Cultural institutions investing for values and mission

In 2020, American museums and cultural institutions made extensive public statements of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and committed to addressing structural racism. Now these organizations are actively identifying ways to fulfill their commitment throughout their operations and, for the first time, are seeking to learn about values-aligned and mission-related investing. American museums and other cultural institutions — which hold in aggregate over $64 billion in their endowments — specifically want to align their endowments with the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion they profess; their role as anchor institutions in livable communities; and the commitment to long-term thinking and stewardship they represent as perpetual institutions. But to move in this direction, cultural leaders need to be prepared.

Upstart Co-Lab is developing knowledge and capacity for mission-related and values-aligned investing among U.S. museums and other endowed cultural institutions.

Cultural Institution Study Group

In October 2020, Upstart launched a Cultural Institution Study Group to support museums and other endowed cultural organizations interested in learning how to invest in alignment with mission and values. The Study Group currently consists of twenty museums, one global heritage organization and one artist-endowed foundation. The focus of this Study Group is on learning: Upstart curates quarterly meetings with presentations from impact investing experts on the what, why, and how of impact investing; addresses common questions regarding comparative financial performance and impact measurement; and highlights key topics and trends in the sector. Opportunities for investing in alignment with values of diversity, equity and inclusion such as diverse manager strategy, socially-themed ETFs, and investing in funds backing BIPOC and women entrepreneurs are a key priority for the Study Group.

Impact Investing Survey of U.S. Museums

Upstart Co-Lab — in partnership with the Association of Art Museum Directors and the Black Trustee Alliance — is developing the first survey of U.S. museums to assess the current state of the sector as it pertains to values-aligned and responsible investing. The survey will be administered in 1Q2022, and a report of the findings  — including recommendations to philanthropic funders, impact investment advisors and fund managers, museum investment committees and senior leadership — will be widely disseminated. Past efforts to assess diversity among the staff and boards of cultural institutions have led to change and improvement that can be seen today. This survey of how America’s museums are aligning their investments with their values of diversity, equity and inclusion – and connecting their money to their mission – is intended to usher in a new era of impact investing for the creative sector.

Learn more

The Study Group and Survey build off Upstart’s prior work including a series of meetings for museum and cultural institution directors and trustees, conference presentations, podcasts, and publications:

The Guide: what cultural institutions need to know about investing for values and mission: A primer on impact investing specifically for leaders of museums and other cultural institutionsThe Guide: what cultural institutions need to know about investing for values and mission offers lessons from first-mover cultural organizations, plus examples of relevant impact investing opportunities in the creative economy. Developed in collaboration with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. To learn more and download the report, click here.


Bringing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to American Museums’ $40 billion Endowments, a webinar curated by Upstart Co-Lab for SOCAP’s SPECTRUM21 series, highlights how some museums are fulfilling their commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion through their investment policy. Christine Kelleher, Chief of Investments at the National Gallery of Art, and Calvin Baker, a Trustee for the Walters Art Museum, discussed how and why their institutions have committed to working with diverse fund managers. This webinar was moderated by Upstart Co-Lab’s founding partner Laura Callanan.


In How Museums and Cultural Institutions Invest With Their Values, a webinar from Upstart Co-Lab and Mission Investors Exchange, Mari Kuraishi, President of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund; Max Anderson, President of Souls Grown Deep; and Michelle RhodesBrown, Director of Finance at The Walters Art Museum share their experience at the intersection of impact investing and the creative economy, with a focus on diverse manager strategy and providing access to capital to BIPOC entrepreneurs. Moderated by Laura Callanan, founding partner of Upstart Co-Lab.


Upstart Co-Lab and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York co-hosted Culture and Communities: A Conversation about the Creative Sector, Community Development and Impact Investing, a convening on mission-related investing for NYC’s top cultural institutions. NYC’s museums, libraries, performing arts organizations and other cultural institutions steward endowments of more than $15 billion in aggregate. This meeting assembled over 100 cultural and community leaders for a practical orientation to impact investing aligned with institutional mission and values. The discussion featured impact investing experts, foundation leaders, and cultural leaders who highlighted the importance of New York City’s creative economy; described culture as a driver of community well-being; and presented actionable investment opportunities supporting New York City’s communities.


Art Scoping with Max Anderson: Mission-Aligned Investing for Cultural Organizations: Upstart Co-Lab founding partner Laura Callanan joins the Art Scoping podcast to discuss how mission-aligned investing can set cultural organizations onto a better path, putting their resources to work in furtherance of progressive goals, without sacrificing financial return.


SOCAP Money + Meaning Podcast: Investing in the Creative Economy: Maxwell Anderson, President of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation which is an Upstart Co-Lab member, and Upstart’s founding partner Laura Callanan were interviewed on their efforts to drive impact capital to the creative economy working with museums and other cultural institutions.


Upstart’s panel for SOCAP19, Saying No to Opioid Money is Not Enough: bringing $60 billion of arts organization endowments off the sidelines for impact investing, was moderated by Justina Lai of Wetherby Asset Management, with panelists Laura Callanan, Founding Partner of Upstart Co-Lab; Max Anderson, President of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation; Philippe Gaboriau, CEO of the Louvre Endowment Fund, Ravi Rajan, President of CalArts, and Tom Campbell, Director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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