Community Foundations vs. Impact Investing


Community Foundations used to be the only place where your money could “do good” because most traditional banks offered only for-profit investments. With consumers shifting towards investing for positive impact, banks are now increasing the options available for social purpose impact investment.

Having lost their monopoly on conscious investing, Community Foundations find themselves in the middle of a rapidly growing marketplace with their uniqueness dwindling and donor expectations rising.


As consumer preferences have shifted, ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) investing, social impact investing and charitable gift programs have grown to be part of the standard offerings of wealth management firms and financial institutions. Coupled with their robust administrative engines, which provide easy to access investor statements, white-glove customer service, and simple tax management, banks are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the charitable space.  Savvy investors are considering investment service providers as a one-stop-shop for all their financial needs.  They want convenience, transparency, and speed on top of the “good” investing, like being able to log in online, see fund returns and charitable giving information.


Since financial institutions have moved into impact investing, many donors are expecting Community Foundations to provide a professional level of service, enabled by technology.  Large banks deliver online portals and transactions, immediate personalized service and quick turnaround times. Community Foundations don’t have the luxury of large budgets for donor relationship management and will have to take innovative approaches in their digital strategies to provide the high level, digitally enabled services donors are demanding.  

GrantBook helps Community Foundations by recommending right-sized tools that work together to meet their donor needs.


If your Community Foundation is considering an investment in technology, it is important to ask the right questions before choosing tools. For example,

  • What are the priorities and needs of all stakeholders?
  • How can we reduce inefficiencies while remaining diligent and compliant?
  • How can we get a team agreement on how to move forward?

Working with Community Foundations, Grantbook has seen success in implementing cloud-based fund and grants management systems with donor portals and self-serve options.  This solution eases the administrative burden placed on Community Foundation staff members. Taking advantage of automation and integrations between e-mail, e-commerce and newsletter solutions can reduce manual data entry and errors.  These types of solutions allow Foundation staff to work more openly, breathe easier and take the time needed to focus on strategic activities.


Managing through change is a challenge in any organization.  Transforming people, organization, processes, and technology is even harder.  However, when co-development with full stakeholder inclusion is applied, the risk of a failed technology investment is greatly mitigated.

Through Grantbook’s experience in Digital Strategy, we’ve seen the benefits of bringing staff members together to share their concerns, challenges, and ideas for moving forward.Creating alignment on a Digital Strategy can allow a Community Foundation to make small innovations already in the minds of staff. While technology tools and solutions can enable innovation, investing in the users of these tools is where these game-changing moments can occur.

The  “how” of transformation is the key to Community Foundation sustainability and relevance.  With the appropriate strategy, Community Foundations can make the most of their nimble size to positively impact their communities.

James Law's headshot

James Law

Director, Design & Foresight

Director, Design & Foresight

James Law has worked for 10 years in the social finance and social sectors, designing, exploring, and implementing technologies to help organizations activate mission and achieve impact.

He began working in lean non-profits, employing databases and constituent relationship management tools (CRM) to help track and aggregate data for land conservation and environmental protection. Moving into social finance, he managed the development of an application to administer community bonds and equity.

Moving to Grantbook in 2015, James dove head first into helping foundations—of all types—align on digital values, explore technology options, and select the best path forward. From there, he continued to explore solutions architecture and integrations, connecting best-in-class tools to meet the ideal needs of grantmakers, grantees, and all stakeholders. 

More recently James is investing in Grantbook’s use of service design tools—from personas to service blueprints—to increase resilience and reduce the risk of technology planning and adoption via human-centred thinking. He also helps rally and co-ordinate Grantbook’s new ideas and opportunities as philanthropy and technology change.