The Returns on Investment

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““Bank Impact,” National Community Investment Fund, accessed December 1, 2016, GIIRS Ratings, supported by the nonprofit Blab and which aims to provide comprehensive and comparable ratings of a company or fund’s social and environmental impact.”

How place-based investing benefits your institution and community

 To assess the financial, social, economic, and environmental impact of a place-based investment strategy, hospitals and health systems could consider tracking a number of indicators.

Several established impact frameworks exist to help assess the impact of investments including:

  • National Community Investment Fund’s BankImpact tool, which provides financial data and Social Performance Metrics on all US banks.((“Bank Impact,” National Community Investment Fund, accessed December 1, 2016,
  • GIIRS Ratings, supported by the nonprofit Blab and which aims to provide comprehensive and comparable ratings of a company or fund’s social and environmental impact.((“GIIRS Ratings,” B Analytics, accessed December 1, 2016,
  • Aeris Impact Ratings, which aims to provide the only comprehensive, third-party assessment of community development financial institution (CDFI) loan funds.((“About Aeris Ratings,” Aeris, accessed December 1, 2016,
  • IRIS Metrics, which are designed to measure the social, environmental, and financial performance of an investment.((“Iris Metrics,” Iris, accessed December 1, 2016,
  • GRI Standards, which aim to provide the first global standards for sustainability reporting on a range of economic, environmental, and social impacts.((“GRI Standards,” GRI, accessed December 1, 2016, 

Place-based Investment Outputs and Outcomes

Establish output and outcome measures that show results from community economic development and sustainability investments

In addition, tracking positive environmental, social, and economic outputs and outcomes specifically within your health system’s geographic footprint can help demonstrate the business impact of these investments beyond simply the financial return.

Example from the Field

Mark Platt, senior vice president at Gundersen Health System based in La Crosse, Wisconsin shared, “We chose to look at these investments not in terms of other medical competing needs, but in comparison to how those dollars would be invested in the market…Our investment portfolio is pretty conservative. We chose instead to invest in local energy projects that have a greater return and improve community health.”


  • Increased lending in low- and moderate-income communities
  • Increased investment in healthy, affordable food infrastructure in low- and moderate-income communities
  • Increased investment in local businesses that provide living wage jobs in low-income communities
  • Increased investment in Federally Qualified Healthcare Centers (FQHCs) or community health centers
  • Increased resources for community and economic development, arts and culture, and/or education improvements
  • Increased access to healthy, affordable food
  • Increased number of local, living wage jobs
  • Improved financial sustainability of community partners
  • Increased local tax revenue from community economic development investment
  • Increased number of affordable daycare providers
  • Reduction in unnecessary, costly utilization of medical services
  • Reduction in emergency room visits
  • Reduction in obesity, diabetes, and asthma incidence rates
  • Reduction in health disparities within community
  • Reduction of post-surgical readmission rates
  • Reduction in lead poisoning and other negative community health indicators
  • Reduction in institutional energy costs
  • Reduction in specific environmental pollutants
  • Reduction in carbon footprint
Examples from the Field

Ross Darrow, director of treasury services for Bon Secours Health System based in Marriottsville, Maryland explained, “The money we use for this comes out of our fixed-income allocations, so we look at it as a fixed income substitute.”

Lisa Laird, vice president of cash and investments at St. Joseph Health based in Irvine, California shared, “The community investment portfolio will have an overall target of the money market rate. It earns much more than the money market rate right now.”

“It’s a three year blended CPI [consumer price index]. Right now we are higher than the CPI. The interest rate ranges from 0 percent to 5 percent. We try to make sure that we’re on target,” noted Pablo Bravo, vice president of community health at Dignity Health based in San Francisco, California.


Financial Performance Measures

Establish a benchmark to guide your community economic development and sustainability investments

Appropriate financial benchmarks will depend upon target rates of return for your place-based investment program. If your program targets market-rate returns, then a standard benchmark for the relevant asset class should be used. For example, consider benchmarking returns from investments in community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and direct lending to traditional benchmarks for fixed income, money market, or cash equivalents.

Long-term Business Impacts from Community Investment

 In addition to financial measures and output and outcomes indicators, there are long-term impacts to consider. Although these are more difficult to measure, they are vital to the financial health of your institution and to the overall health of the communities and patients you serve.

  • Achieve a more diversified and impactful investment portfolio
  • Become the provider of choice for your community
  • Align sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and community benefit priorities
  • Improve employee morale through stronger community connections
  • Build strong community and local government relations
  • Position your institution for the long-term shift from “volume to value”