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May 14, 2015

Ottauquechee Health Foundation puts its money where its heart is

Ottauquechee Health Foundation puts its money where its heart is

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Ottauquechee Health Foundation makes the switch to socially responsible investments. Pictured left to right: Steve Moyer, OHF treasurer; Eric Becker, Clean Yield Chief invsestment officer; Sherry Thornburg, OHF executive director; and Eric Fritz, OHF president.

Woodstock-based health organization moves to socially responsible investments, aligned with mission

WOODSTOCK — Ottauquechee Health Foundation (OHF) announced May 8 that it has hired Clean Yield Asset Management, an investment advisory firm that works exclusively with socially responsible investments. According to OHF President Eric Fritz, “This is a big moment in the organization’s history. We are switching to a socially responsible investment firm, which will align our investments with our mission.”

“The impetus came a couple of years ago, during our annual appeal” says OHF Treasurer Steve Moyer. “One response came in from a long-time donor, raising the concern that two holdings in our investment portfolio were not mission aligned.” The donor’s concerns became a topic of conversation for the board for months afterwards. “As we looked at what our investment portfolio was,” says OHF President Eric Fritz, “it didn’t make sense, given our mission, that we had investments that were clearly not supporting health.”

The board soon began investigating socially responsible investment firms. They started with Clean Yield, at the suggestion of a board member. According to Moyer, OHF did their due diligence in researching other firms but they kept returning to Clean Yield, which is located locally, in Norwich, Vt.

According to Clean Yield Chief Investment Officer Eric Becker, “Clean Yield traditionally works only with high net worth individuals and families, but we made an exception because we saw a clear mission alignment.”

“We expect returns that are as good, or even better, than those we have received in the past,” says Fritz. “Our expected return meets the target numbers we were seeking for an average investment return.”

According to Fritz, OHF is considering the matter from two perspectives. “We want to make sure we get a good return on our investments in our portfolio because that’s one of the ways we can accomplish our goals in the community. We also want to make sure we’re not talking out of both sides of our mouth by investing in funds that are not consistent with our mission.”

It may take 12-18 months to fully transition OHF’s current holdings to Clean Yield. According to Moyer, it will take time to move into a portfolio of attractively valued stocks and bonds, depending on trends in financial markets. 

OHF may be able to effect change in two additional ways as the result of its new relationship with Clean Yield. The firm will enable it to invest in Vermont firms as a way to deepen its commitment to supporting the local economy. It could also engage in shareholder advocacy, using its shareholder status to open a dialogue with companies that are not adhering to high standards in social responsibility.

Founded in 1996, the Ottauquechee Health Foundation promotes and supports programs that identify and help meet the health care needs in Barnard, Bridgewater, Hartland, Killington, Plymouth, Pomfret, Quechee, Reading, and Woodstock. Most of the funding for OHF is raised through community charitable donations. Additional funding comes from grants and gifts that OHF applies for and from earnings from their portfolio.

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