“Creating and measuring impact is the name of the game,” says 34-year-old philanthropist Ben Kovler as he describes Invest For Kids (IFK), Chicago’s Investable Ideas Conference.
Kovler founded IFK with Ron Levin five years ago. Creating and measuring IFK’s impact—social, finan- cial and professional—is a labor of love for both men.
Kovler, who lives in Lakeview with wife Amy and two young children, is a University of Chicago Booth School of Business graduate. He is an investment manager for both the Kovler family businesses and their private foundation. Kovler speaks almost as passionately about IFK as he does about his own family. Levin, 54, resides in Highland Park with his wife Fifi and two daughters. He’s is a Harvard Business School graduate and Managing Director of Goldman Sachs.
The IFK concept is simple and smart, like most successful venture philanthropy. Leading money managers, including some who otherwise do not share their insights publicly, give their best advice to an eager audience at the annual conference. Because Kovler and Levin underwrite the conference expenses, 100 percent of the ticket proceeds (at $1,000 a pop) and sponsorship donations are given to thoughtfully selected charities benefiting under-resourced children in Chicago.
They choose small to mid-sized nonprofits with strong leaders, active boards and data demonstrating effective use of donations. They intend for these six-figure gifts—usually between $100,000 and $200,000—to substantially accelerate each nonprofit’s growth. To date, IFK has awarded these impact grants to 26 charities. In honor of the Conference’s 5th Anniversary this October, Kovler and Levin anticipate substantially growing that number this year.
IFK also measures the impact of its investment advice content. “Our speakers are best in class,” Levin says. “In aggregate, the investment ideas presented at the last four conferences have dramatically outperformed the broad market indices.” This means that money invested in equities recommended by IFK speakers over the last four years would have grown substantially more than the same amount invested in more generic portfolios.
The social impact of IFK should not be underestimated. “This has become a do-not-miss conference for the Chicago investment community,” Kovler says with a smile. “People come looking for the content and camaraderie. They leave feeling great about what they supported.”
Photo by Britt Anderson