Winter 2011


RCIF’s Goal of $5 Million Will Enlarge Lending Impact on International Stage

With an additional $500,000 investment from the Holy Family Sisters, the Religious Communities Investment Fund is tantalizingly close to reaching the $5 million goal that will expand the organization’s ability to invest internationally.

Chart 2“The additional commitment from the Holy Family Sisters brings our investment fund to $4.2 million,” said RCIF Executive Director Sr. Corinne Florek.  “We need our members to commit only another $800,000 to be at $5 million.  Then, RCIF will be considered an ‘accredited’ investor and eligible to work through a number of major international loan funds.  Once we reach that goal, there are enormous opportunities for RCIF to have an impact in poor communities all over the world.”

Global Partnerships is one international fund that will open up to RCIF once the $5 million goal is reached.  Jason Henning, Global Partnerships’ Director of Development and Investor Relations, explained that once RCIF becomes eligible, “a $200,000 investment in our fund would generate approximately 2,000 loans over a five-year period.”

That will mean reaching borrowers such as Edelma Altamirano Espinoza of León, Nicaragua, who is a mother, a successful business owner and a cervical cancer survivor.

2247-Edelma in store - edited

Edelma’s clothing business allows her to provide for her family and be a leader in her community.

Edelma, 37, has been a microloan borrower with Pro Mujer, a Global Partnerships partner, for seven years and has built up a successful clothing resale business. She travels to Managua on public transportation to buy her wares three times a week and then travels to Honduras three other days to sell.

Edelma credits Pro Mujer not only with helping her establish a successful business, but with helping her build her self-confidence, and has become a leader in her village bank. Perhaps most important, she says that Pro Mujer’s approach of combining microcredit and health services saved her life.  In 2006, Edelma received a health screening offered at her village bank meeting. Her Pap test detected early stages of cervical cancer. Pro Mujer arranged for her to see a specialist and have a biopsy and funded her subsequent surgery. She is now in remission.

Edelma counsels other women to pay attention to health care.

Edelma counsels other women to pay attention to health care.

Edelma, meanwhile, has added health promotion to her leadership duties. “I try to motivate and give strength to women who are experiencing what I experienced,” she says. “I tell women that they should have their yearly Pap, take care of themselves, and not leave health for later.”

Like Edelma, Sr. Corinne and the RCIF Board bring a sense of urgency to RCIF’s $5 million fund goal.  During the next six months, said Sr. Corinne, they will be reaching out to current members to achieve accredited investor status.  “We do hope to bring other religious communities into RCIF,” she explained.  “but we truly believe our current members have the resources and commitment to reach this goal.”

Current International Loans Have Impact In Bosnia-Herzegovnia, Kenya and Cambodia

RCIF chose to support three international organizations in unique areas through the Calvert Foundation: Prizma in Bosnia-Herzegovnia, CREDIT Cambodia, and the Kenya Women’s Finance Trust.  All three of the organizations supported by RCIF’s loan offer much-needed microfinance to women and families in areas that have been ravaged by poverty and violence.

Impact Chart Winter 2011

 The chart above used Calvert Foundation’s Social Return On Investment (SROI) Calculator to illustrate what RCIF’s investment could accomplish over 5 years. SROI is a tool used to approximate an investment’s impact based on previous year’s social return from loans made by Calvert Foundation to organizations in the same region or impact area. 

SPOTLIGHT ON PRIZMA: Piglets and Tractor Mean Livelihood for One Family

Zivko Pavkovic is a typical Prizma client. He lives in the remote, low-income village of Milosavci in north Bosnia-Herzegovina with his wife and young son.

zivic prizma client with tractor

RCIF’s loan helps entrepreneurs like Zivko in Bosnia-Herzegovnia.

Like the majority of micro-entrepreneurs in the world, Zivko had little money, assets, or other support for his idea for a pig-farming business. Recognizing the potential, in 2007 Calvert Foundation partner Prizma provided an initial loan in the amount of KM 2,000 (about $1400 in US dollars) so he could pursue his dream. He used this initial investment to buy 4 sows which he used for fattening piglets. Only a year later, he was able to sell his first piglets and two of the sows, and to pay off the loan from Prizma.  This left him with 2 sows to continue the business.

Building on his success, Zivko received a second loan from Prizma. With this, he bought 20 hogs and one cow.  He sold 18 of the hogs, keeping two of them and the cow for his household needs.  Aware of the needs of the rural household, he also bought a tractor, and started to provide tractor services for his neighbors.

“With each borrowing cycle, as Zivko’s business grew his confidence grew as well,” explained Prizma General Manager/CEO Kenan Crnkic. “Zivko rebuilt his family’s life in Milosavci through a great deal of hard work.  That exemplifies the resilience and persistence we seek to support. More than money, Prizma has sought to provide guidance, solidarity, and a long-term commitment that helps people to realize their potential.”

In addition to its headquarters located in Sarajevo, Prizma has  40 branches where its staff serves clients in more than 100 low-income municipalities across the entire territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. During its 13 years of existence Prizma has disbursed nearly 300,000 loans amounting to about $315 million.

RCIF Director Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) presented its third annual Ned Gramlich Lifetime Achievement Award for Responsible Lending to Sister Corinne Florek, Director of the Religious Communities Investment Fund (RCIF). Sister Corinne is an Adrian (Michigan) Dominican sister who has dedicated her life and ministry to working for social justice. OFN is the leading network of private financial intermediaries identifying and investing in opportunities to benefit low-income and low-wealth people in the U.S.

When Sr. Corinne received her award from OFN she called her Sisters from RCIF and other religious communities to join her on stage.

When Sr. Corinne received her award from OFN she called her Sisters from RCIF and other religious communities to join her on stage.

A staunch advocate of investing in underserved communities, Sr. Corinne has worked in the field of community economic development as a manager, educator, consultant, financial administrator, and strategic planner for 30 years. Currently, she manages both RCIF and the Mercy Partnership Fund for Mercy Investment Services.

During her speech accepting the award, Sr. Corinne emphasized the pioneering role women religious have played in bringing affordable housing, innovative employment opportunities and microfinance to poor and underserved areas, both in the U.S. and internationally. Many loan funds, affordable housing developers and other community development intermediaries received their first investments from women religious, she noted.

“Sister Florek is a long-time supporter of the opportunity finance industry,” said Mark Pinsky, President and CEO of OFN. “She has dedicated her life—not just her work—to bringing capital to people in low-income and low-wealth communities.”