Don Shaffer’s first exposure to the financial system made him want to change it. As a teenage caddy at a New Jersey country club, Shaffer met some of the biggest winners in Wall Street’s ’80s boom. What left a lasting impression on him was the fact that none of these powerful men could explain what they did. That puzzle sparked a lifelong ambition to peel back the curtains on finance and create a system that works for businesses and communities—rather than a system that puts businesses and communities at its mercy.
He pursues that goal today as president and CEO of San Francisco-based RSF Social Finance, a leader in building the next economy: one that’s rooted in community, considers everyone’s needs, and restores trust in financial relationships through transactions that are direct, transparent and personal. RSF provides critical financing to path-breaking social enterprises, creates impact investing vehicles accessible to a wide range of investors, and is seeding a finance infrastructure to support social enterprises.
Since Shaffer arrived at RSF in late 2007, the organization’s assets have increased steadily. Growth has accelerated over the past three years, with a 39 percent rise in assets under management, to over $175 million. Under his leadership, RSF launched the first mezzanine fund designed specifically for companies with high social impact, the first Program-Related Investing (PRI) fund for private foundations, and the first 100 percent impact investment portfolio for donor advised funds.
Shaffer’s insights have appeared in the sustainable business and general business media, including Huffington Post, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and TriplePundit, and RSF has been covered by outlets including USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, Al Jazeera America, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Manager blog.
In addition, Shaffer has spoken at the Social Venture Network, Social Capital Markets, Slow Money, and Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) conferences, as well as at Cornell, Berkeley, and Stanford, where he was one of six people invited to speak with tenured finance professors about impact investing.
Additional Professional Experience
Along with leading RSF, Shaffer serves as a board member of B Lab, BALLE, Social Venture Network and Comet Skateboards. He is an advisor to Entrepreneurship@Cornell, the CASE (Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship) program at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and Slow Money, and he co-chairs the Roots of Change Business Leaders Council. Shaffer was instrumental in helping to get benefit corporation legislation passed in California, and has been a key supporter in building the Certified B Corporation movement.
Prior to joining RSF, Shaffer was executive director of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), developing it into an organization of over 15,000 independently owned businesses across the U.S. and Canada. He has also served as interim executive director of Investors’ Circle, a network of angel investors, professional venture capitalists, foundations and others who invest private capital in companies addressing social and environmental issues.
He also draws on personal experience building companies with a social mission, including Comet Skateboards, a designer and manufacturer of premium skateboarding products committed to local and sustainable business practices. He has led sales, marketing, business development, and general operations teams in the education and software sectors.
Shaffer comes from a long line of Quaker farmers and small-business owners. He graduated with a degree in American History from Cornell University and lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, and two children.