The Bush Foundation is a grantmaking organization, and we seek to have the most possible impact with the resources we grant to the communities we serve. We also know that we have impact on the world in a lot of other ways. All our actions have consequence — good and bad, intentional and unintentional. We try as an organization to be conscious of minimizing harm and creating good in all our operations.
One of the most significant ways we have impact in the world is in the investment of our endowment assets. This is about $1 billion that we invest with the objective of growing our assets over time to stay ahead of inflation and ensure we can continue to be a resource to communities. We entrust our money to fund managers who make the decisions about which institutions ultimately get funded. Those decisions matter a lot. Getting private capital investments in a company or a community is critical for building thriving businesses that create jobs, create wealth and support the economic vitality of communities.
We have two intentional objectives we consider as part of our commitment to investing for impact:
1. Advancing Equity in Capital Markets
We believe people of all backgrounds and identities can have great ideas and the talent to make those ideas happen. The fact that traditional private capital market investors disproportionately invest in early stage companies led by people who are male and white belies this belief. We understand that the fact that capital is not more proportionately allocated across gender and race/ethnicity is the result of a number of complicated and interconnected dynamics. We know that some groups of people in our country have faced both discriminatory policies and discriminatory beliefs that can have long lasting impacts on how well-positioned people are to pursue their great ideas and make the most of their talents. For example, because many company founders rely on investment from friends and family, some entrepreneurs are limited by community inequalities that tie back to policies from decades ago. This historic discrimination is compounded by bias today. For a variety of reasons, traditional investment firm leaders do not reflect the demographics of our country as a whole. There is a vast amount of psychological research about bias and our tendencies to trust people like ourselves, and that can have significant consequence in a homogenous field.
We believe our actions as an investor can help ensure people of all backgrounds and identities in all places have access to capital to make their great ideas happen. As an investor in markets, we are part of creating the demand that moves its direction. We believe there is a market opportunity for increased funding to entrepreneurs and communities that have been overlooked or underestimated by traditional investors.
2. Supporting Business Development in MN, ND, SD and the 23 Native Nations We Serve
We believe that supporting business growth in our region is a way for us to grow our resources in a way that grows our local economies. The Bush Foundation exists because of the growth of 3M, from a small business in Two Harbors, MN to one of the largest global corporations. We know that 3M only made it through early challenges and setbacks due to the belief and the financial backing of local investors, who took a risk for the sake of a local company with promise. We believe that taking on more risk when considering investments that directly impact our region can pay significant returns in our overall Foundation impact.
We believe that preserving and creating strong businesses is an important part of building strong communities. We use our grantmaking to address many types of issues in our region. We see our investments as a way to complement that grantmaking, to preserve and create jobs and build wealth in our region. For families and communities to be strong and stable, people need reliable jobs with livable wages. For families and communities to build wealth, people need the opportunity to create and grow businesses. Supporting business growth is an important strategy for advancing our purpose of making the region better for everyone. The potential for impact is even greater when the business creation and growth is in communities with more significant challenges in economic development — like rural communities and communities with concentrated poverty.
How We Focus on Equity and Our Region
- We are on the lookout for new market-rate investment managers that specifically focus on investing in businesses led by women and people of color and/or directly support business creation and growth in our region.
- We are asking our venture fund managers how they are working to source business plans from entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and places and working on their own ability to work beyond their natural biases.
- We talk with every fund manager about their policies and practices related to diversity, equity and inclusion. We ask about their own hiring and talent development practices, and expect that all our fund managers are making earnest efforts to adapt their practices and develop new relationships and pipelines to ensure they have a diverse team of investment professionals.
- We give extra consideration to investment options that focus on our region and are willing to consider smaller investments with a shorter performance track record or more risk than we typically do in our portfolio.
- We will partner with local institutions for banking services related to our investments, where possible.
We take a blended capital approach and complement our market-rate investments with PRIs and grants. We invest PRIs and grants in funds that directly advance our impact investing objectives. We also make complementary grants to efforts that inspire, equip and connect people to advance our impact investing objectives in our region. This includes support for entrepreneurs and for efforts to diversify the investment management field.
If you have an investment opportunity you think would be a good fit with our impact investing objectives, please submit your idea through our Community Innovation grant program.