RCIF Joins Global Partnerships’ Social Investment Fund 5.0
Emphasis on loans to women will be a key strategy in Global Partnerships’ latest $32 million Social Investment Fund 5.0. “Women tend to reinvest in the family,” explains Jason Henning, Global Partnerships’ Director of Investor Relations. “As they expand their income, a lot of that money goes into education, healthcare and more.” RCIF recently joined Global Partnerships in its mission to increase opportunities for those living in poverty with a $300,000 commitment in the new fund.
The Seattle-based organization’s high impact loans go to mission-driven partner cooperatives and microfinance institutions that have a proven track record of integrating credit along with business, farming, and health education. Global Partnerships started its first fund in 2005 and today has approximately $45 million actively at work in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The new Social Investment Fund 5.0 will concentrate capital in four main areas—Rural Livelihoods (agriculture), Green Technology, Microentrepreneurship, and Health Services. “In Green Technology, for example, we’ll look for organizations providing access to affordable and appropriate clean technologies, like solar lamps and efficient cook stoves,” says Henning. “For a household off the electrical grid, a solar lamp allows a family to have light at night so the kids can do homework and have more productivity after the sun goes down. Additionally, the family can save money that typically would be spent on kerosene or other fuels.”
COMIXMUL (Mixed Cooperative of United Women) of Honduras is set to receive one of Social Investment Fund 5.0’s first loan distributions. A savings-and-credit cooperative, COMIXMUL began in 1986 after a group of twelve female small-business owners were unable to obtain traditional bank loans. Instead, the women pooled together $1,000 in start-up capital and today the organization has over 11,000 clients and a nearly $20 million loan portfolio. A COMIXMUL microloan provides not only access to business education, but also to health services and domestic violence prevention. “We are really looking to catalyze social performance on the part of our partners and are looking to provide them with affordable capital so that they can direct more resources into improving their social impact,” Henning adds.
Changing Lives at the Latino Community Credit Union
With ethical business practices that include no risk-based lending, no paid ads, no complicated ID requirements, and free financial services education, it’s no wonder that the Latino Community Credit Union (LCCU) experienced the strongest membership growth in the past decade than any other credit union in the country. “We passionately believe that it’s the right of the community to have access to a full range of accessible and affordable products,” says Erika Bell, LCCU’s Vice President of Strategy and Services.
Since opening in 2000, the North Carolina-based credit union now has 10 branches with 55,000 members from 110 countries. The need for a bank serving the immigrant community grew in the 1990s when the state’s construction and housing boom attracted newcomers looking for jobs. Many of LCCU’s own staff members are immigrants as well, adding to the institution’s strength. “Our staff is engaged by default because they are part of the community…and if they are not members from a similar country, it’s that immigrant experience that people share,” Bell explains.
LCCU relies on outreach activities and partnerships rather than expensive advertising. The staff reaches out to realtors, car dealers, churches, nonprofits, and others to find those in need of services. Any government-issued photo identification, such as the Mexican Matricula Consular ID, is enough to open an account and all enjoy the same interest rates across the board. “We don’t want to have second-class members,” Bell adds.
Bell recalls the story of a rural farm worker who kept his money in his car before speaking with a LCCU staff member at an outreach event. “After that conversation, he opened a savings account, went through the whole continuum of building credit, and now he has his own home to pass on to his family,” Bell says. “It’s amazing how one meeting can change the trajectory of someone’s life.”
The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Joins RCIF
RCIF welcomes the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Kentucky (SCN) as a “member” level investor to the fund. “Over the years, we’ve spent countless hours researching appropriate organizations with whom to invest,” explains Anita Knott, SCN’s Director of Finance, “but we have not been able to identify as many as we had hoped. We are looking forward to what RCIF and Sr. Corinne can do for us.”
After meeting Sr. Corinne at a Resource Center for Religious Institutes (RCRI) conference, Anita returned home to speak with the treasurer and finance committee about joining the fund. Seeing that some of SCN’s own Community Economic Development Investments (CEDIs) overlapped with those of RCIF, the committee felt reassured that the missions of both organizations were strongly aligned. “We were thrilled to see similarities in our portfolios,” says Anita.
In 2012, SCN celebrated 200 years of service that today includes the administration of nursing homes and a preparatory high school, countless community programs, along with ministries in India, Nepal, Botswana, and Belize. Other institutions originally founded by SCN, such as Spalding University (named after SCN foundress, Mother Catherine Spalding), and area hospitals, are now independently run. “We have over 600 sisters in five countries,” Anita adds. “Most are ministering in education, healthcare, social activism, and pastoral work.”
By Liana S. Mortazavi