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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 interest from investors is fueling its growth, but difficulty accessing capital continues to hold back enterprises working to advance social and environmental goals. 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 committed nearly $700 million to impact investments supporting activity 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 make investments that enable social and environmental outcomes that would not be possible without our support.
  • Leverage: We use our capital to achieve impact and unlock investment beyond what we could achieve on our own.
  • Innovation: We invest catalytic capital in enterprises and funds that pioneer new products or services, serve new people or places, attract new investors, build market infrastructure, and/or spur useful policy change.
  • Impact: We seek to expand opportunity, empower and improve quality of life among marginalized communities, and drive social and environmental progress.

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

In addition to our impact investments, we provide field-building grants to support a more robust impact investing ecosystem. Grantmaking is intended to strengthen the field and help build the infrastructure necessary for growth and scale.

View examples of our impact investments and grants

Expected Outcomes

By providing catalytic capital, we help fuel the growth and impact of mission-driven organizations and innovative enterprises that advance social, economic, and environmental challenges.

More specifically, we look to: 

  • Attract commercial and institutional capital alongside providers of catalytic capital to contribute significant new financing for sustainable development; 
  • Demonstrate the ability of catalytic capital to efficiently finance high-impact and high-need opportunities that would otherwise be overlooked by the conventional market; 
  • Develop clear evidence on how and when catalytic capital can have the greatest impact across different sectors and communities; and
  • Help impact-driven enterprises and sectors thrive and drive demonstrable progress toward critical social and environmental impact that will enable a more just and inclusive world.

Additionally, through our grantmaking we strive to educate investors, policymakers, foundations, and others about the value of catalytic capital and the various ways it can be deployed effectively.

Funding Priorities

We invest catalytic capital to fill significant gaps left by the conventional marketplace, driving financing to organizations, enterprises, and initiatives that address some of the world’s most pressing problems. In addition, we make grants to build a more robust and dynamic impact investing marketplace. 

Today, we are focusing on two key priorities:  

  • Impact investments that advance the goals of the Foundation’s programmatic strategies. For example,
    • We support the Chicago Commitment by investing deeply in our hometown, helping nonprofits, social enterprises, and intermediaries that expand opportunity and empower marginalized communities.
    • We also make impact investments to support our Climate Solutions Big Bet, with a focus on rooftop and off-grid solar in India and to further innovation and the deployment of clean energy and technology in the United States, especially within communities of color and low-income communities.
  • Grants to support the impact investment field globally, including:
    • Investments and grants to advance the Catalytic Capital Consortium, our collaborative initiative with the Omidyar Network and The Rockefeller Foundation. Learn about the funding priorities for the grants made through New Venture Fund for this initiative;
    • Grants to support impact investing networks, impact measurement and management, and industry collaborations; and
    • Benefit Chicago, a collaboration between the MacArthur, the Chicago Community Trust, Calvert Impact Capital, and dozens of individual and institutional impact investors, deployed nearly $100 million in catalytic capital to support nonprofits and social enterprises in Chicago.

Recipients of our investment and grant support may include traditional nonprofits, for-profit enterprises, special-purpose funds, public agencies, or quasi-governmental entities. We fund approximately $5 million in grants each year that advance our objectives to support our goal of a more just and inclusive investment market, including a more effective and scaled impact investment field.

Representative Grants and Impact Investments ›

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 Windows 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 June 2021

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