Untours Foundation Co-CEO Elizabeth Killough is expanding her influence and growing her impact as a champion for Mission Aligned Investment. We caught up with her recently to learn more about what she’s up to.
What investees are you most excited about?
There’s simply no “most excited.” We select only awesome investees and love them all to pieces. But it has been exciting — perhaps a cheap thrill — that in just a year’s time, a third investee of ours, Simply Good Jars, received a Shark Tank deal. And it’s also terribly exciting that Grant Blvd received a grant from Beyonce (yes, THE Beyonce). Most people have never heard of our investees, and all of the sudden several have great notice and appreciation. It feels good!
What projects are you most excited about?
We are incredibly unique as a foundation in that 100% of our endowment is invested in businesses that are aligned with our mission. We have new opportunities to help other foundations move some of their endowment money into these “mission-aligned investments.”
Our own funds are somewhat limited (especially in a year without Untours travel profits), but by helping other foundations, which have MUCH larger endowments, to make these changes, we can see exponentially greater impact. They look at the groundbreaking work of our little foundation and think “we should be able to do that too!”
Hal set up our foundation with this type of investing and we are sharing our experience and model. It’s probably our most impactful work to date. We’ve helped move millions of dollars out of investments that harm the earth and her inhabitants and into inspiring projects like low-income housing, good jobs for people returning from incarceration, and green energy generation!
What unique challenges has the pandemic presented for your work at the foundation?
The pandemic felt like a fire drill — actually a fire — in the first 6 months. All of our investees had to scramble to reposition themselves, their work stations, their products and services. We were busy offering whatever support we could. A few went under, many regained their footing and are hanging on or surviving, and several are thriving, including those that added facemasks to their sales.
How have you been dealing with COVID, in your work and in life in general?
I am a throwback and therefore am enjoying the slower, quieter pace of life. I hope the world can remain less frenetic as we come out of the pandemic. I have certainly missed being in-person with many, but, thanks to Zoom, we’ve learned at the foundation that we can stay in even closer contact with our investees who aren’t local — and even those who are. That has been an incredible plus of this time. Days that I work at home are a challenge only in how to navigate Suki, the bossy rescued cat, who insists on sleeping on my desk. Even 3 years later, I remain a bit afraid of her!
How have you adjusted to sharing leadership with a new Co-CEO?
From day one at the foundation with Hal, I was handed equal say in everything. When businesses came to us for loans, it required our two Yes votes to offer the loans. This was one of Hal’s MANY generosities: honest-to-goodness power sharing.
I am truly delighted to pass that power sharing generosity on to Jonathan Coleman — along with sharing the workload and the loss of sleep. (Ha ha!) I’ve co-led organizations in my past and much prefer that to leading alone: two heads and hearts are indeed better than one. Jonathan offers shared and complementary skills to mine. He and his unfailing sense of humor didn’t arrive a minute too late!