Who We Are

The ImpactAssets team brings several decades of experience in impact investing, innovative financial services, philanthropy and wealth management.

Janine Firpo

Janine Firpo
Social Innovator, Aligned Investor, Angel Investor, Writer

ImpactAssets donor since 2014

What impact do you want to make?
As I go further down the path as an impact investor, I'm becoming more focused and specific about the impact I'm interested in achieving. My priorities are supporting women, social equity and fixing the environment. In terms of the environment, it is not just about sustainability. It's about undoing the mess that we've created. I am interested in innovation that provides a more thoughtful approach to what we're making, how we're using it, and how we're disposing of it.

What has your impact investing journey included?
My journey has been about ensuring that all of my assets — cash, fixed income, stock, real estate and philanthropy — are aligned with my values. Depending on the asset class, there are different levels of thematic control I can have. In certain asset classes, the most I can hope for is an Environment, Social and Governance (ESG), climate change or gender-based fund. In others, like my private deal flow and philanthropic investing through my ImpactAssets Donor Advised Fund account, I can have more direct control over the impact that I'm seeking.

Currently, my ImpactAssets Donor Advised Fund account is split between traditional philanthropic grants and concessionary investing. Part of it will always be put in traditional philanthropic grants, because certain solutions will never have a business model that’s investable. The other portion is allocated to concessionary investing in companies that need catalytic capital to survive, are very high risk or have unproven financial models. I am also interested in helping companies that I like gain more exposure.

The donor advised fund (DAF) structure provides an incredibly flexible, creative way to support businesses or enterprises that are solving the world's problems – through a blend of grants and other forms of financial capital.

What's in your impact portfolio?
I made a Custom Investment in Fledge through my ImpactAssets Donor Advised Fund account. Fledge is a "global network of conscious company accelerators and investment funds" supporting social entrepreneurs all over the world and experimenting with revenue-based lending models, which intrigues me. When Fledge started, the model was unproven, so I supported the effort with my philanthropic capital. Now it looks like the model will be successful, which is wonderful.

I also co-invested in Indigenous with another ImpactAssets donor. This company is a pioneer in organic and fair trade apparel. They only use organic cotton and support indigenous, fair-trade labor in Peru to make gorgeous clothes. By investing in them through our DAF, we were able to get the company on the ImpactAssets platform so other ImpactAssets donors could invest in them as well.

Why did you choose The ImpactAssets Donor Advised Fund to make an impact?
The ImpactAssets Donor Advised Fund is one of the most innovative DAFs that I am aware of. It allows me to recommend investments in virtually anything that I want, which provides a lot of freedom. I have more control over how my money is invested. It's also fun to experiment with different investments and explore new possibilities through my account.

What I love about the DAF concept, in general, is that you can put funds into the DAF in a given year, get your total tax advantage, and then distribute that money over time. It's a great way to move away from ad hoc charity to a philanthropic strategy that creates long-term impact.

What's next?
I'm starting to think more about how to make an impact at the local level. And for me, oddly enough, that means both in Oakland where I live, and Africa, where I spent a lot of my career.

In Oakland, I’m developing a strategy to address homelessness. It’s a really big issue in my community. In Africa — East Africa, more specifically — I’m supporting the David Sheldrick Foundation. This foundation rescues abandoned baby elephants, provides them with a habitat to grow to maturity, and then re-releases them back to the wild. I have also invested in a horticulture farmer in Tanzania and a fish farmer in Uganda.

Words of advice?
Have fun and take full advantage of the options that are available to make the impact that you want across your entire portfolio. At this point, there is no reason why anyone — even unaccredited investors — can’t invest their money in ways that align with their values without giving up a financial return.