Philanthropic Investing

The Investment Gap that Threatens the Planet


To stave off drastic climate change, we must invest more in nascent solutions ignored by traditional capital markets. Philanthropists are in a unique position to fund these efforts.

MIT Innovation Initiative


This pair of practice briefs from the MIT Innovation Initiative is intended to serve as a guide for investors, philanthropists, institutions, and entrepreneurs interested in using charitable capital to support early-stage, science-based innovation in for-profit enterprises. Charitable capital can be granted and/or invested into market-based solutions from several different philanthropic structures. One brief covers options available to those utilizing a private foundation to support innovation, while its companion brief covers options for those interested to use a Donor Advised Fund.


Clarifying IRS’s View
on Climate Change..


Mitigating climate change is going to require unlocking new sources of finance to fund the innovative technologies that will take us to a low – emissions future.


A New Vision for Funding Science


The gap between the lab and the field — between the work of scientific discovery and the achievement of social impact — has grown wider during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. So has the gap between philanthropic funding for university-based research and venture capital funding for the commercialization of products and services. But the emerging practice of philanthropic investment holds the potential to close this dual gap.


Program-related Investments 101

Short Video

The Impact Finance Center, a partnership between the University of Denver and the Sustainable Endowments Institute, compiled a 3-minute video that summarizes the function and potential of program-related investments as a tool for private, corporate and community foundations.


PRIs: Rules for Private Foundations

Short Course

The legal staff at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation joined together to develop a comprehensive training program for making program-related investments – freely accessible to all private foundations.


Making Markets Work for the Poor


In early 2016, ImpactAlpha worked closely with the Gates Foundation to dissect its program-related investments. The SSIR published their findings in a series of articles linked here.

Climate Finance


NYSERDA Climate Assessment Report

White Paper

Early-stage investors require new, forward-looking metrics to improve investment decision making. PRIME partnered with NYSERDA and other leading experts in the philanthropy and climate finance community to develop a methodology for assessing the potential climate impact of a new innovation. This report summarizes the key findings of this climate impact assessment project.

Supplemental Materials Overview | Supplemental Materials 1 | Supplemental Materials 2



Short Video

This webinar explores a new, potential source of capital for energy technology innovation: charitable investments. Although charitable investments in energy technology companies are still in their infancy, this webinar examines program-related investments (PRIs) and other charitable financing tools that could help support early-stage energy technology entrepreneurs.


Impact Investing in the Energy Sector

White Paper

PRIME, Stanford’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy & Finance, and the Mission Investors Exchange joined forces to describe the current landscape of investors and support organizations across the energy innovation and deployment pipeline. This paper describes the disjointed nature of energy impact investing in 2014 and how the federal government might catalyze increased and more coordinated investment activity.


Energizing the US Resource Innovation Ecosystem

White Paper

In 2015, PRIME, Stanford’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy & Finance, and Stanford’s Global Projects Center joined forces to propose an independent and aligned intermediary that would help long-term institutional investors identify the most promising companies and projects for global greenhouse gas reduction at scale.


Navigating Climate Risk

White Paper

Ceres’ primer for family offices that are interested in finance-first investing with awareness that climate change will influence market dynamics over the coming years.


Philanthropy’s (Unexplored) Role in the Fight Against Climate Change


By 2014, most philanthropists weren’t empowered to address the vast capital gap for early-stage energy innovation, nor given the tools they needed to use program-related investments as an important tool in their grantmaking toolbox to fill this gap.


Marshaling Investors for Clean Energy


By investing in clean energy, impact investors can become a powerful force for fighting climate change.