What is investing for community development/impact investing?

p4p-sjThe Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia have been active in community development since 1985 when our first loan was given to the Delaware Valley Community Reinvestment Fund. Since then we have been active locally, regionally, and internationally. Our community development loans, similar to today’s “impact investing,” provide an opportunity for us to lend capital to community-based organizations that service those who have difficulty obtaining access to capital. Credit unions, community banks, community development financial institutions (CDFIs) loan funds, microfinance lenders, nonprofit housing developers, and other community-established businesses help to identify jobs, housing needs, and a host of other services and entrepreneurial opportunities. We seek investments where social and environmental outcomes drive economic returns. In this sense, our investments have a “triple-bottom line” return—they benefit people and the planet while generating profit and enabling us to live out our most deeply held values.

Through these types of investment we are able to partner with organizations such as the Disability Opportunity Fund (DOF). http://thedof.org/about-us/the-inspiration/.  The DOF is the first national CDFI specifically created for persons with disabilities while also providing financial and technical assistance to families and communities serving those who are disabled. http://thedof.org/

Click to view our Investment Portfolio Background.

Examples of good work being done!

IVF_Logo_FINAL_NEW(1)Our newest loan marks another first—an investment in sustainable family farming. Iroquois Valley Farms, founded in 2007, was established to support family farmers through patient, long-term capital. They proudly state that they are the “first socially responsible farmland company in the United States focused on supporting sustainable food production and the mid-size family farmer.” Iroquois Valley purchases farmland (over 4,000 acres, all of which is certified organic or in transition to becoming organic) and offers longterm leases to farmers who are independently operating their own family farm business. More than 70% of recent leases have gone to millennial farmers because younger people have led the country’s push toward healthy, organic food. Read more!

SolarEnergyLoanFundAddressing Climate Change:  We are aware that climate change will impact every sector of society and economic life—including our investments—but we are also aware of the many possibilities and opportunities that allow us to be proactive. We’d like to share the small role we play in financing clean energy while at the same time enabling people in low-income situations to have a sense of dignity. Through our Community Development Loan Fund program, we have invested $50,000 at 2% interest for five years in the Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF). The fund is a community-based lending organization that focuses on improving the overall quality of life of underserved populations in Florida with an emphasis on residential energy efficiency improvements and cost-effective renewable energy alternatives.  Read more about SELF!

Fonkoze_Staircase_with-textChemen Lavi Miao (CLM)- The Pathway to a Better Life

CLM is Fonkoze’s (www.fonkoze.org) comprehensive approach to eliminating extreme poverty once and for all, one family at a time. They know how to do it and are proving it is possible by eliminating extreme poverty on Haiti’s Central Plateau.

BACKGROUND

Over 37% of rural Haitians live on less than $1.25 per day. About 15% of families are ultra poor. They don’t eat every day. Their kids can’t go to school. They see no way to improve their lives. They’ve lost all hope.

STRATEGY

Fonkoze’s CLM program uses specially trained case managers to work with ultra poor women through an intensive 18-month process to help them build the confidence and skills necessary to create better lives for themselves and their families. The approach depends on

–  careful selection of the poorest families in a community,
–  training in two income-generating activities,
–  transfer of assets needed to start each activity,
–  a filter that ensures safe drinking water,
–  home repair and latrine construction,
–  close accompaniment ensures usage of available healthcare;
–  key partnership with Partners in Health,
–  building community support committees,
–  graduation,
–  linkage to further access to financial services.