Date: July 24, 2012
By: Jesse Grainger
Taryn Goodman is the Senior Manager of Impact Investing at RSF Social Finance, a nonprofit financial institution offering investing, lending, and giving services that support social and spiritual renewal. Inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner, RSF has made over $200 million in loans and over $90 million in grants since 1984 to social enterprises in the areas of Food & Agriculture, Education & the Arts, and Ecological Stewardship. At RSF, Taryn manages the $40 million Donor Advised Fund Impact Investing Portfolios as well as the newly launched Program Related Investing Fund focused in food & agriculture.
How important are accelerators to the future of impact investing?
In the current impact investing sector, there is a lot of finger pointing – entrepreneurs saying there isn’t enough early-stage capital and investors saying there aren’t enough ‘investable’ businesses. No matter what the answer is, we do need people and organizations that can provide guidance to new social enterprises, improving their work. Accelerators clearly fill this need by providing guidance, networks and, at times, financial support to social enterprises.
Investors are putting money to work across the globe and across impact areas. Accelerators heighten their ability to do this in a more efficient manner by providing local technical assistance that enables enterprises to be investment-ready either for an initial investment or for follow-on capital. Beyond their importance to investors, accelerators also provide a community for entrepreneurs in which they can lean on each other and learn from one another – something that is hugely important as entrepreneurship can be lonely.
How do you think Impact Investing in Action has helped to build the field?
The conference was able to bring together the integral players across the early-stage investing spectrum – entrepreneurs, accelerators, and investors – highlighting the importance of the work each one does. Beyond this, the conference created a platform for collaboration and sharing among the parties in attendance. This was created due to the presence of Village Capital and Agora Partnerships who, as accelerators, inherently act as a bridge between entrepreneurs and investors – evaluating opportunities and making connections to capital where appropriate.
What are the main challenges facing impact investing?
I think one of the main challenges is that we are constantly trying to fit a square into a circle without always recognizing it. Specifically, we are using business to solve social and environmental problems across sectors and geographies and in doing so are using investment vehicles – venture equity, debt, etc. – that might not be appropriate. If the focus is on progress and positive change through business, we need to determine the best financial instrument to support that work.
What does the future hold for the impact investing movement?
I think the future is incredibly bright and exciting. When I look at the many intelligent and driven people I get to work with both internally at RSF and in the greater impact investing arena, I find myself incredibly inspired. I know that with these great minds and passion, we will affect change, and impact investing will no longer be a niche market, but rather the only way to invest.