The Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota (CCF) has a history of earning healthy returns on its investments — but high returns aren’t CCF’s only goal. Catholic values and a desire to achieve the greatest good are at the heart of every investment CCF makes and every grant check CCF writes.
“We work hard to ensure that funds entrusted to us are invested in organizations whose business practices align or aren’t in conflict with Catholic teachings,” says CCF President Anne Cullen Miller. “We take that commitment very seriously.”
Fulfilling the promise of faith-based investment strategies
Putting into practice the Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines recommended by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has been a deliberate, evolutionary process at CCF. As of 2019, all three USCCB strategies for principled stewardship — Do No Harm, Active Corporate Participation, and Promote the Common Good — are fully reflected in our faith-consistent investment practices.
1. Do No Harm: “It only makes sense to make investments that are consistent with Catholic social teaching,” says CCF Investment Committee Chair, Julie Gerend. In addition to overseeing investments and manager selection, Julie’s committee is charged with ensuring that CCF investments don’t support things antithetical to Catholic values — such as abortifacients, weapons production, predatory lending, or gambling.
“CCF has really been at the forefront of investment screening,” says Sam Saladino, founder and Managing Director of IWP Capital, LLC, who has provided investment screening and consulting services to CCF for more than eight years.
2. Active Corporate Participation: As the funds under CCF management have grown, so has CCF’s ability to influence corporate responsibility. “Simply buying a Catholic-screened fund isn’t enough for us,” says Anne. “We have a responsibility to do more.”
In 2019, CCF again called upon IWP Capital, LLC — a firm that has voted more than $3.5 billion in Catholic values proxies — in order to be a more active shareholder and more involved in corporate engagement efforts which include letter writing and ongoing discussions.
“We enlist researchers and partners in investment screening and shareholder advocacy, but remain actively involved in bringing faith-based perspectives to corporate engagement,” says Anne.
3. Promote the Common Good: Since 2018 CCF has been full-heartedly fulfilling Pope Francis’s vision of “putting the economy at the service of people” with impact investments. Currently, CCF invests approximately $9 million — or roughly 2 percent of its portfolio — in local, national, and global funds that yield a fiscal return while promoting the common good.
In 2019, those funds included two affordable housing organizations, CommonBond Communities and Jonathan Rose Companies, as well as Ascension Investment Management, a global impact fund that provides access to medical care in Africa, and energy solutions in rural South America.
“We’re very excited about generating profits with purpose and investing for the common good,” says Julie. “We’ve proven we can be fiscally responsible while making a difference in the world.”
Guidelines for grantmaking that can stand the test of time
Whether a grant comes from a donor advised fund, endowed fund, institutional endowed fund, or an unrestricted fund, the organization or cause it goes to will be thoroughly screened. That’s been true since CCF was founded and will remain true in perpetuity, thanks in no small part to our grantmaking guidelines.
Last year, in an effort to continuously improve CCF’s grantmaking, the Grants Committee reached out to Catholic community and family foundations locally and nationwide to find out what guidelines they were using to screen grantees.
“We were somewhat surprised to find out that CCF was pretty far ahead of the game in terms of performing due diligence,” says Grants Committee Chair Emery Koenig. “Very few organizations had formal processes in place.”
A notable exception was Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA), an organization whose members share CCF’s interest in applying Catholic principles to grantmaking.
FADICA members, too, were interested in exploring how Catholic donors can pass down their faith-aligned philanthropy to future generations — even if future generations aren’t connected to the Catholic faith tradition.
“CCF sparked new thinking on these questions,” says Alicia Bondanella Simon, director of membership for FADICA. “They helped generate ideas for resources that may benefit Catholic community and family foundations for generations to come.”
CCF’s revised grantmaking guidelines are already making a difference. Earlier this year, Chris Nelson, CCF’s vice president of development and donor engagement, was able to alert a long-time CCF donor advisor that one of the healthcare organizations he’d been supporting for years had recently begun advocating for access to abortions as a healthcare right.
“We’re not interested in naming or shaming organizations or publishing a list of ‘wrongdoers,’” says Chris. “We will, however, alert individual donors when a charity implements a policy or program antithetical to the teachings of our Church.”