Joe Keefe is up under the eaves in his Portsmouth office, talking urgently about the things he cares about – sustainable investing, gender equality, climate change, the Boston Red Sox.
Keefe is President and CEO of Pax World Management, a leader in the field of sustainable investing.
He is also co-chair of the Leadership Group for Women’s Empowerment Principles, a project of the United Nations Global Compact and UN Women, and member of the board of the advocacy organization Women Thrive Worldwide. He has written extensively on sustainable investing and gender equity. Ethisphere Magazine has named him one of the “100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics” three times.
In 2015, the Financial Times named him one of the world’s top feminist men. “Mr. Keefe is an outspoken critic of gender inequality,” the Times wrote, “describing it as ‘the greatest economic issue of our time, because there is so much value locked up inside these outdated, dim-witted patriarchal systems we allow to continue.’”
Keefe cares about those issues globally, and locally.
Pax does its corporate giving with the Pax World Management Charitable Fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.
Before Pax opened the donor-advised fund in 2014, Keefe and his assistant had been fielding the calls requesting charitable donations themselves, sorting them and spending time to research, prioritize and make decisions.
“I have a day job,” he laughs. And then, more seriously: “I was doing our charitable work, but…I just don’t have the time. I’m not in a position to do all the due diligence.” He wanted his firm’s philanthropy done as thoughtfully as possible, and to maximum effect. (Pax World also manages the Foundation’s sustainable pool, formerly called socially-screened investment fund.)
“Philanthropic money is money that needs to be wisely invested,” Keefe said. “This is absolutely the best way for us to do our philanthropy, because the Charitable Foundation brings so many resources to the table in terms of knowledge and due diligence and strategic ideas such that our philanthropic giving is much better. And I get to stay involved, which I like. For a firm our size, it’s just a great way to do our giving.”
An employee committee which is open to anyone in the company and is comprised of everyone from administrative assistants to senior management, advises the fund and makes recommendations for grants. The Foundation’s Portsmouth-based team helps sort through requests, brings funding opportunities to the table and works with the Pax committee to maximize its charitable impact. Keefe said that, now, the company’s philanthropy feels aligned with a larger set of strategic priorities important to the state – making it “part of New Hampshire’s social capital.”
Grants from the Pax Fund (in New Hampshire and well beyond) have helped provide opportunities to young girls and youth, boosted public radio and television, funded environmental stewardship efforts, helped house the homeless and feed the hungry and battle poverty and oppression.
“There’s so much need out there and yet we have a finite amount of money,” Keefe said. “We want to have as much impact with that money as we can.” Pax matches employee contributions to the fund (up to $250 for each of its 50-plus employees), and gives them four days of paid time each year to volunteer.
“You want happy, engaged employees,” Keefe said. Part of that happiness and engagement is “knowing we make a positive impact on the community.”