Making a Direct Social Impact in the Community

The Our Region, Your Investment initiative is going strong. Within its first seven months, it surpassed the original goal of $5 million in investments. Since January of 2016, almost $12 million has been invested in the initiative by foundations, banks, nonprofits, and individuals. And all of these investment dollars have been deployed in projects around the region.

Recently, the initiative hit a different milestone – its first ever return investor. So we asked Nancie Suzuki, executive director of the Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation, to tell us why the Foundation initially decided to invest and what brought them back to the table – with more resources – to support Our Region, Your Investment a second time.
– Gretchen Greiner-Lott, Vice President of WRAG

Prof Pic SmallBy: Nancie Suzuki
Executive Director
Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation

The Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation made our first investment with WRAG’s Our Region, Your Investment initiative about one year ago when our board agreed to start moving a portion of the investment portfolio into the impact investing space. We came across the opportunity after spending about a year researching possible investments and finding that there were not a lot of options in the D.C. region. The journey was a difficult one, and we wanted to find something that would have direct social impact in our community.

It took us a year to change our investment policy and then to invest in Environmental Social Governance (ESG) funds. However, to make deep impact, the Foundation wanted to invest in options that were local and in line with our mission. Furthermore, as a small staff, it was a challenge for us to do the due diligence to find a trustworthy investment.

The Foundation’s mission is to help uplift communities, and we believe that affordable housing is an important part of that mission. Our Region, Your Investment was a great fit for our first direct impact investment. Although we trust WRAG, we started out small with a $100,000 investment to ensure we were being fiscally responsible (since we invested it as a mission related investment). A year later, the investment met its financial obligations and exceeded our expectations in social impact. The number of affordable homes saved in the D.C. region since our investment is over 450, but there is still so much need. Therefore, we recently invested an additional $750,000. This is the kind of opportunity that allows foundations like ours – with small staffs and limited resources – to have a direct impact in our community.

Join us on October 24th at 12 pm for WRAG’s Impact Investor Network (WIIN). This session, hosted at WRAG, will be the first in a series of informal brown bag lunch gatherings that will provide an opportunity to learn and share with your colleagues about local impact investing opportunities, challenges, best practices and available resources. At this first meeting, Nancie Suzuki will be on hand to share more with us about the Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation’s journey to identify the right local impact investment opportunity.  

Mixed feelings about major complex coming to Ward 8

Following the announcement of a new sports and entertainment complex on the St. Elizabeths East campus, some residents are expressing mixed feelings about the proposed venue. (WaPo, 9/24)

[…] in interviews with dozens of residents of this Ward 8 neighborhood, where unemployment is far higher than the national average of 5.5 percent, people were as likely to express optimism about the project’s impact on their community as they were to suggest that the city should instead be investing its money in affordable housing and better schools for their kids.

– A new report examining resources and staffing at high poverty schools looks at Montgomery County schools’ spending and suggests that much more aid should be put toward helping low-income students to close the ever-widening achievement gap in the school system. (WaPo, 9/23)

–  For many students in the region, learning to ride a bike has much more meaning than simply mastering the art of balancing without training wheels. It can also be an essential lifelong skill that gives students of various income levels an equitable educational experience, while also highlighting the need for greater cycling infrastructure throughout the District and its suburbs. (WaPo, 9/23)

HEALTH | Obesity Maps Put Racial Differences on Stark Display (NPR, 9/23)

JOBS | Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc. currently has an opening in their chairman’s office for a Foundation Assistant who will primarily support the Marriott Daughters Foundation, and periodically support the Richard E. & Nancy P. Marriott and the Nancy Peery Marriott Foundations. Click here to find out more.

How well do you know science (or remember it from high school)? Take this quiz to see how you stack up.

– Ciara

The region looks to move away from federal spending

A new study, “Improving the Washington Region’s Global Competitiveness,” from George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis points to the region’s ongoing reliance on federal spending as a major cause for concern for local governments. The report also calls for D.C., Maryland and Virginia to join forces in the effort to attract business and investment in the region and boost the private economy. (WaPo, 11/24 and WTOP, 11/25)

Exacerbated by federal sequestration cuts that went into effect last year, the decline in federal spending has contributed to a regionwide shift from higher-paying jobs — government contractor or subcontractor, for example — to jobs that pay less, according to the Center for Regional Analysis.

 Between September 2013 and this past September, the Washington region lost 13,000 jobs in federal government, business and professional services, education, health care and other higher-paying fields, according to federal data analyzed by the center.

– Last month, the Washington Regional Food Funders (WRFF) convened over 100 stakeholders from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia to learn about federal funding opportunities to strengthen the region’s food system and discover ways in which nonprofits, philanthropy, government, and others can partner effectively to do so. Today, WRFF releases a summary of the meeting with thanks to their members, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Dietel Partners, and the Gannett Foundation.

– For The Next Food Drive, Go For the Canned Tuna, Not the Saltines (WAMU, 11/24)

PHILANTHROPY | The 2014-2015 edition of the Catalogue for Philanthropy is here! A number of WRAG members like Booz Allen Hamilton, the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Capital One, the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, the Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation, the Meyer Foundation, and Pepco helped to make this publication possible.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING/DISTRICT | Many housing units east of the river, that were once sold for as much as six times their current sale price, are among the lowest-priced properties available. A lack of development has made the units very difficult to sell, despite the ever-increasing demand for housing to the west. (CHOTR, 11/24)

HOMELESSNESS/YOUTH | According to a new report from the National Center on Family Homelessness at the American Institutes, in 2013 the number of children who were homeless increased in thirty-one states and the District of Columbia, and was also up by at least 10 percent in thirteen of those states and the District. In a composite state ranking from 1 – 50 (from best to worst) across four domains: 1) Extent of Child Homelessness; 2) Child well-being; 3) Risk for child homelessness; and 4) State policy and planning efforts, Maryland came in at number 11 and Virginia at number 15.   (PND, 11/24)

Due to the holiday, there will not be a news roundup for the rest of this week. Safe travels to those hitting the road.  I leave you with this and, most importantly, this. Happy holidays!

– Ciara