By Lauren Booker Allen (Senior Manager, Impact Investing at Omidyar Network) and Kelsey King (Program Manager, Impact Investing at Omidyar Network)
With countless headlines pointing to the steady rise of impact investing, many wonder if it’s all just hype. Are investors just talking about this new way of deploying capital to achieve their social impact and financial goals, or are they actually doing it? At Omidyar Network, we understand the skepticism, but would point to encouraging developments with a key group of stakeholders — high net worth individuals (HNWIs) — as a critical step forward in the industry’s evolution. In earlier days, our impact investing conversations with these wealth holders focused primarily on awareness-building, demystifying, and conveying the merits of this new investment approach. Today, with the industry’s credibility strengthened by promising financial returns data and the entrance of the world’s largest asset managers, fewer families need to be convinced about why to pursue impact investing. Instead, families are increasingly interested in how to get started.
This shift towards action is an exciting and laudable development for the field. But as we’ve learned though our own thirteen-year journey and support of many other families along theirs, getting started is not always straightforward. Many barriers and obstacles — both real and perceived — can prevent families from converting their interest to action. Peer-to-peer networks, providing quality educational opportunities and investing onramps, can play a critical role in helping families overcome these hurdles.
This is why we invested in PYMWYMIC, the “Put Your Money Where Your Meaning Is Community” of impact investors. Since 1994, PYMWYMIC has provided hundreds of European wealth holders — families, philanthropists, and individual investors — the opportunity to learn, share, and invest alongside one another. Over its 23-year history, PYMWYMIC members have invested millions in seed and growth capital into over 60 companies, and supported hundreds of additional entrepreneurs globally, heavily influencing the broader development of the impact investing ecosystem.
The heart of PYMWYMIC is about mobilizing action — its very name challenges members to align their investments with their values. With this goal in mind, PYMWYMIC recently restructured its membership model into an Investment Cooperative (COOP) that will convert more experienced investor members to shareholders, increasing their company engagement, ownership, and governance responsibilities. The COOP will be supported by a Field Building Center, which will prioritize growth into new markets and navigation support for newer entrants to the industry, and a Donor Impact Involve Fund (DIIF), which will allow family foundations and philanthropists to begin exploring impact investing through a known grant structure. The COOP is the first ever peer-to-peer impact holding company, and the DIIF (similar to a US donor-advised fund) is the first of its kind in the Netherlands, a testament to PYMWYMIC’s continued industry leadership and innovative spirit.
This unique model intends to support families at various stages of their impact investing journeys. By meeting people where they are on their impact journey, we believe PYMWYMIC can provide tailored products and resources to further move families towards action. These are unchartered waters, but PYMWYMIC is well-positioned to mobilize significantly more capital towards solving some of the world’s most pressing and urgent challenges. Omidyar Network is proud to support and learn alongside them in this new chapter, as we aim to continue strengthening the impact investing movement for years to come.