Applying business due diligence to political action groups may further investors’ goals for change more, says Align Impact CEO
  • Impact investors need to become active in the political process if they want to see positive change, according to Align Impact CEO Jennifer Kenning.
  • The same tools Align Capital uses to vet investment opportunities can be used to find effective political organizations.
  • Movement Voter Project, Black Voters Matter Fund and Voto Latino meet their qualifications and aim to increase Black and Latino voting in swing states.

If impact investors want to make a difference, they have to get involved in the political process. At least that’s what Jennifer Kenning, CEO of Align Impact, believes.

Backing startups that meet environmental, social and governance criteria can only have a limited impact if the federal government is enacting policies contrary to these aims, said Kenning, who also co-founded the firm. When searching for political organizations to support, she looks at their effectiveness and alignment, just as the firm would when examining companies as investments. The focus of these efforts is the U.S. elections on Nov. 3, when voters will decide races for president, the House of Representatives and 33 Senate seats.

“How can you have the most impact in the next 80 days?” Kenning asked. “We narrow the list, and have a due diligence process, a lot like what is done for investment due diligence.” 

Align Impact works with individuals, families, foundations and their financial advisors to bolster the effectiveness of their investments and grants. 

“We challenged our clients to donate 1% of current investment dollars in the current year because we believe these engagements do work and will be needed to make positive change,” Kenning said. “If you want to see real change in this country, you have to get involved.”

COVID-19 has bolstered attention on economic injustice and climate change. The greater pain felt in minority communities has added to the evidence of the inequities in the U.S. 

Kenning recommends impact investors donate to three groups aimed at boosting Black and Latino registration and then get the new voters to the polls in November.

“We are working with three organizations that already meeting our qualifications, and they focus on swing states that can swing the election,” Kenning said. 

The Movement Voter Project, which was founded in 2016 connecting donors of all sizes to effective grassroots voter organizations across the country, is one of the three groups Kenning is backing. They believe that the group believes the election hinges on five states — Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Arizona — and are focusing on local groups in those states.

“The Black Voters Matter Fund, is another organization we support,” Kenning said. “They work on expanding voter rights and  look at the infrastructure of voting.”

The Black Voters Matter Fund, which was co-founded by LaTosha Brown and Cliff Albright in November 2016, aims to increase black voter turnout in elections at every level. The group was credited with helping Doug Jones become the first Democratic senator to represent Alabama in more than 20 years.

Michael Jordan shares Kenning’s confidence in the fund, with Jordan and Jordan Brands announcing a $500,000 donation to the group on July 29. The fund was one of the first three organizations to receive a gift as part of the basketball star’s promise in June to contribute $100 million over 10 years to support the fight against systemic racism.

The U.S. Latino population growth has outpaced that of both white and Black Americans, but Latinos vote at a lower rate than other groups, in part because a greater number are under 18 than in other groups and many are non-citizens. Voto Latino is aiming to boost the power of this underrepresented group with voter registration drives and a get-out-the-vote campaign.

“Voto is focused on voter registration and turnout in the Latino community,” Kenning said. “It’s using digital tools to appeal to younger voters. We are giving them extra resources to help fill in the gap.”

Voto announced on Aug. 18 that it has registered 254,528 voters for the 2020 election cycle, surpassing the halfway mark for its 500,000 registration goal. The organization said that 70% of those registered are between the ages of 18 and 34, and 146,983 were in Texas.

“There are 2.5 million voters in Florida who are Black, Latino and Asian, and who didn’t vote in the last election,” Kenning said.

If the three groups Kenning backs are successful in their goal the number of missing voters will be a lot lower in Florida, and other states this November.