2018 was a pivotal year for the BQuest Foundation, a private family foundation focused on impact investing in climate and housing and homelessness issues in San Diego area. It was the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, released its “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.”
“Their landmark report served as a dire warning about the catastrophic effects of climate change and the lack of global progress on reigning in carbon emissions,” said Kara Ballester, President and Co-Founder of the BQuest Foundation. “That report was a call to action for BQuest and we decided to pivot and focus most of our efforts towards climate-related issues.”
Since that time, the BQuest Foundation has become increasingly involved in impact investing for climate and housing.
“BQuest has found that not only can our foundation stretch its resources much farther, but it can unlock other forms of financing and government funding by participating in projects as a philanthropic investor,” Kara stated. “Through using zero-percent or low-interest loans, providing collateral loans, creating loan-loss reserve funds, and a variety of other financing strategies, BQuest has helped launch and build equity-focused projects and programs that might not have otherwise happened.”
Layers of Impact
The BQuest Foundation has also found that by focusing on clean energy and housing-related projects and using impact investing as a tool, it can create multiple layers of impact.
“Many of our projects serve to create financial savings for families, communities and nonprofit organizations, while at the same time expanding the use of renewable energy and reducing emissions,” Kara noted. “Affordable housing, sustainability, equity, community resilience and health are often intertwined, and the right types of programs can have multi-layered impacts.”
Kara also knows that BQuest Foundation plays a unique role for some projects through their investment.
“We step in and help de-risk these really cool projects that maybe wouldn’t happen otherwise,” she said.
Partnering with The San Diego Foundation
The vision Kara describes tightly aligns with the pillars of The San Diego Foundation’s Strategic Plan – advancing racial and social justice, fostering equity of opportunity, building resilient communities and delivering world-class philanthropy.
With a focus on equity, housing and access in San Diego, Kara and her husband and BQuest Foundation co-founder Andy’s attention was drawn to the San Diego Black Homebuyer Program after its launch in August. That attention resulted in a $160,000 donation from the BQuest Foundation to the program that provides grants to Black families to purchase homes.
“Home ownership is a key way for individuals and families to build wealth, yet Black homeownership is significantly lower due to both historic and current racial injustices,” Kara shared. “The program’s impact on borrowers being able to purchase and own a home will be life changing for them and it’s an exciting way to create generational wealth for Black families in San Diego.”
The BQuest Foundation’s involvement with The San Diego Foundation doesn’t end there. While the BQuest Foundation is a private family foundation, they chose to start a donor-advised fund with The San Diego Foundation because of its community connections, resources and knowledgeable staff.
“While BQuest creates our own programs and is an independently run private foundation, The San Diego Foundation has deep roots in our region and is able to create initiatives, such as the COVID-19 Community Response Fund and Black Homebuyers Program, that bring together the resources and tap into the partnerships of the whole community,” Kara stated.
Investing in a Clean Future
Kara also notes that The Foundation’s Sustainable Endowment and Non-Endowment portfolio are of particular interest to the BQuest Foundation since it aligns with their organizational mission to fight the climate crisis.
The Sustainable portfolio’s managers screen companies to ensure strong scores on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria, which includes a company’s positive or negative impact on the Earth and on people and society, as well as corporate and board oversight. The strategy also avoids companies directly involved in extracting, processing or transporting coal, oil or natural gas. As of September 2021, both the Sustainable Endowment and Non-Endowment portfolio have outperformed their policy indices over the past year and year-to-date.
All in all, Kara hopes that BQuest Foundation’s work inspires other donors.
“The younger generation is very concerned about climate issues,” Kara noted. “But we need more donors involved in climate funding.”