40 Rachel’s Network members and guests traveled to San Francisco for the 2012 Fall Retreat, Venture Philanthropy and the Green Economy. For three days, members met with thought leaders and trailblazing entrepreneurs and immersed themselves in the themes of impact investing, clean tech innovation, and sustainability. Set against the backdrop of one of the country’s greenest cities, and co-chaired by Ann Hunter-Welborn of California and Molly Ross of Colorado, it was a truly powerful and inspiring gathering.

Program Highlights

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  • Behind-the-scenes tour of Solaria, a photovoltaic manufacturing plant in Fremont, California, where CEO Dan Shugar, VP of External Affairs David Hochschild, and investor and board member Nancy Pfund briefed members on the latest trends in the solar industry.
  • Visit to Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant, which is a partnership between the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and BlackGold Biofuels that uses pioneering technology to remove fats, oils, and grease from San Francisco’s water supply. Karri Ving, the biofuel coordinator for the Public Utilities Commission and Nate Turner, COO of BlackGold Biofuels, explained how the company’s biodigestors use organisms to convert FOG into biodiesel fuel.
  • Discussion with philanthropy expert Lucy Bernholz, who encouraged members to be mindful of how societal and cultural shifts can impact philanthropy and to use technology to stay on the cutting edge and help identify organizations that produce the most social benefit.
  • Panel discussion on cross-sector partnerships featuring Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, Katherine Michonski, director of the Business Council on Climate Change, and Stephanie Rico, VP of Environmental Affairs of Wells Fargo.
  • Jeanine Cotter, president and CEO of the solar panel installation company Luminalt, spoke with members that evening about her journey in building a successful company while simultaneously engaging her local community.
  • Panel discussion with Network member Alison Carlson of Passport Foundation and Forsythia Foundation, Kristin Hull of Nia Community Fund, and Nancy Floyd of Nth Power on how to focus investments personally and complement environmental grantmaking with impact investing.
  • Nicole Lampe and Këri Bolding of Resource Media led a workshop on using social media platforms to advance members’ advocacy and philanthropic work.
  • Impact investing expert Jed Emerson advised members to let their mission and values drive their investing and philanthropy, allowing their passions to guide them toward making a powerful financial impact.
  • Hunter Lovins, president and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions and a Rachel’s Network Advisor, explained her efforts to prove to businesses and governments that sustainable practices and investments in a green economy are the solutions to helping capitalism thrive, rather than burdens on the system.
  • Melanie Nutter, director of the San Francisco Department of Environment, who addressed members about the City’s recent efforts and goals of becoming a zero-waste city, powered by 100 percent renewable energy.


Members left the Fall Retreat invigorated by the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of San Francisco and inspired to apply what they learned to their own investment and grant making strategies, with one member commenting, “I am excited by the energy coming out of this meeting and hope that more members will recognize mission-related investing as a powerful tool for our environmental advocacy.” Another member summed up the spirit and optimism of the three days of learning: “It was a ‘good news’ retreat!”

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