June 18, 2010; Source: Cleveland Jewish News | Nonprofits need to keep up with sources of socially responsible investment dollars in addition to sources of grant money. At the Jewish Funds for Justice, investors can put money into the Community Investment Initiative, earn a modest return, and see their dollars devoted to socially responsible investments.
The Community Investment Initiative, with a $1,000 investment minimum, was meant to be a vehicle for modest investors, compared to the Fund’s Tzedec Economic Development fund, which mandates a minimum investment level at a rather hefty $18,000. According to the Social Investment Forum Foundation, religious mutual funds control $26 billion in collective assets, though some of the “social screens” are religious rather than social. For example, the Ave Maria Catholic Values Fund, established by Tom Monaghan of Domino’s Pizza, screens out investments in companies that violate Catholic teachings such as supporting abortion rights or turning a blind eye to what Monaghan might see as pornography.
Similarly, the Amana Fund screens out investments in firms that get more than 5 percent of their revenues from pork, alcohol, gambling, pornography, or tobacco. The increasingly diverse beliefs of many American Jews makes the screen in these funds very strongly social with little or no evidence of a religious baseline. For example, the Union for Reform Judaism promotes the Chai Investment Program (“chai” is the Hebrew word for life with the numerical value of 18), in which congregations devote 1.8 percent of their assets toward community development projects. Making projects work with investments as well as grants is an important skill for entrepreneurial nonprofits.—Rick Cohen