Above: The six pillars of Judaism’s framework of mitzvot (obligations) guide JLens’ evaluation of companies and investor advocacy priorities.
Philanthropy is more dynamic than you may realize. As our financial and social approaches to making a difference in the world have evolved, so too have the investment options for our charitable dollars. For decades, having positive investment returns for investors, donor-advised fundholders, and nonprofit endowments was enough to support our community’s charitable needs.
That’s not the case anymore.
The trend toward socially responsible investing, meaning looking at a range of practices of a company before investing – such as positive social impact, sustainability, labor policies, gender equality, community development and more – has been growing. United States assets under management, using SRI strategies, grew from $8.7 trillion at the start of 2016 to $12 trillion at the start of 2018, an increase of 38% (according to a US|SIF Foundation report). In response to the growing interest in values-based investing, OJCF now has a new investment option, with a focus on Jewish values.
“I’m excited to introduce the new Jewish Advocacy Strategy for our community partners and fundholders,” commented Jonathan Glass, OJCF’s Investment Committee Chair. “In partnership with JLens, a nonprofit investor network, OJCF is joining other Jewish organizations throughout the U.S. in offering this new pool that allows donors and partner organizations to consider Jewish values when choosing how to invest their charitable dollars.”
OJCF’s Investment Committee recently voted in favor of adding this pool to the foundation’s investment offerings and funded it with an initial contribution of $250,000 from the Community Endowment Fund. There is no minimum contribution required. Fundholders can select the new pool on the OJCF Asset Allocation Form to move invested dollars into the new pool. For example, you could move some or all of your donor advised fund equity investment into the new pool. Or, you could select the Jewish Advocacy Strategy Pool upon establishing a new fund.
JLens and its Jewish Advocacy Strategy use a Jewish-values overlay to select a portfolio of approximately 300 of the most influential companies in the U.S. that best align with overall Jewish values, and that generate a positive impact for the Jewish community and the world. The benchmark for the pool is the S&P 500. According to the JLens 2018 Impact Report, the fund had reached $50 million since its launch in 2015.
One of the first community foundations in North America to offer an impact investing pool is the San Diego Jewish Community Foundation. The San Diego program applies a Jewish lens “across all asset classes to support environmental and social impact and to support Israel,” according to Beth Sirull, President and Chief Executive Officer, Miriam and Jerome Katzin Presidential Chair. This is a more extensive approach than OJCF’s current strategy; however, it provides a vision of potential expansion in the future.
“JLens’ Jewish Advocacy Strategy has enabled the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego and our donors to substantially increase our impact. Just in the past year, the shareholder advocacy efforts have made a difference in the opioid crisis, in addressing climate change, and on combatting BDS, among other issues,” added Sirull.
In addition to the screening of companies for the pool, JLens provides a robust advocacy program that influences corporate policy. “JLens builds coalitions on issues of shared values and speaks out as a lone voice on specific concerns including BDS, anti-Semitism, discrimination against kosher slaughter, religious tolerance, and fostering coexistence.” (JLens 2018 Impact Report)
OJCF also offers a balanced SRI pool that is similar to the foundation’s long-term endowment strategy except with a socially responsible values overlay. Equity investments include Vanguard FTSE Social Index Fund Investor Shares and PAX MSCI International ESG Index Fund. Fixed Income investments are TIAA-CREF Social Choice Bond Fund and Vanguard Mortgage-Backed Securities Index Fund Admiral Shares.
For more information on these fundholder investment strategies, contact OJCF at 503-248-9328, or visit ojcf.org.