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New MDI case study program details successes of impact investing program

A newly released case study that delves into the development of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s (WKKF) Mission Driven Investments (MDI) program is spotlighted on the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Launched in 2007, the $100 million MDI program was created as a way to commit investments directly to entities in an effort to generate both social and financial returns that tie directly to the WKKF’s overall mission. 

Conducted through Impact Investing 2.0, a project of grantee Pacific Community Ventures, the case study examines the selection of WKKF’s six direct MDIs – investments made directly in for-profits, not through intermediary funds – from 2009 through mid-2013 and highlights key lessons in the development process. 

Through the MDI program, WKKF invests in companies and programs that match the foundation’s mission priorities to support children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions for children to thrive as contributors to a larger community. MDI is now in its seventh year and as the initiative grows and expands, this case study provides additional insight and perspective for the future.  “We approach our mission-driven investments in very much the same way we approach grantmaking – with clear goals, a focus on our mission and constantly learning from our work,” says Joel Wittenberg, WKKF vice president and chief investment officer, in his blog post for Impact Investing 2.0

Overall, the case study finds that the success of WKKF’s six direct investments can be attributed to four key developments:

  • Buy-in from leadership and a governance structure that provides the MDI team with sufficient resources and discretion;
  • The relentless effort of senior staff with the right mix of skills, interests, institutional credibility and the market connections to execute some quick, proof-of-concept deals;
  • A deep and enduring relationship with Imprint Capital, based in San Francisco and an independent advisor to WKKF’s MDI team;
  • A maturing, overarching strategy focused on later growth-stage investments that WKKF is ideally positioned to make on the strength of its flexibility, influence and mission alignment.

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