What is investing for community development/impact investing?

The 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 community development financial institution (CDFI) specifically created for persons with disabilities while also providing financial and technical assistance to families and communities serving the disabled. http://thedof.org/

Addressing 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! 


Chemen 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.


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.


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.

Why do we invest in this way? 

Consistent with our mission and values, we have social, as well as financial objectives for the return on our investments. The social objectives are realized through monitoring the environmental, social and governance performance of corporations; initiating shareholder advocacy actions to address social concerns; and when necessary, divesting from certain segments of business and in certain companies. In addition, investing for community development focuses on economic development and the empowerment of individuals to work for social justice through organizations whose vision and mission is complementary to the vision and mission of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.

Adapted from the Congregations’ Investment Objectives

How are these investments selected and monitored?

The CRI (Committee for Responsible Investment) selects applicants whose goals are compatible with the values and mission of the congregation and whose objectives meet several of our social criteria. These are to:

  • improve the social and economic well-being of low-to-moderate income communities
  • provide community participation and the possibility of self-determination
  • have the capacity to complete their projects but have limited or no access to capital
  • foster equality and justice for all people, particularly women, children, persons of color and persons with disabilities
  • promote sustainability of Earth and all natural resources
  • recognize the sacredness of diversity in creation and in all cultures.

Priority is given to applications from geographic areas where the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia and Franciscan Companions minister.

How are these investments allocated?
Potential borrowers must meet certain financial as well as social criteria developed from the congregation’s values, mission, and social concerns.