PagerDuty Blog

Recoverable Grants Offer Pathway to Enduring Social Impact

Beneficial Returns combines financial risk analysis with a charitable mindset to drive impact with PagerDuty’s philanthropic investment 

As founder and CEO of the impact investment fund Beneficial Returns, Ted Levinson is calling for a mindset shift. He believes it’s time for investors to prioritize social and environmental progress using a market-driven approach. Global issues like renewable energy, clean water and basic sanitation are among the many social and environmental challenges, he believes, impact investing can solve. His solution is to generate funding that social enterprises can borrow and repay to create lasting impact through the power of business. 

Beneficial Returns amplifies high-impact solutions by helping philanthropists activate their undeployed capital to support social entrepreneurs in Latin America and Southeast Asia. Through loans of $50,000 to $500,000, Beneficial Returns contributes to the growth of social enterprises—for-profit businesses driven by nonprofit missions—such as Ecofiltro, whose innovative ceramic water filters are addressing prevalent health and environmental challenges, and, a provider of low-cost biodigesters that convert agricultural waste into fuel and fertilizer.

Rather than remaining inactive in bank accounts, Beneficial Returns demonstrates how charitable endowment dollars—from family foundations, donor-advised funds, faith-based communities, and now corporate philanthropic dollars—can be consistently put to good use through methods including recoverable grants. A recoverable grant is an impact investment that provides organizations with funding for specific revenue-generating programs and initiatives, that is then reimbursed in full based on a predetermined repayment timetable.

Innovating on a traditional approach to philanthropy

In 2023, PagerDuty became Beneficial Returns’ first corporate investor, directing a total of $150,000 to the impact investment fund, $100,000 of which is being used as a recoverable grant to support a portfolio of social enterprises working to reduce poverty and protect the environment. The remaining $50,000 is granted as unrestricted funding to provide operational support to Beneficial Returns, which will enable the fund to support PagerDuty on its learning journey through sector insights, network building, and connections to climate entrepreneurs.

The whole mindset of philanthropy is to address the things that we want as a society that the markets are not doing. I believe in the power of markets. I also believe that when the things we want to see can’t offer a market-rate return, it doesn’t mean they’re of any lesser value. Oftentimes, they’re of more value.” – Ted Levinson, Beneficial Returns Founder and CEO

Similarly, the investment in Beneficial Returns was the first-ever recoverable grant PagerDuty has made. Akin to a zero-interest loan, PagerDuty will recoup the $100,000 investment amount over a seven-year period. This low-risk financing method puts their philanthropic capital to work supporting social innovation, and when the grant is returned to PagerDuty’s donor-advised fund, it will then be re-deployed to invest in future impact. It’s an innovative approach that is both cost-effective and creates a renewable fund to ensure a continuous resource for future grantmaking and impact investments. 

This form of support from the private sector is entirely new, Ted explains. “PagerDuty is helping to advance a new model and is a pioneer in our world. To be able to have an investment from a corporation means a lot to us. It also means that all of PagerDuty’s employees are also stakeholders in the work that we’re doing. We’re hopeful that other companies will follow PagerDuty’s example.” 

“Recoverable grants are a powerful tool for corporate funders to drive measurable impact through their grant dollars because of the multiplier effect they generate. By investing in Beneficial Returns and their portfolio of social entrepreneurs working to change the status quo in their communities, PagerDuty is furthering our mission to create an equitable world and sustainable future. We are then able to reinvest those funds in additional organizations at the forefront of their communities’ efforts to address inequality and the climate crisis.” – Olivia Khalili, PagerDuty VP of Global Impact

Investing in climate-resilient solutions with Beneficial Returns

In Guatemala, where 44% of households lack access to a safely managed water supply, Ecofiltro produces and sells water filters. These low-cost ceramic filters provide users with clean and safe drinking water, in addition to creating quality jobs while helping conserve Guatemala’s threatened environment. Whereas most urban residents drink bottled water, those in rural areas typically boil their water over wood fires. The environmental cost of bottled water is high, yet boiling water is even more damaging. Guatemala suffers from high levels of deforestation—17% of its forests were lost between 1990 and 2005—much of it caused by firewood collection. Meanwhile, smokey kitchen fires in poorly ventilated homes lead to respiratory problems—disproportionately affecting women and children.  

Originally launched as a nonprofit, Ecofiltro is a compelling example of how business can be a force for good. For years, Ecofiltro remained a small organization, constrained by its ability to fundraise from donors, primarily based in the U.S. When the organization converted into a B Corp—a for-profit company recognized for its commitment to social and environmental performance—revenues increased dramatically and thousands more Guatemalans gained access to clean water. In 2023 alone, the enterprise sold more than 200,000 filters.

With $225,000 from Beneficial Returns, Ecofiltro doubled the size of its factory, increasing production capacity and improving quality. Ecofiltro has now found its groove, simultaneously serving society and the environment while making a profit. The company’s mission is to bring clean water sustainably to 1 million rural families in Guatemala by 2025. To date, filters have reached more than 500,000 families in the region, including neighboring Mexico and other Central American countries.

PagerDuty’s recoverable grant to Beneficial Returns is also tackling greenhouse gas emissions and reducing smallholder farmers’ expenses. Through Beneficial Returns’ loan to, a Mexican social enterprise that designs, manufactures, and sells biodigesters, farmers can convert manure and other agricultural waste into biogas and organic biofertilizer. When client Liliana struggled to restore profitability to her family’s rabbit farm in Mexico after some time away, she got creative with her approach. She found that she could power the farm’s operations with biogas from its waste using a biodigester. “I soon realized that the traditional way of doing things wasn’t enough, because everyone else was doing it. I needed to think outside the box, imagine new possibilities.”’s low-cost systems capture methane, a leading cause of global warming, and provide farmers with renewable energy and yield-enhancing fertilizer at no cost. It’s an accessible solution that promotes new levels of resourcefulness in a sector with major climate implications, contributing to a circular economy where waste is productively reused. To date, Beneficial Returns has lent over $500,000 to as they expand their footprint beyond Mexico to Colombia, Kenya, and India.  

Putting philanthropic dollars to work

In the U.S., foundations and donor-advised funds allocate less than 12% of their endowments each year, leaving over 88% of their impact potential untapped. As companies increasingly answer the call to embrace a social purpose, impact investing offers a clear path to maximizing grantmaking efforts. By activating undeployed philanthropic assets with recoverable grants, impact investing can catalyze efforts to accelerate social progress. The key, as Beneficial Returns makes clear, is to put these dollars to work in support of our communities.

Beneficial Returns By The Numbers

  • $10M+ in loans made
  • 6 enterprises supported in Southeast Asia
  • 11 enterprises supported in Latin America
  • 11M+ tons of CO2 reduced
  • 2,600+ people directly employed by social enterprises
  • 960,000+ hectares of sustainably cultivated and management land