In addition to our grantmaking, the Lawson Foundation is leveraging its assets to create social good through impact investing.
What is impact investing?
Unlike grants, Impact investments are investments made in companies, organizations and funds with the intention to generate measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. These types of investments can be either Mission-Related Investments (MRIs) or Program-Related Investments (PRIs).
Mission-Related Investments (MRI) are investments of assets from the Foundation’s endowment made in for-profit or not-for-profit enterprises with the intention of achieving mission-related objectives as well as typically market-rate, risk-adjusted financial returns. MRIs exist across asset classes and include bonds and deposits, loans, public equity, private equity, venture capital investments and real estate.
Program-Related Investments (PRI) are investments made in charities as well as for-profits and not-for-profits for the primary purpose of furthering the Foundation’s charitable purposes. Unlike grants, PRIs also aim to generate financial returns, with a tolerance for below-market returns.
Impact investing at the Lawson Foundation
The Foundation’s Impact Investment Committee guides the development of this new area of work. Our impact investments include:
Community Forward Fund ($1,000,000)
The Community Forward Fund (CFF) provides loans or arranges financing exclusively for Canadian nonprofits and charities. It is specifically designed to address a gap in access to patient, working capital and bridge loans for the charitable and nonprofit sector. CFF also provides financial review/advisory services as well as coaching services and assessment tools to help build financial skills and capacity in the charitable and nonprofit sector.
Immigrant Access Fund Canada ($250,000)
Immigrant Access Fund Canada supports newcomers equipped with excellent professional skills and knowledge but face significant barriers to employment by providing micro loans of up to $10,000 so they can obtain the Canadian licensing or training they need to work in their field.
Innovation Works ($500,000)
Innovation Works is London’s first ever community bond. A community bond is an interest-bearing loan that allows investors to align their investments with their values, while enjoying a stable return. Innovation Works is an initiative to provide collaborative shared space for charities, nonprofits and social enterprises that are working for social good in the London region in Ontario.
InvestEco is a mission-oriented, impact-investing firm that seeks to maximize financial, environmental and social returns. Since its founding in 2002, InvestEco has invested in over 15 private companies involved in a range of businesses including renewable energy and resource productivity technologies to sustainable food and agriculture initiatives.
New Market Funds ($500,000)
New Market Funds (NMF) focuses on issue areas where social or environmental needs offer commercial growth opportunities for market rate return. NMF works closely with its sponsor organizations to isolate sectors, such as Affordable Rental Housing, that combine the opportunity to have a significant impact, market demand demonstrated by a robust pipeline, and an appropriate level of risk and return for investors.
Trec SolarShare Co-Operative ($200,000)
SolarShare is a non-profit cooperative with a mission to grow community-based solar electricity generation in Ontario by engaging citizens in projects that offer tangible environmental, social and financial returns. SolarShare provides an investment opportunity for large as well as very small investors who believe in solar power for a healthier environment.
In addition to these impact investments, The Foundation also granted $240,000 to the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing to help advance the marketplace for impact investment in Canada.