Some of our brightest, most innovative thinkers are at start-up companies. But these companies often have a hard time raising capital. Venture-capital firms have become more cautious, unwilling to fund start-ups that have bright ideas but whose products are a long way from commercial viability. Venture capitalists consider such start-ups—such as early-stage biotech firms—too risky to justify their investment.
Charitable organizations can now step up and help. The U.S. Treasury Department has recently issued a proposal to clarify that foundations may buy stock or make loans to a commercial venture if its activities promote its charitable objectives. Legal uncertainties surrounding such investments had previously held back the risk-averse trustees at many charities.
Also, read my article, “A Guide to Charitable Investing,” published in the April 2012 issue of Trusts and Trustees. It delineates in more detail the legal constraints on program-related investments.