Family offices are using impact investing strategies and venture philanthropy to make a lasting difference in the world. Unlike traditional investments, impact investments are designed to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impacts alongside financial returns. Venture philanthropy is an approach to philanthropy that applies the principles of venture capital financing to achieve philanthropic goals. The primary goal of both of these investment strategies is to deploy capital to generate positive returns that are measured both in terms of their financial success as well as their environmental and social impact.  Here’s a deeper look at how family offices can leverage their resources to make a lasting difference.

The Rise of Impact Investing & Venture Philanthropy

In recent years, there has been a marked shift in investment strategies of family offices, with a growing emphasis on sustainability, social impact, environmental, and ethical considerations. Family offices, given their substantial financial capabilities and flexibility in decision-making, are increasingly engaging in impact investments. This trend is driven by a desire to create a lasting legacy that positively influences the world.  Family offices are also rethinking how they make philanthropic investments and are expecting greater returns from those donations. The days of giving away fish are over and its time to teach people how to fish.

Advantages of Family Offices Investing

Long-Term Perspective: Family offices often focus on preserving wealth across generations. This long-term outlook aligns perfectly with impact investing, which frequently requires a longer time horizon to see both financial returns and impact results

Flexibility in Investment Choices: Unlike institutional investors who may be bound by client expectations or regulatory restrictions, family offices have the liberty to choose where, how, and when they invest.

Personal Values and Legacy: Many family offices are motivated by personal values and the desire to leave a meaningful legacy, making them more likely to invest in projects that reflect their ethical beliefs and contribute to societal good.

    Areas Ripe for Impact Investing

    Family offices can contribute to a wide range of sectors that have significant social or environmental impacts:

    Renewable Energy: Investing in renewable energy projects such as solar, wind, and bioenergy contributes to reducing carbon footprints and combating climate change.

    Sustainable Agriculture: Investments can promote sustainable farming practices that improve food security and reduce environmental damage.

    Education: By funding innovative educational solutions and technologies, family offices can play a critical role in improving access to essential learning services in underserved communities.

    Social Enterprises: Supporting enterprises that address social issues can lead to job creation, economic development, and improved community welfare.

    Healthcare: By investing in enterprises that provide essential healthcare to underprivileged communities families can save lives and improve the quality of life for millions of people throughout the world.

    Case Studies

    Family offices have been pivotal in driving significant impact investments across various sectors. Here are some examples of successful impact investments and philanthropic initiatives that demonstrate how family offices can create social and environmental impacts alongside financial returns:

    Renewable Energy Projects:   A group of 11 family offices have committed to invest $300 million in clean energy, infrastructure, agriculture and water. The family offices are part of the Cleantech, Renewables and Environmental Opportunities (Creo) Network, which was established in 2011 and counts more than 50 family offices and private foundations as its members. The commitment is in response to a White House roundtable on impact investing which challenged investors to accelerate innovative investments to address pressing domestic and global issues. See$300m-of-impact-investments.html

      Sustainable Agriculture:  The Grantham Foundation: Created by Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of GMO, a foundation that focuses on environmental sustainability.  The foundation has made significant investments in sustainable agriculture to improve soil health, and overall invest to redesign our energy systems; to spare the ocean from acidification or to directly recapture carbon from the atmosphere. Their belief is that innovation and technology are the best hope for an enduring future. See

      Education Technology:  The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI): While not a traditional family office, CZI, founded by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, operates with a similar philosophy focusing on long-term impact. It has invested in education technology firms like BYJU’S, an app that provides interactive school lessons, personalized learning and assessment services to students which helps make quality education more accessible to children worldwide. See Chan Zuckerberg Initiative invests in Indian startup that teaches kids online | Mashable

      Healthcare Innovations: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Melinda Gates, through their foundation, engage in significant impact investments, particularly in healthcare innovations that cater to underprivileged populations. Investments include funding companies developing vaccines and therapies for diseases that disproportionately affect the poor, such as malaria and tuberculosis. See

      Agriculture Transformations:  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has also funded research at the University of Illinois’ RIPE (Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency) project, which aims to improve photosynthesis efficiency in crops. This groundbreaking research seeks to enhance food production capabilities by genetically engineering crops to convert sunlight into energy more efficiently. The project focuses on staple crops such as rice and cassava, which are critical for food security in many parts of the world.  See

      Affordable Housing:  Turner Impact Capital: Founded by Ted Turner, Turner Impact Capital is one of the largest social impact investment firms focusing on real estate investments that address societal challenges across the United States. It invests in and manages properties that provide community-serving infrastructure, including affordable housing, charter schools, and healthcare facilities. See

      These examples illustrate how family offices can deploy capital in a way that not only yields financial returns but also creates substantial social and environmental benefits. Each case underscores the unique role of family offices in addressing some of the world’s most critical challenges through strategic impactful investments.

      Challenges and Considerations

      While the potential for impact is significant, family offices face several challenges in this field:

      Assessment and Measurement: Measuring the true social and environmental impact of investments can be complex and requires transparent and robust metrics.

      Balancing Returns with Impact: Finding the right balance between financial returns and impact effectiveness is crucial for sustainable impact investing.

      Educating Family Members: Ensuring that all family members understand and support impact investment philosophies is vital for maintaining commitment across generations.


      Impact investing allows family offices not only to protect and grow their wealth but also to play a crucial role in addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges. By investing in sustainable and socially responsible initiatives, they can leave a profound legacy that transcends financial achievements. As more family offices embrace this approach, their collective influence could lead to significant positive changes globally, making impact investing a powerful tool for those looking to make a difference.  Demanding returns from your philanthropic dollars will also make it more likely that you will achieve a good mission for your money.

      Photo of steven thayer steven thayer

      Throughout his career, Mr. Thayer has been heavily involved in the formation, financing, and operation of business enterprises in a variety of industries both domestically and internationally.  His industry experience includes technology ventures, securities offerings, cryptocurrency matters, real estate transactions, oil and gas…

      Throughout his career, Mr. Thayer has been heavily involved in the formation, financing, and operation of business enterprises in a variety of industries both domestically and internationally.  His industry experience includes technology ventures, securities offerings, cryptocurrency matters, real estate transactions, oil and gas offerings, manufacturing businesses, retail establishments, franchised businesses concepts, resort development, brokerage businesses, professional sports team acquisition, and other start-up and emerging businesses.  He has also worked with large family offices with respect to their international holdings, including offshore trusts, international companies, and the complex tax issues that go with those structures.