Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Invests to Drive Funds to Communities Historically Excluded from Opportunity

Guest blog post by Zoila Jennings, Lead Impact Investment Officer at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), health equity is our North Star. To us, that means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Achieving health equity requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences: lack of access to good jobs; quality education; and safe, affordable housing.

All communities in the U.S. — especially those that historically have been structurally excluded from opportunity — should have the power, agency, and financial resources to thrive. That’s why RWJF has dedicated a $10 million program-related investment to OFN’s Finance Justice Fund.

Done strategically, we believe that impact investing in programs such as the Finance Justice Fund can create both bottom-line financial returns for investors and improve health, well-being, and racial equity. In addition, we expect that our investment will help lower perceived risk and encourage other investors, such as banks, insurance companies, or family businesses, to come to the table and invest in communities that historically have lacked access to capital.

“We see impact investing as an important tool in concert with grantmaking, research, policy change, and communications,” said RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser, MD. “Our hope is to engage a broader set of philanthropic and commercial investors who share our goal for a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being for everyone in America.”

By making this program-related investment in the Fund, we want to help it continue to drive affordable, equitable capital to communities and populations that are structurally excluded from opportunity. In particular, these communities include those that are Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian American, LGBTQ+, lower income, living with disabilities, or in overlooked geographies such as rural and tribal lands.  

RWJF has long believed that to truly advance health and well-being, we must change the underlying systems and policies that affect the health of many people. Through impact investing, we can work with a range of investors to help attract capital in the places with the strongest need. Our goal is to reverse the systemic, historical lack of investment that has redlined and denied so many communities stable infrastructure and healthy lives.

“Increasing access to capital in communities that have been structurally excluded from opportunity is essential,” says Kimberlee Cornett, Director of Impact Investments at RWJF. “That’s why we are pleased to invest in the Finance Justice Fund toward the goal of improving health, well-being, and equity.”

With an anticipated $1 billion provided through the Finance Justice Fund, OFN expects to strengthen and grow more than 250 CDFIs over 15 years. The Fund prioritizes investing in CDFIs with less than $50 million in total assets, many of which face challenges raising growth capital.

Read about RWJF’s impact investment portfolio and meet our team.

Three staff members of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

From left to right:

  • Kimberlee Cornett, Director, Impact Investments                                             
  • Akobe Sandy, Lead Impact Investment Officer                   
  • Zoila Jennings, Lead Impact Investment Officer