The Art of Impact Investing: Bringing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to American Museums’ $40 Billion Endowments

SOCAP Global October 26, 2021

At SPECTRUM21, Museum Leaders Share How Their Work with Diverse Fund Managers Helps Drive Systemic Change

Several American museums were among the organizations making public statements of solidarity during summer 2020 for the Black Lives Matter movement and pronouncing their commitment to addressing structural racism. Some of these museums are fulfilling that commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion through their investment policy. And with more than $40 billion in the endowments of American museums, this commitment holds great potential. 

During SPECTRUM21: The Color of Money, leaders with the National Gallery of Art and the Walters Art Museum shared why and how they are committed to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion — internally and externally — by ensuring that their investment firms have fund managers who are women or Black, Indigenous, or other People of Color. 

Session moderator Laura Callanan, Founding Partner of Upstart Co-Lab, noted that only 1.3% of money controlled by asset managers in the U.S. is invested by women or BIPOC fund managers, which translates into which entrepreneurs get funding for their endeavors. Only 2.4% of that VC funding is going to diverse company founders, she said. 

In summer 2020, the National Gallery of Art took a fresh look at asset management of its $1.3 billion endowment portfolio by surveying financial firms about the gender and race of their investment professionals and other factors, said Christine Kelleher, Chief of Investments at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. 

“We believe that diversity of thought leads to the best decision-making and risk-management decisions,” Kelleher said. “As a result, diversity is truly essential to achieving the highest investment performance of the long-term investment portfolio.”

A positive side effect of this process is that a number of the National Gallery’s investment managers have said they are struggling to recruit diverse candidates to their firms, which raises new and important conversations, Kelleher said. 

While the National Gallery is starting this process, the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore implemented a diverse manager strategy five years ago. Calvin Baker, a Trustee at Walters Art Museum and retired Managing Director and Head of Strategic Relationships, Brown Capital Management, said he had long wondered why the museum’s portfolio for its $117 million endowment hadn’t performed better.

In launching its work with more diverse fund managers, Walters Museum identified where its portfolio was underperforming and found diverse managers to add value and outperform the benchmark, Baker said.  

“If we’re doing this right, over time the percentage of money managed by diverse fund managers is going to increase because they are outperforming, and we will have succeeded in our goals,” he said. “And in fact, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve been very successful over that five-year period.”

Like the National Gallery, the Walters Museum takes a broader view of success in working with diverse fund managers.  

“The goal is to not just include firms that are diverse from the get-go but see that all of the firms we’re investing with over time are able to diversify their investment teams,” Baker said. 

Watch Bringing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to American Museums’ $40 Billion Endowments


Calvin Baker: Trustee, Walters Art Museum; Managing Director and Head of Strategic Relationships, Brown Capital Management (retired)

Christine Kelleher: Chief of Investments, National Gallery of Art


Laura Callanan: Founding Partner, Upstart Co-Lab

Learn more about impact investing and find innovative examples of impact investing at work on our page “What Is Impact Investing?

Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy / Equity and Inclusion / Impact Investing / Impact Management / Racial Equity
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