October 15, 2016

How We Invest

There’s not a lot of certainty in investing, so we keep our mission and values front of mind to help us make the tough calls. After all, it is our investments that drive our impact, from the investments we make in capital markets to the investments we make in the people running our business to the investments we make in our community through grant-making. The links are clear.

Given this philosophy, we promote investment principles that have proven successful, even though they challenge convention. And we continuously revisit and refine our approach. A few key assumptions guide us:

  • Our long-term investment horizon is an advantage and a responsibility, one that we take seriously.

  • The full realization of our mission takes a broad effort that includes business and investment partners.

  • Some of our decisions directly reflect our mission, while others may be more focused on financial performance (see note below), but in all cases, we use our best judgment and aim for transparency to acknowledge the underlying tensions between our financial returns and our mission, values and beliefs.

  • Risk and return cannot be captured solely through traditional quantitative measures.

A more comprehensive version of our investment principles can be found here.

Governance

Our investment process is overseen by Meyer’s six-member board of trustees. Together with staff and consultants, they set asset allocation and risk levels annually, informed by the macroeconomic environment, regional opportunities and grant-making needs. In Meyer’s private asset portfolio, we provide feedback to managers when we have concerns about alignment with our values. In our public asset portfolio, we are committed to being transparent about what we invest in; we vote proxies in accordance with socially responsible principles.

Strong oversight enables sound investment

Every other year, we invite our investment managers to a roundtable meeting to share ideas and visions for the future. Much like our investment philosophy, our investment approach embraces nontraditional skills and diverse points of view.

We post each year's tax filing, which can be found here.

View Meyer's total assets here.

A note about Meyer’s public asset investing:

There is a tension in managing a large, diversified portfolio that serves to fund Meyer's philanthropic work. Our portfolio and our philanthropic work are, effectively, two hands working at somewhat different purposes.

That is especially clear where our financial investments are made in industries or practices that our grantmaking aims to remedy. For instance, we invest in funds that profit from distressed lending; yet, on the program side, we directly support affordable housing organizations working to make a more equitable world for people who are disproportionately vulnerable to predatory lending.

We recognize the dissonance between our fiduciary responsibility to grow our corpus through profitable financial investments and the vital program work we support — and the questions that dissonance raises: How can we help bring down structural and institutional barriers and promote equity, even as we profit from those barriers? How can we be part of the cause and solution at the same time? Where we learn of direct conflict between our investments and our program work, we call out these points of tension with our managers to encourage them to better align their efforts and our investments with our values.

We are committed to voicing this dissonance to our managers to better align with our mission.

These aren't abstract, rhetorical questions for a foundation that takes seriously the charge to be a regional and national leader in the sector. We don't have satisfactory answers, and we may never have them. But we are learning as we go. Our investment philosophy continues to evolve.