Annual Benefits Report, CY 2022

ON January 13, 2023

After 20 years in business, Cogent Consulting converted to a Specific Benefit Corporation in 2018.
We are an independent, strategic, financial, and impact investing firm empowering
purpose-driven organizations. Impact investing is defined as “Investments made with the
intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial
return” (Global Impact Investing Network).

We work with a diverse set of mission-driven investors and entrepreneurs through
evidence-based and actionable advice. Our work serves foundations, corporations, social
entrepreneurs, and impact-investing place-based ecosystems. Our clients include many
nonprofits: LISC Twin Cities & Duluth, Partnership in Property Commercial Land Trust, First
Children’s Finance, Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, Betterway Foundation, Ashoka,
Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, and the Barra Foundation, to name a few. Please
see our website for more information:

Pursuant to Section 304A.101 of the Minnesota Statutes, Cogent Consulting SBC pursues the
following benefit purpose as listed in its articles:
To empower purpose-driven organizations that drive positive social impact in their

Cogent Consulting, SBC accomplishes its specific benefit purpose with all of our clients and pro
bono work. Our work from the past year includes the following:

  1. Cogent has supported numerous organizations in establishing and expanding
    client-specific impact investment strategies. Projects examples include:
    a. Developed an investment framework to address social determinants of health in a nonprofit client’s local community.
    b. Helped a foundation client adapt its focused set of grant-making goals to serve as a framework for its impact investment objectives.
    c. Created customized indexes of potential investment opportunities aligned with clients’ impact goals.
    d. Identified potential investors for a Community Development Financial Institutions fund (CDFI fund) client to help it succeed in its mission of supporting early childhood development.
  1. Cogent is active in both educating the general public and spreading awareness of impact
    investing within the local and national philanthropic community.
    a. Throughout the past year, Cogent trained 900 individuals through events for
    members of the local community to learn about impact investing and build
    b. In a partnership with LISC, Cogent held training workshops on impact investing for
    Twin Cities-based BIPOC property developers to grow their businesses.
    c. Cogent founder and CEO, Susan Hammel, CFA, has served as a speaker on
    numerous panels and educational workshops, speaking to the Minnesota
    Nonprofit Law Conference, Prosperity Now, Hirtle-Callaghan, Mission Investors
    Exchange, the Junior League of Minneapolis, CommunityGiving, and many others
    about impact investing. Susan Hammel also serves as Executive-in-Residence for
    the Minnesota Council of Foundations.
    d. Cogent Principal, Terri Barreiro, has facilitated numerous conversations for
    participants of the Impact Investing Community of Practice.
  2. In collaboration with the Minnesota Council of Foundations and RBC Global Asset
    Management, Cogent launched the Minnesota Impact Investing Initiative (MI3). Managed
    by RBC Access Capital, the MI3 fund generates a competitive market rate return while also
    providing positive social and environmental benefits to Minnesota and its residents, such
    as through investments in affordable housing and small business lending. Notably,
    Cogent generated the first $25 million of the total $100 million raised thus far.
  3. Much of Cogent’s work throughout the past year has been within our team and network.
    a. Cogent is proud to have become more racially and generationally diverse, adding
    strong, diverse voices to our team.
    b. Cogent employed two summer and two winter student interns. Interns learned about impact investing through hands-on projects and on-the-job shadowing and received mentorship from various other members of the Cogent team.
    c. Cogent is grateful for our ecosystem partners in all of the work we’ve done, including Hirtle Callaghan, Impact Hub MSP, Minnesota Council on Foundations. Cogent is also incredibly grateful for generous Minnesota donors and angel investors, who are engaging in the Investors4Impact project thanks to presenting partners, the McKnight Foundation and Hennepin County, as well as project sponsors GMHF, Sunrise Banks, Centered Wealth.
  1. Through our work with our partner organizations and clients, the Cogent team has
    developed a deeper understanding of numerous key social issues and stakeholder
    groups. As we’ve learned more about specific challenges, we have been able to add
    several new dimensions to our own DEI screening.
    a. Cogent has gained greater knowledge of Indigenous communities across the U.S.
    and how to make targeted, effective investments in their communities. Cogent has
    also developed a better understanding of intermediary investment organizations,
    such as Indigenous CDFIs.
    b. Cogent has acquired a better understanding of the nuanced challenges faced by
    people of color in the property market in gaining access to capital, and how to
    address these challenges.
    c. Cogent has strengthened its understanding of the social determinants of health
    and how negative health outcomes can be mitigated.

Despite many successes this year, Cogent encountered several challenges in most effectively
pursuing our specific benefit purpose.
a. The Coronavirus pandemic and consequent restrictive measures limited Cogent’s ability
to grow our network and disseminate information about the resources it offers.
(Conversely, however, the business world’s embrace of virtual communication has
enabled Cogent to acquire clients it otherwise wouldn’t have due to geographic distance).
b. Impact investing remains an evolving field. Individual investors are typically wary of
modifying their investment frameworks and thus tend to lack both the knowledge and
motivation to incorporate ESG values into their investment strategies. This is exacerbated by misinformation and political backlash targeting impact investing. Within endowment investing, there remains a continued focus on fiduciary duty without consideration for mission alignment. Non-profit organizations that do have social justice objectives often lack information about how they may pursue equity via investing in lieu of philanthropy. The future success of impact investing hinges on investors and organizations being willing to adapt and learn new practices.
c. There is a general lack of transparency and information is poorly shared among organizations involved in impact investing. Even organizations that have incorporated ESG values into their investment portfolios seldom publicly share information about investment standards, strategies, or impact.

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What I'm doing now

The tide is turning: more people are thinking about their moral, social and environmental values when they shop, play, and invest. Impact investing is going mainstream with more robust and consistent impact measurement and monitoring happening every day. The blowback on ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) makes true impact investing (which requires impact measurement) all the more relevant. Will changing how people view money change the world? Well, it isn’t a panacea for all that afflicts us but as they say, “follow the money”. Investors have power. Use yours wisely.