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Posner-Wallace Foundation

December 2011

The New York City-based Posner-Wallace supports organizations in the U.S., Latin America, and Israel focused on youth, education, women, social services, food/self-sufficiency programs, and community development, including promotion of pluralism and democratic institutions. In addition to its grantmaking, the Posner-Wallace Foundation seeks to align its financial investments with its mission, while maintaining long-term targeted financial returns. The Foundation Center asked James Posner, the foundation's chair:

Question What have you learned from the process of evaluating various mission-related investment (MRI) options, and what advice can you share with other grantmakers regarding how to strike a comfortable balance between social and financial return?

Answer "As a small family foundation with less than $5 million in assets, we try to identify and work on ways to have "social impact" beyond our annual grants budget. Our financial metric of impact combines the 5-6 percent of endowment that is disbursed as grants each year, plus 20 percent of our endowment invested as mission-related five-to-seven-year loans. We have not yet tried to define a second or third "bottom line" as measures of our impact. However, I can say that one useful and satisfying non-quantitative indicator of impact is the feedback that arises from our ongoing dialogue with NGO executive directors.

"Our vision is "thoughtful giving." We concentrate on four long-term strategies: 1) encourage the adaptive use of evolving technologies; 2) expand the use of financial tools and resources, such as using our balance sheet for MRIs and "credit enhancement" for grantees; 3) cooperate and collaborate with other grantmakers and capacity-building organizations; and 4) advocate for "human capital" and "career path" initiatives within NGOs.

"We are pleased to support the Foundation Center's important work in many of these areas, both in North America and increasingly elsewhere in the world. (Eighty percent of our MRIs and about 20 percent of grants are for NGOs working outside the U.S.) The Foundation Center offers immense value both to grantmakers and to grantseekers. (We send the Center a grant each year as part of our "Infrastructure & Capacity Building" portfolio.)

"It is my hope that other foundations — large and small — will consider ways to gauge and leverage their own definitions of "social impact." My personal objective is to complete a smooth transition from second to third generation trustees within the next 10 years. My measure of success will be to see if at least two of the six members of "Gen 3" want to involve themselves actively to continue our family foundation."

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