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. To fulfill their commitment, these institutions are actively learning about values-aligned and mission-related investing. With over $64 billion in their endowments, cultural institutions 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 helping build knowledge and capacity for mission-related and values-aligned investing among museums and cultural institutions in the U.S.

Cultural Capital: The state of museums and their investing

Cultural Capital: The state of museums and their investing shares results of the first-of-its-kind survey of independent U.S. museums of art and design and their impact investing practices. In partnership with the Association of Art Museum Directors and The Black Trustee Alliance of Art Museums, Upstart Co-Lab surveyed 61 museums with endowments totaling $10 billion to better understand how these anchor cultural institutions are aligning their money with their mission and values, in particular their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The report issues a call to action for museum Boards, Leadership Teams, Staff, Donors and Artists — and is intended to usher in a new era of ethical investing for the creative sector. To learn more and download the report, click here.

Cultural Institution Study Group

From October 2020 through October 2022, Upstart managed 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 focus of this Study Group was on learning: Upstart curated quarterly meetings with presentations from impact investing experts on the what, why, and how of impact investing; addressed common questions regarding comparative financial performance and impact measurement; and highlighted key topics and trends in the sector. Key topics included 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.

Participants in the Cultural Institution Study Group included: the Art Institute of Chicago, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Guggenheim Museums and Foundation, the Kurt Weill Foundation, McNay Art Museum, Michener Art Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Morgan Library and Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art – Denver, the National Gallery of Art, the Oakland Museum of California, the Peabody Essex Museum, The Phillips Collection, Portland Museum of Art, St. Louis Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Walters Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the World Monuments Fund.

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.

In April 2022, Upstart Co-Lab partnered with Mission Investors Exchange and Grantmakers in the Arts for the Mission Investing Institute: Arts and the Creative Economy, the first professional development offering for staff at foundations funding the arts and endowed cultural institutions. 

Investment Spotlight on Creative Industries: Honeycomb Credit, Paskho, & Runway: The founders of Honeycomb Credit, Paskho and RUNWAY described how investing in the creative economy can deliver deep impact for communities, and pay investors a risk-adjusted financial return. These three innovative opportunities demonstrate how impact goals including DEI and financial inclusion can be achieved through the creative economy, and the range of opportunities available to place-based investors. Watch the video

Investment Spotlight on Racial Justice: Cambridge Associates, Souls Grown Deep Foundation, The Walters Art Museum: Speakers from Cambridge Associates, the Souls Grown Deep Foundation and The Walters Art Museum discussed investment strategies for advancing racial justice, and challenged foundations to think about aligning “the other 95%” of endowment assets (which are not federally-required to be spent on annual programs) with mission and values.  Watch the video.

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.


Barron’s: Future Returns: Upstart Co-Lab to Create Inclusive Creative Economy Fund

Forbes: Upstart Co-Lab Aims To Create A $100 Million Portfolio Of Creative Economy Funds, Companies

The New York Times: A Push to Invest in the Arts Grows Stronger

Forbes: Amid This Year’s Struggle, New And Tougher Companies Are Born In The $900M Creative Economy

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