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“Museums will help chart a path to a more equitable future not only through the artists they present and the audiences they engage, but by what they invest in and who they hire to manage those investments. It’s possible to make investments count for the mission, as well as the bottom line.” 
Darren Walker — trustee, National Gallery of Art and president, Ford Foundation

“As the nation’s art museum located in the heart of Washington, DC, we want to reflect the communities we serve and have a positive impact on the environment in which we operate. To do this, we must align our values and strategic priorities—in this case, diversity and sustainability—in everything we do, including how our long-term capital is invested. Recognizing there is strength in numbers, we are looking to collaborate with our peers to create effective outcomes through the alignment of our values and pursuit of our mission with our long-term capital.”
Kaywin Feldman — director, National Gallery of Art


Upstart Co-Lab, the Association of Art Museum Directors, and the Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums completed a first-of-its-kind survey of U.S. museums of art and design to establish their current level of impact investing activity and profile first-mover museums exploring the integration of values, mission, and investment. Sixty-one independent museums of art and design in the U.S., representing nearly $10 billion of endowment assets, responded to this survey. The resulting report, Cultural Capital: The state of museums and their investing, shares the findings of the survey and explores insights from interviews with respondents.

Key Findings

Our findings demonstrate there is significant room for improvement with 13% of museums engaged in impact investing compared to 47% of colleges and universities and 51% of foundations.

Most museums are not fully mobilizing their endowment in service of their values and mission. While 80% of Investment Committees have discussed impact investment, only one-third of respondents have turned those conversations into action.

Barriers to action include persistent questions which are easily resolved: the ability to achieve targeted financial returns; the ability to measure impact; and the availability of quality impact investing products across asset classes.

Ninety percent of respondents cited values alignment as the most significant driver of their impact investing conversation. Approximately 35% percent report that a portion of their endowment portfolio is currently managed by BIPOC and/or women fund managers.

Investment Committees and Leadership Teams are driving the conversation. Nearly half of respondents report having some impact investing expertise on the Investment Committee of their Board. Only 27% of the respondents indicated that their professional Investment Advisors are driving the impact investing conversation.

Other important stakeholders are lagging behind. Only 31% of respondents said that their Boards were driving the conversation and, unlike on the issue of tainted donations where they have been visible and vocal, Artists and the Public are not engaged on the topic of aligning museum endowments with values and mission. Donors themselves are similarly unengaged.

Opportunity and Impact

Impact investing is a topic of interest for survey respondents, which comprise approximately 40% of independent art and design museums in the U.S. by number and approximately 32% by endowment assets. While this interest is encouraging – with only one-third of respondents currently engaged in impact investing — most museums are lagging compared to their university and foundation peers when it comes to investing in alignment with values and mission. 

Everyone committed to the future of America’s art museums—including the Boards, Leadership Teams, Staff, Donors, Artist, and Public that support them—can play a part in shifting museum endowments to impact investing. We hope the findings and recommendations in this report will help usher in a new era of ethical investing for the creative sector.


In the next 25 years, at least $30 trillion from the Baby Boomer generation will be inherited by Generation X and Millennials; it is estimated that women will inherit 70% of this wealth. This transfer of wealth is significant, as women and NextGen are more likely to prioritize impact investing than the Baby Boomers who currently control the majority of wealth.

86% of NextGen art collectors rank social impact and purpose-led investment as their highest motivation when buying art. This outlook is guiding the NextGen’s donations to nonprofit institutions that share their commitment to impact investing.

The Marian B. and Jacob K. Javits Foundation, in honor of Marian B. Javits, has provided support towards the dissemination of Cultural Capital: The state of museums and their investing.


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Monocle: Worthy Investment

Financial Times: Museums should lead in socially responsible investing

Pioneers Post: Global coalition explores ideas for new impact investment fund to back creative enterprises

ImpactAlpha: Building a personal portfolio of impact investments in the creative economy

Fast Company: Why Impact Investing Funds Need To Invest In Creativity

Stanford Social Innovation Review: Capital for Creativity

The New York Times: Investing in Creativity, and in the Greater Good

Real Leaders: The Innovator Connecting Impact Investing to The Creative Economy

Barron’s: Investing in the Creative Economy is a Boon to Artists and Communities

ImpactAlpha: Investments in the creative economy will help drive an inclusive COVID recovery

Real Leaders: The Power of Art, Design, Culture, Heritage and Creativity

The Art Newspaper: How museums can ethically invest their money

GenderSmart Investing: Is Impact Investing Repeating The Mistakes Of Investing? The Solution Is A Creative One

ImpactAlpha: Investment opportunities in expanding access and ownership in the creator economy

McKinsey & Company: How an alum is disrupting funding for creativity and culture