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Insights

Meet Jess Brooks, Vice President of Investor Relations at Social Finance

Jess Brooks joined Social Finance in the fall of 2022 as Vice President of Investor Relations. In this role, Jess helped launch the Social Finance Impact First Fund: a vehicle designed to create positive outcomes for people and the planet through impact-first investments.

Here, Jess discusses what drew her to Social Finance, why she believes in impact investing, and her hopes for the Impact First Fund.

You joined Social Finance to help launch the Social Finance Impact First Fund. Why did you decide to devote the next phase of your career to this idea? 

First and foremost, I am a mom of two boys. I think an awful lot about the world that they’re going to inherit: a world dealing with a climate crisis and vast inequality. I believe that impact investing is a key tool in our fight against these challenges. If we’re intentional about how we invest, money can drive true impact at scale.  

From my experience at Sunwealth and in the CDFI world, I know that there are plenty of great opportunities to invest in, and there’s a growing number of individuals and institutions who want to put money to work. But structural barriers prevent them from connecting. First-time or underrepresented fund managers often struggle to access capital. On the other side of the table, lots of would-be impact investors lack the resources, experience, and time needed to find, diligence, and manage investment opportunities. 


I know that there are plenty of great opportunities to invest in, and there’s a growing number of individuals and institutions who want to put money to work. But structural barriers prevent them from connecting.

The Social Finance Impact First Fund brings investors and fund managers together, making it possible to create something better than what either could have done alone. It removes the barriers that each side faces, helping regular investors to put their money to work where it is most needed.  

When I look at what’s wrong in the world, I feel like a big piece of the challenge is that people are missing each other. We’re standing on different streets and not connecting at the intersections. You end up with a gridlock, when what we need most is the flow of capital and ideas. At the highest level, the Impact First Fund addresses this divide. 

Why Social Finance? 

I got to know this Social Finance team closely when I was working at Sunwealth. I’ve been watching folks talk about activating donor-advised fund (DAF) capital for impact for 20 years without much to show for it. Social Finance is one of the first groups I’ve seen gaining traction with these ideas. They’re making it possible for community foundations and large DAF sponsors to offer impact-first investments available to their donors, and they’re providing impact fund managers with access to a whole new group of donors and investors. I saw this and I thought, okay, I want to be part of this! 

Part of what makes Social Finance unique is that it is a mission-driven nonprofit and a registered investment advisor (RIA). Usually, you have mission-oriented organizations on one side of the table and finance-oriented folks on the other. At Social Finance, we have the mandate and the internal capacity to think about both. I believe this makes us a valuable and trusted partner. 

Jess poses for a photo with her two children
Jess Brooks and her two children.

Part of what makes Social Finance unique is that it is a mission-driven nonprofit and a registered investment advisor (RIA). Usually, you have mission-oriented organizations on one side of the table and finance-oriented folks on the other. At Social Finance, we think about both.

Tell us about one of the first-time fund managers currently being supported by the Impact First Fund.  

I am particularly moved by the work of Blackstar Stability. In my previous work in the CDFI world, I worked firsthand with individuals who were victims of predatory lending and foreclosure. I saw the impact predatory lending can have on a family’s wealth and on community wealth. I’ve also seen firsthand how homeownership enables families to build wealth, particularly in communities of color, and how homeownership contributes to household and community stability. Blackstar is addressing both sides of this equation: they are helping to replace predatory loan products called “contracts for deeds” with affordable mortgages that deliver immediate savings to families. By doing so, they are making it possible for families to lower their monthly payments, repair their credit, and start to build equity. 

What new trends or interests are you hearing from donors and investors? 

More and more people want to know what effects their investments are having – both positive and negative. In some ways, there is a generational aspect to this. Younger investors want to live a life that’s aligned with our values, and that includes how we’re spending or investing our money. Older generations are starting to think about our legacy. What world will we leave behind? How can we impact that world? These groups converge around the idea of impact investing as a powerful tool for shaping our collective future.  

One year from now, what do you hope to have achieved with the Impact First Fund?   

I want the Impact First Fund to activate a whole new group of individuals and organizations to give impact investing a try, and I don’t just want to meet their expectations; I want to delight them. If we are successful, a year from now we will have built a community of engaged investors and fund managers who are working together to shape a healthier, more equitable society. Social Finance has so many resources at our disposal: our incredible partners, our diverse and talented team, and the Social Finance Institute. If we leverage these resources in the right way, we will deliver measurable and meaningful results for the communities and issue areas that we care about.  

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