders to ensure that the strategy meets community priorities along with institutional goals, and build connections to peers as well as more experienced local investors. By the end of 2021, there were four new community foundation local investors in Indiana, committing to collectively invest at least $10 million back into their communities. A second cohort – five new foundations – launched in 2022 will bring even more investments back to the state.

LOCUS forged a second path with the 2021 launch of the Community Philanthropy Investor Circle, a networking and field-building opportunity for community foundation staff and board members to connect, share their experiences and challenges, and strengthen local impact investing practice for the field. To date, LOCUS has hosted five Circle conversations with a combined 56 community foundations from across the country. After each Circle conversation, the LOCUS Local Investment Strategy team develops briefs to summarize key takeaways and contribute to the local impact investing field. So far, the Circle library includes materials covering impact investing program design, donor engagement, resourcing, balancing return and mission, and communicating about the local investing program. In 2022, LOCUS engaged an advisory committee of seven diverse community foundation investors to help guide the content and emerging structure of the network, to review and validate field-building resources that emerge from the network, and to broaden the range of insights into local impact investing practice we can bring to the field.

It is LOCUS’ mission to encourage the growth and improve the effectiveness of place-based impact investing to advance vibrant, equitable communities and economies. The Accelerator is creating a place-based community of practice for local investors, a critical mass of practitioners who can learn with and from each other, inspire new community foundation investors, and root more capital into their communities. The Circle is encouraging a movement of community foundation investors who are advancing their own impact investing practice and contributing to the learning and understanding needed to build the field. The LOCUS team invites community foundations to join these efforts and explore resources enabled through the network here.