Hong Kong boardroom” Credit: ricardo

Ford Foundation’s historic announcement on April 5th to commit up to $1 billion from its $12 billion endowment over the next 10 years to mission-related investing has changed the discussion in board meetings of other foundations and other institutional investors, which are increasingly examining the holistic results of their work on local communities. Mission-related investments (MRIs) are the market-rate assets in a foundation’s endowment that have a positive social or environmental impact. MRIs are distinct from program-related investments (PRIs), which primarily aim to accomplish one or more of a foundation’s tax-exempt purposes. These changing board-level conversations have significant implications: In 2012, the US was home to 86,192 foundations with $715 billion in assets.

Foundations can prepare for these board-level conversations by analyzing the work of the foundations that have taken “into consideration the foundation’s mission as part of meeting prudent investment standards about risk and expected return.” Select details about the mission-related investments of large foundations (i.e., foundations with assets of at least $400 million) are tabulated below. Naturally, a number of sub-$400 million foundations are also innovating with MRIs; these include F.B. Heron Foundation (as detailed further below, a trailblazer in MRIs), TomKat Foundation, Sorenson Impact, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, and Wallace Global Fund. While the work of these smaller foundations is critical, the table below focuses on the MRIs of $400 million+ foundations.

MRI Assets
Mission or Program Areas

Gates Foundation



$44.3 billion






– Globally: enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty

– U.S.: expand access to education and IT



– Invests in PRIs in global health, global development, the US program, and special initiatives

– Considers values when investing

– Negative screens: tobacco, Sudan



Ford Foundation



$12 billion



$1 billion, phased in over 10 years



– Civic engagement and government

– Creativity and free expression

– Equitable development

– Gender, racial, and ethnic justice

– Inclusive economies

– Internet freedom

– Youth opportunity/learning



– MRI commitment announced on 4/5/2017 and phased in over 10 years

– Initially, MRIs will invest in private equity funds focused on financial inclusion in the global South and U.S. affordable housing



W.K. Kellogg Foundation


$7.3 billion


$100 million


– Thriving children: early childhood development

– Working families: helping families obtain stable, high-quality jobs

– Equitable communities: racial equity and community engagement



Select MRIs:

– Urban Partner Bank: deposit $4 million in the bank’s Detroit branch

– Northwest Louisiana Community Development Fund: Develop commercial and residential real estate projects in Louisiana




MacArthur Foundation


$6.2 billion


$500 million since 1986 and $225 million on 12/31/2015


– Enduring commitments: Chicago and journalism/media

– Big bets: climate solutions, criminal justice, impact investments, nuclear challenges, Nigeria


MRI priorities via loans, bonds, stock, equity, deposits, and guarantees:

– Committed up to $25 million to finance energy-efficient affordable housing upgrades

– Continue to provide capital to advance work in Chicago

– Climate change solutions

– Create impact investing products and distribution channels



David and Lucile Packard Foundation