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AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada Provides Funding for Study on Responsible Investing by Charities

June 9, 2015

The AFP Foundation for Philanthropy-Canada has awarded its annual research prize to Chelsie Hunt and Sean Campbell, graduate students at the University of Waterloo, who will conduct research and produce two papers on market research and tools that can be developed to help the non-profit sector shift towards responsible investing. Dr. Olaf Weber will provide faculty supervision and support.

Background

The top recommendation of the 2010 Social Finance Taskforce, crafted by Canada's financial and charitable leaders, was that "Canada's public and private foundations should invest at least 10 percent of their capital in mission-related investments by 2020 and report annually to the public on their activity" (Canadian Task Force on Social Finance, 2010, p.3). The taskforce identified mission-related investments, or responsible investing more generally, as a pressing need because of its ability to direct the existing resources of the sector towards creating impact.

Five years after the taskforce released its report, public commitments from charitable organizations to meet this investment and transparency target are virtually non-existent. A highly regulated ecosystem has created a charitable sector that sees risk instead of opportunity. Charitable leaders fear the possibility of the Canada Revenue Agency reprisals for adopting investment policies that don't conform to traditional investment approaches that only speak to the fiduciary duty of shareholder maximization.

Charitable organizations currently lack the necessary tools, knowledge and networks to effectively redirect funds to responsible investments resulting in a dormant industry. Support mechanisms are required to develop responsible investment strategies, implement proper governance oversight and CRA reporting, and communicate investment success with donors and the general public. The long-term goal of this research is to support charitable organizations in aligning their investments with their mission and to encourage voluntary disclosure of investment practices.

Current Research

As supported by the grant, Hunt and Campbell will produce two research papers. For the first paper, a query from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) of all Canadian charitable organizations (for 2013) will form the initial research population. From this group, the researchers excluded any charities that did not receive investment income over $1 million (thereby identifying those charities that are the largest contributors to the sector) or have a website (based on the assumption that a website is the primary way to communicate information to stakeholders).  The remaining 300 charities will be analyzed to discover investment trends across the charitable sector.

For the second paper, the researchers will qualitatively analyze the language and information that is provided on the charity websites to identify if investment information is communicated publicly to donors.

"I feel humbly honored to have been selected for the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada research grant," says Hunt.  "We hope that this research will enable charities to become more responsible in their investing. All charities having a more transparent investment approach which is aligned with their mission and values would provide the charitable sector with multiple benefits that have yet been realized." 

Both papers are expected to be completed by the end of September 2015.

In its mandate to support research on philanthropy, fundraising and the fundraising profession, The AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada annually invites submissions for research grants. For more Information on grant selection criteria, research project guidelines and submission contact go to http://www.afpnet.org/files/ContentDocuments/AFPResearchGuide.pdf

 



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