Back to Impact Investments

Impact Investments

Our Goal

Building the field of impact investing and providing catalytic capital to address social and environmental challenges around the world

Why We Support This Work

Impact investing is a powerful catalyst for global progress. Rising engagement among diverse asset owners, managers, and advisors is fueling rapid growth, but access to capital remains a major challenge for enterprises, non-governmental organizations, and funds that are working to build a more just, inclusive, and sustainable world. Worldwide, there is a multi-trillion-dollar global capital shortfall, according to the United Nations (UN), dampening progress on poverty, global health, climate change, inequality, and other problems outlined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Our Approach

Since 1983, we have made impact investments totaling more than $700 million to support nonprofits, social enterprises, and funds in the United States and globally. These investments have taken the form of below-market loans, equity, guarantees, and other financial instruments.

We prioritize the following attributes in our impact investments: 

  • Additionality: We focus on investment opportunities that more conventional investors consider too risky, unprofitable, or novel, and we work to bridge financing gaps and enable social and environmental impact that would not otherwise be possible.
  • Mobilization: We use our capital to achieve impact and unlock investment beyond what we could achieve on our own.
  • Innovation: We invest in enterprises and funds that pioneer new products or services that address social and environmental challenges, serve historically marginalized people or places, attract new investors, build market infrastructure, and/or spur useful policy change.
  • Inclusion: We extend the reach of conventional investing to expand opportunity, drive economic progress and empower historically marginalized and underserved communities.

For more on our historical investments, read Four Lessons from Four Decades of Impact Investing

To learn about recent initiatives for which our investing activity is largely complete, read about the Catalytic Capital Consortium and Benefit Chicago.

MacArthur's longstanding and substantial commitment to impact investing is one of several ways that the Foundation seeks to align its investments with our mission, values, and programs. In addition to managing a $500 million capital pool allocated for active impact investments, our team makes grants totaling approximately $5 million annually to support and strengthen the field of impact investing globally and advance diversity, inclusion, and sustainability throughout the investment field.

Representative impact investments and grants ›

Expected Outcomes

Through our impact investments and grants we aim to:  

  • Fuel the innovation, growth, and impact of mission-driven enterprises and funds that help build a more just, inclusive, and sustainable world;
  • Demonstrate how and when catalytic capital can have the greatest impact across different sectors and communities; and
  • Help foundations, institutions, and individuals increase their engagement and effectiveness as impact investors and assist individuals from historically underrepresented groups to increase their engagement and success in the fields of investment and finance more broadly. 

Funding Priorities

We invest catalytic capital to fill significant gaps left by the conventional marketplace and unlock additional capital from other sources for mission-driven intermediaries and enterprises. New impact investments are developed in collaboration with MacArthur program teams and partners to advance key institutional priorities, initiatives, and programs.

Current priorities for new impact investments

  • Chicago Commitment: expanding access to flexible, risk-tolerant capital for developers engaged in community-centered real estate projects and creative placemaking efforts.
  • Climate Solutions: accelerating innovation and the deployment of clean energy and technology in India and the United States, especially within communities of color and historically marginalized communities.
  • Indigenous Autonomy: in collaboration with Nia Tero, investing in financial intermediaries that build the economic power and cultural independence of Indigenous people.
  • Just Home Project: invest in new housing models that help break the link between housing instability and jail incarceration.
  • Just Imperative: advancing greater equity and inclusion in the U.S. and globally through entrepreneurship, innovation, and development.

Current priorities for Field Support grants

  • Catalytic Capital: increase knowledge, awareness and use of catalytic capital globally through the Catalytic Capital Consortium (C3). MacArthur, The Rockefeller Foundation, and Omidyar Network jointly funded a three-year grant program, C3 Grantmaking, through the New Venture Fund, which will make its final grants in 2022.
  • Investor Engagement: support investor learning, connection, and collaboration through multiple networks in the United States and globally.
  • Impact Standards, Transparency, and Accountability: strengthen the practice of impact measurement and management and inform public policy.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: support the advancement of historically underrepresented and marginalized groups within the fields of investing and finance.

Recipients of our grants and impact investments include traditional nonprofits, for-profit enterprises, special-purpose funds, public agencies, or quasi-governmental entities. Impact investments may take the form of debt, equity, or a guarantee and may be structured as a Program-Related Investments (PRI) or Mission-Related Investments (MRI) depending on specific investment characteristics and purpose.

Representative impact investments and grants ›

Measurement & Evaluation for Learning

Evaluation of our work is a critical tool for informing our decision making, leading to better results and more effective stewardship of resources. We develop customized evaluation designs for each of our programs based on the context, problem, opportunity, and approach to the work. Evaluation is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process of collecting feedback and using that information to support our grantees and adjust our strategy.

We use external consultants and resources to track the financial, organizational, and programmatic progress of impact investment recipients. We have engaged New Philanthropy Capital as an evaluation and learning partner to build and execute an evaluation framework for our Catalytic Capital Consortium work. In addition, our recent and upcoming initiatives are aligned with industry norms. MacArthur has undertaken evaluations for several other aspects of our impact investing work through the years, including the Window of Opportunity Housing Initiative and the Arts and Culture Loan Fund.

Findings and analyses from evaluation activities are posted publicly as they become available.


Updated May 2022

View All Staff
Stay Informed
Sign up for periodic news updates and event invitations.

Connect with us on social media or view all of our social media content in one place.

The privacy of your data is important to us. We've updated our privacy policies in response to General Data Protection Regulation.