Impact Investing Event Spotlight

Impact Investing Event Spotlight

PSW News
Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Dallas, TX - Philanthropy Southwest and PSW Member Northern Trust partnered to host the sold-out event “Amplifying Philanthropy by Investing for Impact” in Dallas this fall. The event focused on impact investing and featured a dynamic panel to showcase how various strategies manifest from the perspectives of different market participants: Northern Trust’s work in deploying patient capital; Lyda Hill Foundation’s impact investing strategy in conjunction with their grantmaking portfolio; and Akola’s experience as a social enterprise business and recipient of impact investments. 

Debby Kasemeyer, director of community development & investments at Northern Trust, started the discussion by providing an overview of impact investing and other mission-based investment strategies. She explained Northern’s approach using low cost patient capital to support high performing nonprofits and projects, and how such strategies create long-term sustainable change. She described how Northern Trust looks for capital gaps and areas where capital is not flowing, in order to invest in social enterprise businesses, as well as high performing nonprofits and intermediaries such as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), New Market Tax Credits, and Low Income Housing Tax Credits. She explained how and why the bank has functioned as an early adopter of innovative structures that enhance communities across the region and nation, including five recent Pay For Success transactions addressing issues such homeless services, early childhood education, substance abuse and employment for veterans. 

Nicole Small, president of the Lyda Hill Foundation and CEO of LH Holdings, Inc. (LHH), explained LHH’s focus on mission-related investing by utilizing investment portfolio tools to construct market portfolios using environmental, social, and governance criteria. She described how direct impact investing was also conducted in specific areas of interest such as medicine and science to incentivize research and sustainable practices that are important to the mission of the Foundation. Through for-profit and not-for-profit investments, Nicole noted that LHH was committed to funding game-changing advances in science and nature, empowering nonprofit organizations, and improving the local communities of North Texas and Colorado Springs. As a funder seeking to ignite innovative systemic change, Nicole emphasized, "You should be using all the assets at your disposal."

Brittany Merrill Underwood, the founder and CEO of Akola, a social enterprise business, shared her story of working in Uganda to help the women and children there build better lives through job training, employment, and social support.  By teaching them to make jewelry that could be sold in the U.S., she created an employment model that was flexible for families and concentrated on the support needed to maintain healthy families. Upon moving back to the U.S., Brittany created a complementary jewelry assembly program in Dallas, which trains and employs women often overcoming backgrounds of abuse, so they can earn a living wage and support their families. While the Akola jewelry line has proven to be extremely successful and is sold in stores as diverse as Neiman Marcus and Walmart, Brittany disclosed the early struggles of attracting capital as a social enterprise business and shared how Northern Trust’s early investment and continued support had been critical to their growth and success.  

Following the panel discussion, the audience engaged in a lively question and answer session with the three panelists. Catering was provided by Break Bread Break Borders (BBBB), a social justice initiative that provides job training and employment opportunities to refugees.


Learn more about PSW upcoming programs here.

For more on Northern Trust Social Impact Advisors, please visit their website or contact Debby Kasemeyer at or Ryan McCauley at

More information about Lyda Hill and the Lyda Hill Foundation is available here.

More information about Akola and its jewelry is available here.

More information about Break Bread Break Borders is available here.

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