Where the Wealthy Walk the Walk
Why We Invested: Toniic
By Robynn Steffen, Senior Manager, Impact Investing and McKenzie Smith, Program Manager, Impact Investing at Omidyar Network
This June, Jeff Bezos tweeted asking for philanthropy ideas for his $90 billion fortune. In August, Bill Gates gave $4.6 billion in Microsoft stock to his personal charity. Earlier this year, 14 new billionaires joined the Giving Pledge, bringing the organization’s membership to 168 billionaires who have committed to giving away half of their wealth during their lifetime. These efforts are part of a broader trend of high net-worth individuals (HNWIs) dedicating great wealth to the public good and thinking strategically about how to maximize its impact.
At Omidyar Network, we think the answer goes beyond traditional philanthropic models in order to leverage every possible tool. That’s why Pierre and Pam set up a hybrid structure that allows them to fund the best entrepreneurs, regardless of whether they operate for-profit or nonprofit entities. Increasingly, we are not alone. Today, we are pleased to announce a renewed investment in an organization that is helping smooth the path for HNWIs eager to walk the walk on impact investing: Toniic.
HNWIs are uniquely positioned to be catalytic first-adopters of impact investing. They have the flexibility and risk tolerance to test novel impact investing products, and their vast sums of wealth (in 2015, U.S. HNWIs were worth $15.2 trillion) can be catalytic in pushing financial institutions to expand their product offerings and meet impact investing demand. Toniic helps HNWIs navigate the long, uncertain journey from initial intrigue to actual allocation, enabling them to more efficiently place new capital into impact investments. Through its annual gatherings, regional meetings, and resources such as the Diirectory (a database of past member investments) and Gust (a deal-sharing platform), Toniic has cultivated a high-trust community that enables deep, peer-to-peer learning.
What’s more, with the recent integration of the 100% Impact Network, Toniic is now the home of a growing community of industry-leading HNWIs who seek to allocate their entire portfolio to impact. At 100% meetings, small groups of members gather to learn from in-depth analyses of their peers’ portfolios, including where, what, and how much impact each is trying to create. Throughout the meetings, members can connect with each other informally to trade advice about wealth advisors or live investment opportunities. These intimate meetings have already led to a collective commitment of $4.5 billion. In the words of one member, Toniic gives him “the chance to learn from other pioneers,” and gain the inspiration and confidence to forge a path to impact that others can follow.
Toniic doesn’t stop at moving its members towards ever-greater impact — it also aspires to accelerate the entire impact investing market. Made possible by its growing network and unique culture, Toniic believes in its and its members’ responsibility to share lessons learned to help empower others. For example, the T100 research project is a multi-year effort to share previously unavailable data — such as the asset allocations, investment instruments, and portfolio returns — of 50 members of Toniic’s 100% Impact Network. In doing so, T100 breaks important new ground on transparency among HNW families.
T100 and other Toniic projects have two major implications for the growth of the impact investing market. First, they help activate new impact investors previously waiting hesitantly on the sidelines. Second, by describing the impact and financial returns they realize across their portfolios, project participants add crucial data points to efforts to parse impact investing’s big tent and better understand the complex interplay between risk, return, and impact. Together, these effects pave the way for the growth of the impact investing market as a whole.
At Omidyar Network we believe everyone has the power to make a difference, and our work enables people to discover that power, improve their own lives, and make lasting contributions to their communities. We invested in Toniic to activate more capital to fund the organizations and initiatives around the world that are doing just that.