What We Learned in 2023 and What’s Next

When we mapped, convened, and grew the Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem in 2016-2018 we identified a substantial gap. Equity investments were not going into social businesses, especially those owned by women and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) individuals.

Since then foundations and other investors have stepped up to invest in impact funds and nonprofits. A few have even made direct investments in social businesses. Locally headquartered corporations have also joined the party since 2018, including Allina Health, Target, Xcel, Allianz Life and Best Buy. The government is investing likewise, devoting billions to environmentally sustainable development projects. This begs one to question: where in this picture are Minnesota’s high-net-worth individual investors?

We are the 2nd most charitable state in the nation and pay high taxes. Our people care, yet our regular individual investing community is nascent compared to the wealth here. People are somewhat familiar with socially responsible investing, Environmental Social Governance (ESG) investing, divestments, and some forms of impact investing, but impact investing is not the norm here as it is on the coasts.

Why is this so important? Social businesses owned by individuals in marginalized communities need equity investments flowing into their companies versus compounding debt. We launched the Investors for Impact Project in May 2022, with support from local foundations, nonprofits, corporations and government, to investigate the needs of our investors, discover current gaps in capital, and research promising local and national models to address these needs. Our research was informed by talking with 80 investors, analyzing 60 models, and market testing our findings with selected ecosystem leaders.

In short, here’s what we learned about local high-net-worth-investors:

  • They are generous and philanthropic but, when it comes to investing, they expect to get a full financial return. The concept of blending the two ideas–doing good and doing well–is still somewhat foreign to them. Many are skeptical it can be done. 
  • A significant subset care a lot about two impact themes: racial justice and environmental sustainability. 
  • For those interested in impact investing, they prefer a central, trusted source for due diligence rather than doing it themselves.

The most surprising finding of our year-plus-of-work is that there are at least 60 models that focus on engaging high-net-worth investors:

  • Minnesota has 17 local models, including funds, networks, and hybrid organizations; however, most are not well known by the investing community.
  • There are many national models that might work here as well to engage these investors.

To read more about our findings, our Executive Summary is available upon request here.


It is Cogent’s goal to bridge this gap in knowledge and connection by bringing investors, investees, and intermediaries together. We invite you to join us!

How you can get involved:

Learn
  • Attend impact investing/ESG/SRI educational sessions sponsored by financial institutions and others including Gratitude Railroad and Big Path Capital.
  • Check out the Twin Cities Impact Investing map and ecosystem resources.
Connect
  • Share your space to host a small, private gathering and we will find engaging, inspiring speakers and models. You can invite your friends to learn about investing for a positive impact – it is possible to make money AND do good. We will coordinate highlighting any of the emerging local and national models.
  • Talk to your financial advisor, wealth manager, or family office. If they don’t know about impact investing or try to steer you away, find a new advisor through ValuesAdvisor or US SIF.
  • Share your thoughts and offer to help grow the movement by contacting our team devoted to growing our local ecosystem.
Commit
  • Try it out: open a Venn Foundation account, join Groove’s Angel Network, or mentor an entrepreneur.

Susan Hammel Bio: As a philosophy major who went to Wall Street, Susan Hammel translates between passionate social changemakers and expert accountants. In her role as President and Founder of Cogent Consulting PBC., Susan serves as MCF Executive in Residence for impact investing and led the charge to map the Twin Cities impact investing ecosystem. As a native Minnesotan, Susan is dedicated to the entire community and brings professional experience from New York, Washington DC, and Chicago to the region.

By Danielle St. Luce, Investment Associate, Cogent Consulting PBC

The last few years have seen new organizations and emerging funds use racial equity as part of their thesis, with most of the leadership of these organizations lacking sufficient investment or business experience. This isn’t to say they’re not worth investment; instead, it highlights the importance of nontraditional due diligence. The Due Diligence 2.0 Commitment, of which Cogent Consulting PBC is a signatory, lays out a framework that allows for proper assessment of emerging fund managers and can be adapted to other organizations[i].

While Cogent uses the Due Diligence 2.0 framework in all our diligence work, our approach differs from traditional investment analysts. Our due diligence is adapted to our clients’ needs, with many investing in nontraditional organizations with models that don’t directly correlate to the Due Diligence 2.0 framework.  We also adapt Due Diligence 2.0 based on our lived experience and professional expertise working with diverse business owners and fund managers.

Below is a “Cogent take“, providing context to the nine required shifts to the traditional due diligence process.

  1. Consider Track Record Alternatives. Most emerging managers need more experience, with many needing more relevant experience for their stated goals. When conducting due diligence, we primarily focus on managers’ responses to that lack of track record. Those that provide a clear roadmap to hiring the right team members or partnering with the right firms consistently score higher than those without a plan. We always respect people who are confident in what they do know, and what they don’t. That’s the mark of a leader who is aware they can’t do it all.
  2. Expand What It Means to Work Together. When we find managers’ experience and roadmap needing amplification, we connect them to other organizations supporting their growth. This may look like recommending them to an industry-specific training program or introductions to organizations that can provide a capacity-building grant.
  3. Reassess Assets Under Management as A Risk Metric. When assessing a fund’s size, our primary concern is that the proposed value directly correlates to the market need. Smaller funds do not equate to a riskier investment. However, fund sizing that doesn’t reflect the realities of their chosen industry is a major red flag. A larger fund only exacerbates that risk.
  4. Respect BIPOC Time. Cogent has created a simple method to respect managers’ time in which we don’t jump into full due diligence but complete it in three stages. Subsequent stages require more information and time from the managers. We require client feedback on their appetite for investment before moving forward to the next stage, allowing us to engage managers without wasting their time. Often, we only engage with managers once they pass our clients’ first stage.
  5. Contextualize Fees. Emerging funds, especially smaller funds with less than $50 million in assets under management, will need higher fees or additional sources of capital to subsidize their costs. While we don’t advocate for either route, our focus when conducting due diligence is for the proposed structure to make sense. Funds with multiple entities, various owners, and unclear profit-sharing structures require more due diligence but are not immediately dismissed.
  6. Include Historically Unrecognized Risks. While Due Diligence 2.0 advocates for including social unrest, climate migration, and economic underperformance in risk assessment, we include harder-to-quantify factors such as community involvement, social capital, historic investment, or lack thereof, in the proposed geographic area, and more. Our clients are impact-focused, allowing us to leverage nontraditional risk assessments in our due diligence.
  7. Be Willing to Go First. While a lack of fundraising momentum can be seen as a red flag, we see it as an opportunity for fund managers to assess their offerings. A capacity-building grant, tied to reasonable deliverables, is sometimes needed instead of an investment. Reaching the stage in the due diligence process where we can recommend this alternative form of support is a positive sign that our clients are willing to make a small investment in the fund manager in the hope that they can meet their minimum investment threshold.
  8. Offer Transparency About Remaining Hurdles. If we discover information that presents a challenge for our clients during diligence, we communicate as clearly and efficiently as possible with fund managers. This can be a sticky subject as some hurdles are caused by managers’ lack of experience, such as disclosing pertinent information upfront that can be easily found during a background check. Determining whether a challenge warrants passing on a potential investment becomes more complicated when managers make “rookie mistakes”.
  9. Provide Detailed Feedback. As best we can, we support emerging fund managers through our feedback. When providing feedback, we are proactive with solutions to observed problems. For us, feedback isn’t limited to notes about their pitch deck or offering. We also support managers by introducing them to organizations and individuals in our network who can be helpful to their goals.

Due Diligence 2.0, especially Cogent’s take on it, can be difficult to do well. However, with the growth in racial equity-focused investment vehicles and managers coupled with billions in financial commitments made in recent years, nontraditional due diligence is more important than ever.

If you have any questions or are interested in working with Cogent, feel free to connect with our team at https://www.cogentconsulting.net/contact/.

[i] Gray, T., Davies, E. S., Kessel, B., & Robasciottie, R. J. (2020). Due diligence 2.0 commitment. Due Diligence 2.0 Commitment. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from https://www.duediligencecommitment.com/

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: https://www.cogentconsulting.net/.


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
communities.

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
    connections.
    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.

Top of my mind these days is investing in line with Diversity, Equity, Inclusion values. Many institutions promised bold moves after George Floyd was murdered. Who is following through and doing this well? Racial justice requires new pathways for capital flows. I’m excited to be part of the McKnight Foundation’s Groundbreak Coalition, aiming to deploy $2b in flexible capital over 10 years to disrupt the status quo. In Minnesota we are a generous state, a charitable state, a hard-working state: we need to try new approaches to create that famous quality of life for all. We are leading a session on Place Based Impact Investing at the Mission Investors Exchange conference in Baltimore. Reach out if you’ll be there so I can include you in the informal MN meet-ups.

Part of Cogent’s commitment is to make a lasting impact through changing the way people think about money – thinking beyond the individual level to the larger collective. Like our founder Susan Hammel’s mentor, Paul Wellstone said; “We all do better when we all do better.”

One way Cogent has worked towards upholding this mantra is through mapping the Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem. This project, which began in 2016 thanks to support from the Bush Foundation, allowed our local community to better understand the breadth and complexity of impact investing activity in the Twin Cities and subsequently identified a substantial gap- equity investments are not going into social businesses, especially those owned by women and BIPOC individuals.

Why is this so important? Social businesses owned by individuals in marginalized communities  need equity investment flowing into their company versus more and more debt. So, from this learning, the Investors for Impact Project was born thanks to partnership with the McKnight Foundation, Hennepin County and others. Phase one is two-pronged; an investor needs assessment and research into current promising models

Phase 1: Needs Assessment & Model Research

In conversations with individual investors, it is clear that high-net worth individuals are interested in making equity investments into social businesses. However, there is a disconnect between their desire to invest, willingness to take risks, and lack of connections with women and BIPOC social entrepreneurs.

In the needs assessment, Cogent worked to identify why this gap exists and what it would take to get investors to the next level of commitment. They also looked to local and national models already in existence that might help investors provide this type of capital. Cogent identified an astonishing 59 models, 41 national and 18 local, with more popping up everyday! 

Addressing the Challenges

Seeing the progress in these innovative models is certainly encouraging. However, social businesses still face the challenge of access, especially for BIPOC and women founders. Minnesota has a culture of modest wealth, which makes identifying potential investors tricky and these entrepreneurs are often forced to rely on funds from friends and family. 

And let’s be honest, when people hear the term ‘high net-worth investors’, the image that often comes to mind is that of an older, white male. However, within the Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem there are women and people of color ready to invest in social businesses. 

Call to Action

It is Cogent’s goal to bridge this gap in knowledge and connection by bringing investors, investees and intermediaries all together in the same room. Cogent recently hosted a Happy Hour which did just that, bringing together the impact investing ecosystem to learn, connect and commit together. Here is what we asked everyone in the room to do. We invite you to join us!

Learn

Connect

  • Tell your friends about investing for a positive impact – it is possible to make money AND do good.
  • Talk to your financial advisor/wealth manager/family office and if they don’t know about impact investing or try to steer you away, find a new advisor!
  • Stay informed through Impact Hub MSP – Join our Impact Investing Community of Practice
  • Subscribe to the Cogent Newsletter
  • Subscribe to our partner’s newsletters

Commit

“Don’t let today be a spark that fizzles out. Before leaving today find an accountability partner and commit to a simple action step you will take in the next 7 days to dream bigger, dare greatly, do good well. Get investing now because there are people waiting on the other side of your decision to be generous and act for good.”

– Megan Lamke, Business for Good Foundation and new partner for our project!

Over $112 million in capital invested in low-income communities as Minnesota faces one of America’s largest wealth gaps

The Minnesota Council on Foundations (MCF) and several Minnesota foundations today announced the five-year milestone of the Minnesota Impact Investing Initiative (MI3). Since its inception, this investment collaboration has successfully supported access to homeownership and affordable multifamily housing for over 500 low-income families across the state of Minnesota, where there is one of the largest racial homeownership gaps in the United States (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis). 

Minnesota foundations and public entities have invested more than $112 million into the impact investing collaboration over the past five years. These assets are invested in a fixed income investment strategy managed by RBC Global Asset Management (RBC GAM).  The investments have spanned 32 different counties in Minnesota. To date, the MI3 program has funded 560 affordable homes and a dozen affordable multi-family projects for low-moderate income (LMI) families (defined as those earning less than 80% of area median income).  Eighty-two percent of the affordable properties are located in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) neighborhoods while 81% of the recipients are women-headed households. Each loan averages $250,000. In addition, the MI3 has funded small business loans and health care facilities supporting a total of 200 nursing home beds.

Access to affordable housing is especially relevant in Minnesota where there is one of the largest wealth gaps by race in all of America, according to WalletHub. The homeownership rate for Minnesota BIPOC households decreased from 46% in 1940 to 44% in 2019 while the homeownership rates for white families in Minnesota increased steadily from 55% to 77% during the same time, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Furthermore, the poverty rates for African American and Indigenous residents are at least three times higher than for white Minnesotans, according to the University of Minnesota.

“Investing for impact is a critical strategy for foundations and other institutions to help address wealth disparity in Minnesota,” said Susie Brown President of the Minnesota Council of Foundations. “By doing so, more capital is available for affordable housing and other critical needs, with a local focus. Building a fund of over $100 million in just five years represents significant progress toward addressing important community development needs.”

MCF launched MI3 in 2017 as a first-of-its-kind impact investing collaborative in the United States, led by the Minnesota Council on Foundations, and several other Minnesota foundations in partnership with RBC GAM. Over the past five years, MI3 has built support for impact investments targeting communities in need in Minnesota. The McKnight Foundation, Bush Foundation, Otto Bremer Trust and the Minneapolis Foundation were among the first institutions participating in the impact investing collaborative. They created MI3 in 2017 to strengthen Minnesota’s market for affordable housing and small business and grow the number of Minnesota-based foundations involved in impact investing.

“We are proud to participate in the Minnesota Impact Investing Initiative and to see how it has grown,” said Elizabeth McGeveran, Director of Investments at the McKnight Foundation. “The innovative approach has created opportunities for a wide range of investors to make a local impact in Minnesota while benefiting from geographically diversified financial performance.”

Assets dedicated to MI3 are invested in the RBC Access Capital Community Investment Strategy, a fixed income investment strategy managed by RBC GAM. The investment strategy seeks to positively support home ownership, job creation, small business growth, and increased access to rental housing, healthcare, and education in Minnesota. Local loans are assessed for social impact and purchased, then pooled to create custom securities for RBC GAM’s clients, such as MI3 members. Any investor, financial advisor, large corporation or foundation can make investments into MI3 with the aim of supporting community development efforts across Minnesota.

RBC GAM’s Access Capital Community Investment team has developed a track record of working with governments and institutional investors.  These investors invest in customized U.S. agency guaranteed mortgage-backed securities and government-backed loans and municipal securities that support social impact themes. As of May 31, 2021, the Access Capital Community Investment Strategy has more than $1.5 billion USD in assets under management.

“MI3 is a great example of how the broader region can come together to help provide access to capital in low-income communities,” said Ron Homer, Chief Impact Strategist, RBC GAM. “The global pandemic produced stark disparities in economic impact and health outcomes within low-income and BIPOC communities which exacerbated the already troublesome issue of income inequality in America. As we look forward, RBC GAM will continue to partner with foundations across America to make targeted investments that aim to reduce these inequalities while fostering economic growth and other positive social outcomes.”

Since MI3 was established in 2017, there have been several other communities across America have replicated the impact investment collaboration.

MCF is planning to celebrate the five year milestone of the MI3 at its Semi-Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, in February 2023.

I “retired” in June 2014 after working since I was age 15.  Most of my adult life I worked in a leadership role in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector with responsibilities to find better solutions to tough social issues ranging from early childhood education access, effective entrepreneurship education, to underemployment. I worked with committees, teams, staffed collaborations, sat on Boards of Directors and planning committees of all kinds. I trained others in what I was learning and pressed large institutions to replicate models that seemed to be working. I never backed down from a new tough problem, but retirement had me stymied.  After 6 years of “retirement”, I looked back to see what I had learned from my trial-and-error-pivot approach to staying engaged and relevant while facing that age-related declining energy.

Here are my top 10 tips based on what I learned:

  1. Take naps– I didn’t realize how tired I was from decades of working on less sleep than I needed and then frequent midnight thought reminders of things I needed to get done.  After “retiring”, I gave myself permission to lay down in a quiet place and take naps. I had to tell myself those were not “wastes of time”, but rather taking care of myself. It took about 3 months before I didn’t need to do that so frequently.
  1. Make a clean break as fast as you can
    • Don’t go into the old office. Instead, I quickly spent time going through those boxes of files which were now at home and cleaning docs on my computer. All the while asking, will someone else find this helpful? I did capture a lot of history records and put them into a box or set them aside on my computer.  I threw everything else out.  A friend of mine gave me good advice – “someone might need those sometime” is not a good guide, especially now as everything people need is more easily found on the internet.  I have gotten requests every quarter or so from someone asking if I had a record or copy of something.
    • Say “no” to continued engagement: Say “no” to being on the advisory committee or working part time for your previous employer. That gives the new person breathing room to take on the job. I did continue to manage one project that was an award for entrepreneur of the year, which I had been the only person managing, just to take off a bit of pressure during the new person’s first months.  They took it over the next year.
    • Do make yourself available only to that new person, not other staff, and let them ask for advice, background or history.  Don’t get in between the new person and the staff or board, no matter what.
  1. Take control of your calendar: I realized that during my whole professional career, my waking hours were managed by a calendar filled by job demands or expectations of others.  I also realized that everyone else had been putting things on it forever, those committees, those weekly team and individual meetings, those monthly events I had to attend and more often guided by “you need to be there because of your role”  I had to relearn how to use it as a tool. Here are a few rules I use now that work:
    • No meetings or activities before 9 am
    • Book time for exercise first, adding daily walks or weekly exercise classes for example. And protect those as high priority!
    • No working lunches, save those for friends and fun or just relaxing at home.
    • No night events at all, unless it is with family or friends that can’t be done during the day.  And if I do have an evening, then clear the next morning for recovery.
    • Protect weekends, – I started with making sure I had 4-day weekends every week with nothing scheduled except family. Some months have slowly eroded to 3-day, but I press back as soon as I can to protect that relaxation-rejuvenation time.
    • When saying “no” to others, I just say “that time is booked”. This took a while to learn as those younger can’t fathom the decline in energy older people have.  They don’t need to know why I said no and seem not to understand when I say “I need a rest”.
  1. Be okay with “nothing to do”… It took me months to not be anxious about forgetting something I should have been doing, checking my calendar and email for what I missed.  Now I relish taking a break in the middle of the day.   Watching movies during the day can be a delightful way to spend 2 hours.
  1. Shop during the week.  My husband and I both discovered that weekday shopping is so much better.  The full-time, long-time staff are in the stores (they know things newbies don’t). There are fewer shoppers and no family groups, making it easier to shop. 
  1. Revisit old hobbies and try new ones:  What did you do when you were very young – those hobbies can come back.  I found some were great fun to initiate again (crocheting and puzzles) while others I quickly discovered why I quit them.  And find new ones.  Learning more about history has been one for me.  And there are lots of online how to’s and senior centers are always offering craft, painting, yoga and more.
  1. Practice saying “no” often.  For the first 6 months say it as much as you can.  That didn’t automatically come out of my mouth like I thought it would when I retired.  I still say “yes” a bit too much and then revisit those commitments when they become too much. Say “yes” only to those things you really, really want to do. And remember “they need me to do this” is not enough of a reason.
  1. Get better at using all the tech tools.  – Buy equipment that you can use easily. If you are comfortable with Microsoft, stick with that, if Apple tools are your go to..stay with them.  Find a resource you can go to with your questions. Geek Squad at Best Buy gets rave reviews for some and if you are an Apple user their Apple Care service has been a god send to friends of mine who don’t have tech savey spouses  And my teaching schedule connects me with students some of whom are great and respectful guides to how to use something better. And of course the internet is full of videos on how to do anything.
  1. Reconnect with old friends and more distant family.  Longer, leisurely trips are now possible and visiting people I know who live in those locations helps cut costs significantly.
  1. Pay more attention to your body signals.  “It will go away” or “I can delay it ‘til it is a more convenient time “, phrases I told myself when I was younger, no longer works.  My most recent bout with a bladder infection is a good example.  Symptoms are different for us older folks, recovery takes longer, and it is okay to call a doctor to see if what you are experiencing is “something”.
  1. Accept the praises for a well-done career:  Just saying “thank you” was hard for me as I had always shared any praise with all around me. But at this time in our life, we are role models for others’ careers, so accepting, acknowledging the praise is important.

Which of these tips resonates most with you? What would you add? Let us know in the comments!

Want to read others’ thoughts? 

Surviving Retirement when You’re a Workaholic

Retirement Advice for Workaholics

Terri Barreiro’s Bio: Terri Barreiro is an expert in systems change and a mission-driven venture advisor. She is an adjunct instructor and fellowship advisor at the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota. She is co-founder of and volunteer venture coach at Impact Hub MSP and consultant to nonprofit and philanthropic organizations.

Who knew how much I missed business travel? Despite the still-cramped seats, forced close proximity to other humans in a small capsule, and a few crabby passengers, after a 2 year hiatus, it was great to get back on the road. Thank you Impact PHL for giving me an excuse to visit our long-time client The Barra Foundation in Philadelphia. Their Total Impact Summit was invigorating, educational and inspiring, especially seeing all the local funds and Black led developers working to create economic opportunities in the city. Can’t wait to go to San Francisco for SOCAP and the National Center for Family Philanthropy conferences in October. Ping me if you’ll be there!

In honor of Earth Day

After finishing up as Finance Committee and Board Chair of the Citizens League I had decided not to serve on any more nonprofit boards. As much as I love the work, after continuous Board service since 1994 I figured I’d find another outlet for my volunteer time.

Then I had lunch with Michael Noble, Executive Director at Fresh Energy. Introduced by our mutual friend and Carleton classmate Elizabeth McGeveran, I think we each thought it was just a get-to-know-you meeting. I’ve always been passionate about the environment, having grown up in the big woods of Minnetonka (that’s a story for another time). Studying public policy at Harvard Kennedy School showed me how important policy is in truly addressing climate change. I was so inspired listening to Michael talk about Fresh Energy’s impressive track record.

I have to admit I was one of those who had kind of retreated into helpless despair when it came to climate change. The problem is so big and we humans seem so reluctant to change our habits, our companies continue to pollute, and our government leaders are timid, at best. 

Joining the Fresh Energy Board changed all that. I’ve met amazing people like Deepinder Singh, founder and CEO of 75f, making our existing buildings “smart”, more comfortable and energy efficient at the same time. I met Kristel Porter, Executive Director of MN Renewable Now, connecting underserved residents to renewable energy. I also got to meet amazing staff like Anjali Bains, Lead Director Energy Access & Equity and Sarah Clark, Deputy Executive Director. What can I say, now I’m hooked.

Lately some of the attendees at our monthly Impact Investing Roundtable asked me about volunteering and I have to say, please do consider Board service. It’s open to everyone and all of the thousands of nonprofit organizations need a Board of Directors. If you’re not sure what’s involved, you can take a class through Propel for Nonprofits. Here are my quick tips:

  • Figure out what cause you’re passionate about and look at Smart Givers for reputable nonprofit organizations (read our Cogent Principal, Terri Barreiro’s blog on the topic Four Steps to Donate Like an Investor
  • Get to know these organizations by volunteering
  • Consider a financial donation and get your friends/ family involved (do the same for their causes). Even small amounts of money make a big difference.

I’d love to hear your stories about Board service. Tweet me your thoughts @susan_hammel or email.

Susan serves on three boards: Fresh Energy, Carleton Careers Advisory Board, and the Trillium Family Foundation. She also is the volunteer President of the MN Alumnae Network of Harvard Women. Her previous boards include Pro Mujer, Children’s Home Society (was Family Services), St. Paul Arts Partnership, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, Asian American LEAD, Arts Council of Fairfax County, NPH USA, Citizens League, Sunrise Banks and the Minnetonka Yacht Club.

Susan Hammel Bio:  As a philosophy major who went to Wall Street, Susan Hammel translates between passionate social changemakers and expert accountants.  In her role as President and Founder of Cogent Consulting Inc., Susan serves as MCF Executive in Residence for impact investing and led the charge to map the Twin Cities impact investing ecosystem. As a native Minnesotan, Susan is dedicated to the entire community and brings professional experience from New York, Washington DC and Chicago to the region.