Module 13 – Evaluating Impact Portfolios


As investors begin to develop more sophisticated approaches toward impact measurement, one of the common challenges is gaining the ability to aggregate impact performance, insights and learning across an investment portfolio. In some cases, these portfolios span multiple asset classes, forms of capital, sectors, and regions, among other factors. As such, comparability across the full portfolio may be difficult, or not even desirable yet there is a need to better understand “aggregated impact.” As the J.P. Morgan report explains, foundations have been at the forefront of testing measurement approaches at the portfolio level. Three examples are worth considering here.

The first example is that of the K.L. Felicitas Foundation, which published an impact review of its portfolio that described the Foundation’s overall approach and theory of change, how individual investments aligned with the their objectives, aggregated impact metrics at the sector level, and a blended quantitative and qualitative assessment of their investment and non-investment activities.

Source: NPC and KL Felicitas Foundation 2015

The second example is the Gates Foundation, which published a compendium of its experiences and lessons in a special supplement of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Each of the articles provides a window into a specific part of the portfolio, including individual investments and sectors, using a case study format. Problems as well as achievements are presented. Together, these articles provided a textured narrative on the Foundation’s emerging experience in this area.

The third example comes from the Rockefeller Foundation, and is based on its strategic assessment of that foundation’s Impact Investing Initiative. This program initiated an ambitious set of field-building globally, which contributed to the creation of organizations such as the Global Impact Investing Network and B Lab, seeded new innovations such as social impact bonds, and generally elevated the profile of impact investments across the private, public and non-profit sectors in the Global North and Global South. Using a theory of change approach to frame its portfolio analysis, the evaluation of the Initiative described the approach, successes, challenges and implications of this program.


Theory of Change

Source: Jackson and Harji 2012


In small groups, consider the following scenario, and discuss how you would approach this. You are the CEO of a $100M global foundation with a mission to help young women realize their full potential. It has two programs – one providing scholarships to girls attending primary school in South East Asia (mostly grants); and another investing in microfinance organizations that provide loans to young women aged 16-30 (mostly investments). To date, both programs have tracked and reported on their own metrics separately. Your new Board Chair thinks you should build one common set of metrics and reporting. How do you respond, and based on your answer, what challenges do you expect and how will you address them?


Bank, D. and D. Price (eds.). Making Markets Work for the Poor: How the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Uses Program-Related Investments, Supplement, Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2016.

Harji, K. and E.T. Jackson. Accelerating Impact: Achievements, Challenges and What’s Next in Building the Impact Investing Industry, Rockefeller Foundation, New York, 2012. Accelerating-Impact-2012-Full-Report.pdf

Jackson, E.T. and K. Harji. Unlocking Capital, Catalyzing a Movement: The Report of the Strategic Assessment of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Impact Investing Initiative, Rockefeller Foundation, New York, 2012.

KL Felicitas Foundation. Evolution of an Impact Portfolio: From Implementation to Results, Sonen Capital, 2013.

New Philanthropy Capital and KL Felicitas Foundation. Investing for Impact: Practical Tools, Lessons, and Results. 2015.

Saltuk, Y. and A. El Idrissi. Impact Assessment in Practice: Experience from leading impact investors, JP  Morgan, New York, 2015.