Mission Related Investing

"The Park Foundation's approach to making a difference in the world is holistic. Whether we are investing in social change, or the market, we will remain mindful that money is a means, and not an end unto itself. As a foundation, our true bottom line is the good we do in the world. The very same values and ideals that guide our disbursement of funds to the programs that we support should also guide the management of our foundation's capital assets." – Adelaide P. Gomer, President of Board of Trustees, Park Foundation 

Mission Related Investing

Mission Related Investing (MRI) is the term used to describe a number of different ways in which a foundation can utilize its investment portfolio, or endowment, to advance its philanthropic mission. From 2011-2015 Park Foundation awarded an average of 7.3% of the value of its portfolio as grants, as compared to the 5% minimum required by the IRS. In the Foundation’s desire to effectively utilize the other 93% of its assets to advance our mission, it has undertaken the following Mission Related Investing activities:

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Screening of the Foundation’s Investment Portfolio

In 2011 the Foundation established an ESG Investment Policy that currently includes guidelines on investments in thirteen categories.  These guidelines serve to advise our investment advisors and fund managers on how to evaluate certain ESG risks in our portfolio.  Categories screened include:

Environment (including the Carbon Underground 200) Employee Relations Product Liability and Corporate Governance
Animal Testing Nuclear and Conventional Weapons Nuclear Power
Tobacco Alcohol Gambling
Water Community Relations Media
Hydraulic Fracturing Fossil Fuel Industry

The Foundation's current ESG policy is at:  Park Foundation - Revised ESG Policy Statement -March 2017

Screened Performance

Since 2012 when the current screening policy was initiated the Foundation has met or exceeded its benchmark targets for portfolio income performance:

Year  Park Actual Park Benchmark Private Foundation National Average*
2012 11.33% 10.56%  12.4%
2013 20.67% 19.06%  15.5%
2014 6.67% 5.86%  5.9%
2015 .98% -0.27%  -0.5%
2016 5.8% 8.26% N/A

*Council on Foundations survey of private foundations with assets between $101 and $500 million.

Proxy Voting

The Foundation actively votes its proxies along Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS)  Socially Responsible criteria. All of the Foundation’s fund managers are required to utilize these guidelines in voting our shares of publicly held corporations.

Shareholder Resolutions

Since 2011 Park Foundation has, working though intermediaries, offered its holdings for filing or co-filing shareholder resolutions on issues of priority to the Foundation. In 2016 the Foundation is participating in seven resolutions, primarily around environmental and community impacts and investment risk from natural gas hydrofracking, stranded carbon asset risk, requesting reports on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and media. To conduct these resolutions with holdings that would otherwise be excluded from the portfolio, the Foundation maintains a separate Shareholder Action Account where it retains stocks at low value (less than $10,000) to be used for executing resolutions. This account holds approximately 34 stocks that are primarily oil and gas, agriculture and media companies.


Park Foundation was one of the original 17 signatories to the 2014 Divest/Invest Philanthropy Initiative that encouraged foundations to divest themselves of carbon stocks, and commit themselves to “climate solutions” investments. Park Foundation has, with the exception of holdings in the Shareholder Action Account described above, eliminated the “Carbon Underground 200” stocks from its portfolio. The Foundation has conservatively estimated that climate solutions investments constitute approximately 15% of its current portfolio.

Program Related Investments (PRIs)

PRIs are loans that the Foundation makes to organizations that align with the Foundation’s mission. Chief characteristics of PRIs are that they must advance the philanthropic mission of the lender and they must be at below market interest rates. The Foundation’s PRI program was initiated in 2010 with the restriction that total lending not exceed 1% of the total portfolio value, and that PRIs be focused locally in Tompkins County, NY. As of March 31, 2017 PRI commitments totaled $3.3 million dollars. The Park Foundation’s PRI roster includes:

Lendees/Date Purpose
Alternatives Federal Credit Union (2010) Secondary capital
Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (2010) Green affordable housing loan fund
Alternatives Federal Credit Union (2012) Residential energy efficiency loan fund
Tompkins County Area Development (2012) Sustainable business loan fund
RSF Finance (2012) Regional Access food distributor loan guarantee
State Theatre (2014) Restroom renovations
TCAction (2014) Head Start Program building renovation/expansion
Finger Lakes ReUse (2014) Transition to new material reuse facility
Ithaca Carshare (2015) Vehicle Purchase Fund
TCAction (2016) Head Start Classrooms construction
Challenge Industries (2017) Cash flow reserve
Finger Lakes Land Trust (2017) Land acquisition

A report on the Foundation's first five years of PRIs is located at:  Park Foundation - Five Years of Program Related Investments

Investing Locally

Wherever possible the Foundation invests locally. It maintains credit card accounts with the local community bank and operating checking accounts with an Ithaca-based regional bank. The Foundation’s PRI commitments and other local investments total in excess of $6 million.

Impact Investing

The Foundation’s working definition of impact investing is when we actively seek opportunities to invest in companies that advance environmental solutions. Our primary focus is on water stewardship.  It actively screens investments along water guidelines (see Water section of ESG Policy Park Foundation - Park Foundation - Revised ESG Policy Statement -March 2017).  As part of the development of this aspect of its portfolio, it has produced a paper on water risk entitled "Park Foundation Water Risk Report 2015".

Greening the Office

To complement its grantmaking mission to address environmental issues, Park Foundation has a strong commitment to “walking the talk” - seeking the highest level of sustainability in its operations and activities. Central to this goal is green certification of its offices and practices. In 2014 the Foundation moved to newly designed office space in downtown Ithaca. As part of the office move, the Foundation donated 103 pieces of furniture to 12 different nonprofit organizations in Ithaca. Over 80 boxes of grant records were digitized, shredded and recycled. In designing the new office and its operations, Park Foundation was guided by two certification programs:

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ®

As part of its design and construction of new office spaces, in 2014 the Foundation is seeking LEED Platinum 2.0 certification under the LEED Commercial Interiors (LEED –CI) category that allows certification of office spaces within buildings that are not LEED-certified overall. Significant elements of LEED CI certification include:

  • High efficiency heating and air conditioning systems
  • Commissioning of those systems
  • Occupancy sensor heating and lighting
  • Nontoxic materials in carpeting, finishes and furniture
  • Energy Star appliances
  • Natural lighting
  • Construction waste minimization
  • Alternative transportation, bicycle storage and changing rooms
  • Green power
  • Regional and renewable materials
  • Certified wood

Green Plus©

Green Plus is a certification process that helps an organization develop sustainable operations, policies and processes. Green Plus breaks its overall certification into the subcategories of Performance, Planet and People. The Foundation received Green Plus certification in 2015. Significant elements include:

  • Planning and documentation
  • Sustainable purchasing
  • green+plus+certifiedFinancial practices
  • Human resources
  • Sustainability management
  • Community engagement
  • Raising awareness
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Transportation
  • Waste reduction

A summary of the Foundation’s Green Plus score and final report (PDF Download) The Green Plus certification process was assisted by interns Shea O’Meara of Ithaca College and Maegan Krieger of Cornell University. HOLT Architects of Ithaca, NY led the LEED certification process with Foundation assistance by Maegan Krieger.

Carbon Offsets

Park Foundation offsets its travel-related carbon emissions by calculating staff and Trustee work-related travel, including staff commuting.  In 2016 this totaled 23.9 tons for $594.00.  Offsets are calculated and an annual contribution is made to Sustainable Tompkins Finger Lakes Climate Fund.  Proceeds from this fund assist low-income families in Tompkins County in conducting energy efficiency retrofits to their homes.