The Cleveland Foundation is the world’s first community foundation and one of the largest today with assets of $3.2 billion and 2021 grants of more than $124 million. We are also a national leader in social impact investing with a $185 million program that is among the largest community foundation social impact investing initiatives in the country. As such, it stands to influence the market and the practice of social investing in addition to its primary purpose of advancing Northeast Ohio’s economy and our place-based mission. As we accelerate our social impact investing program, it represents a significant moment in our organization’s history and a proud era for community philanthropy.

Partnering for Social Impact

Apply for a Program Related Investment:Download and Return our PRI Application

Apply for a Mission Related Investment:
Online MRI Application

Read more below to determine which application is right for you. Questions? Contact:

Catalyzing Meaningful Social Change

The Cleveland Foundation defines social investments as opportunities that align social good with financial return to bring about social change. Our long-term social impact investment objective is to achieve a meaningful impact that benefits the social health of the community and preserves or recycles capital while achieving a positive real return on loans and investments.

Uptown Cleveland

With our social impact investing tools and numerous partnerships, the foundation firmly believes that we must go beyond grantmaking to affect the social change we hope to see locally, nationally, and globally. Typically, our social impact investments focus on green energy, health care, job creation, neighborhood revitalization, social services, technology, and workforce development.

Project Showcase

Famicos Foundation & Twelve Literary Arts

Evergreen Cooperatives

Astrup Building


Unlocking Capital for the Greater Good

The Cleveland Foundation has been developing and deploying its social impact investing program for nearly 40 years. Currently, the program utilizes four primary vehicles:

Circle Health Services


Recoverable grants are extended to nonprofit organizations and paid back to the Cleveland Foundation without interest over a period of time. Our program areas include: Arts & Culture, Economic & Workforce Development, Education, the Environment, Leadership Development, Neighborhood Revitalization & Engagement, and Youth Development.


PRIs are below market-rate loans, equity investments, and bank deposits or debt guarantees that the Cleveland Foundation uses to fill capital gaps and address community issues. As regulated by the IRS, PRIs must be made for the primary purpose of accomplishing a charitable outcome and not primarily for financial gain. These outlays can be extended to nonprofit organizations and community development financial institutions.

Playhouse Square

The Cleveland Foundation was the first community foundation in the United States to deploy a PRI in 1982 when it advanced nearly $4 million to purchase the land and buildings that saved Cleveland’s Playhouse Square from demolition and preserved the theater district as the unified whole that it is today: our country’s second-largest performing arts center outside New York City, attracting more than 1 million visitors per year.


The Cleveland Foundation supports nonprofits, early-stage private equity and venture capital, “B Corps,” and public or private companies that are aligned with our mission via direct or indirect MRIs. Our MRIs frequently center on job creation, economic development, research, and technology advancements that will provide impact for the community. We also look for environmental and sustainable impact investments, housing development investments, and financing for minority- and women-led and owned companies.

The Trust for Public Land


Cleveland Foundation donors are invited to participate in our social impact investing program through the SRI pool, which was established in 2002. The pool was custom-built for the foundation and invests in carbon-free stocks screened for social and environmental responsibility, gender diversity, and a place-based emphasis on Cleveland. The pool has more than $90 million in assets and has provided strong financial returns among our array of social impact investing vehicles. Our SRI pool demonstrates that real return and social good are not mutually exclusive. 


In investment firms, white management is 25% more represented as compared to U.S. population statistics. In response to this disparity, the Cleveland Foundation launched a Racial Equity Investment Pool in fall 2020, the first of its kind among the largest U.S. community foundations. The pool is focused on investing in U.S. public companies that (1) are inclusive of Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) representation on their boards (targeting 50% more representation than the Russell 3000 Index), (2) have a history of fostering an inclusive, equitable and diverse workplace culture, and (3) have a stated commitment to racial equity. Outside the U.S., the pool invests with BIPOC owned (>50%) investment firms to help equalize the diversity imbalance in investment management. The pool is complementary to the SRI pool mentioned above and offers some of the same socially-conscience elements while also giving donors a more focused, mission-driven investment option for racial equity.

Social Impact Investing Program

Recoverable Grant 
Program Related Investment
Mission Related Investment
Socially Responsible
Investment Pool & Racial Equity Investment pool
        Lower                       Expected Investment Return                     Higher

0% interest
2-3% (Subsidized)
Market return
Market return
Grants paid back to the foundation without interest
Loans, equity investments, and bank deposits or debt guarantees that fulfill a social benefit aligned with the foundation’s mission
Direct or indirect investments (fund of funds) that fulfill a social benefit aligned with the foundation’s mission
Indirect investment via carbon-free stocks screened for social and environmental responsibility, leadership diversity, and a place-based emphasis on Cleveland
Eligible Recipients
Nonprofit organizations
Nonprofit organizations and CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions)
Nonprofits, early-stage private equity and venture capital, “B Corps,” and public or private companies
Publicly traded companies
Less than 5 years
1-7 years
5-7 years
Trades daily
Pool est. in 2002
Funding Source
Special purpose fund
Donor-advised funds, Organizational funds, Corporate-advised funds

Recent Social Impact Investing accomplishments

Knight Diversity of Asset Managers Research Series: Philanthropy  

The Cleveland Foundation is proud to be part of the Knight Foundation’s Circle of Transparency by participating in the Knight Diversity of Asset Managers Research Series. Learn more about the series here. 

ABFE’s Investment Manager Diversity Pledge

The Cleveland Foundation is proud to sign ABFE’s Investment Manager Diversity Pledge, demonstrating a focus on finding the best investment management talent and aligning with the mission of community philanthropy by helping to build wealth in communities of color and among women. We also seek to collaborate with other entities that share our values of diversity, equity and inclusion. Click here to learn more.

Police Brutality Bond exclusion

Police Brutality Bonds are municipal bonds that have a clause that allows them to be used to settle police misconduct claims, putting the repayment and interest burden on the taxpayer instead of the officers committing the crimes. As part of our Social Impact Investing program, the Cleveland Foundation took the position of not owning these types of bonds anywhere in our portfolio. After a scan of our holdings in fall 2020, we found and immediately sold a very small position in such assets. Although this divestiture is a small statement in dollars, we hope that it will lead to a conversation inspiring other investment managers to screen their own portfolios and encourage municipalities to put more of this burden on the liable officers and not the public.