RSF Video: Relationship Matters

January 9, 2014

RSF is transforming the way the world works with money by building relationships within our financial transactions. Our quarterly pricing meetings are a great example of what that process can look like. Each calendar quarter, RSF resets the interest rates for investors and borrowers in the Social Investment Fund community. In keeping with our values of interdependence, trust, and community, we invite our investors and borrowers to take part in a facilitated discussion with RSF staff to help determine what rates will best meet the needs of all stakeholders.

Watch this video, from our September 2013 pricing meeting held in Philadelphia. Learn why relationship matters for borrower – Common Market Philadelphia, and investor – Irma Jennings.

RSF Video: Financing Social Enterprises

October 23, 2013

RSF currently provides $75 million in financing to over 80 for-profit and non-profit social enterprises.

Watch this new video to learn more about three of these organizations: Camphill Communities California, Guayaki, and Ceres Community Project. Hear their senior leaders talk about why they chose a mission-aligned financing partner and the relationships we’re building with them on our journey to transforming the way the world works with money.

Do you know of a social enterprise in need of funding? Share this video and spread the word!


An End to the Age of Entitlement: Part III

August 13, 2013

This is the third and final post in a series by John Bloom challenging the modern economic approach to land. Here, Bloom proposes a new approach that views land as resource rather than commodity and focuses on stewardship rather than consumption.

In my last post, I proposed a threefold picture of the human relationship to land: ownership, use, and community.

Land is the foundation of economic life. The boundaries we impose upon land, the rights we confer to ourselves, are a reflection of our political life. Who we are and how we bring our labor to work on the land is a matter of culture and vocational destiny. It is important to understand that each aspect of this threefold framework must be given equal recognition and weight and yet be worked with in mindful integration with the other two—land as economic source governed by community determined rights and right use, ownership as a path to realize stewardship responsibility as well as initiative on and from the land. If we work with this threefold framework as background to finding a renewed purpose in stewarding land rather than consuming it, economic life will shift into a more stable and sustaining modality—one of sufficiency. If we recognize and value the human community, which depends upon the land, then that community needs to have a voice in how the land is best used and renewed. The community may even have a say in who is best suited to bring their capacities to the land, whether farming, manufacturing, or development.

Such approaches exist. But to get there, the connection between ownership, use, and community has to change, to be brought into a balanced yet dynamic relationship. The age of entitlement, which gives primacy to private landownership through policies and laws that trump use and community, has to change. In such a skewed system, a distorted, unjust, and unsustainable system has emerged driven by extreme self-interested behavior. The world is full of evidence for this. The challenge is to develop a way of being with land that brings ownership, use, and community into dynamic equilibrium so that human nature and nature itself thrive in reciprocal nurturance.

Land trusts, the high integrity sustainable farming movement, enlightened land owners, the landless workers movement, the rise of the new peasantry, and those practicing true social finance are all striving to find this renewed relationship to land that is supportive of life, human destiny, and the collaborative community we could call the world economy.

John Bloom is Senior Director, Organizational Culture at RSF Social Finance.

Drivers of Change: Part II

August 8, 2013

Sandy Wiggins is a renowned sustainability leader. Here, he shares how green building became a worldwide movement.

Read Part I

What was the tipping point in which green building became a “hot” industry? When did it become affordable enough for mainstream buy-in?

The tipping point came in early in 2006.  Suddenly, green building seemed to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue.  In particular, I noticed architectural firms that had never taken an interest were starting to actively seek out green building projects to gain experience.  I was also doing a lot of public speaking, and I would always ask the audience to which I was speaking to raise their hands if they had heard of LEED.  Almost overnight, the response to that question went from maybe ten percent of each audience to well north of fifty percent.

It is true that a decade ago there were few manufacturers who were interested in providing green products and that the products that were available commanded a cost premium.  That’s completely changed.  There isn’t a single building material manufacturer that hasn’t changed its product offerings to meet the green demand, which of course has brought down prices.  It’s also true that there was a dearth of integrative design expertise in the design community, which has led many beginners to spend a lot of unnecessary money on their projects.  That’s changed more slowly because it requires a paradigm shift by the design community, but it is catching up to the materials industry.  However, asking about when green building became affordable to the mainstream may not be the right question.  A better question might be, “When did the mainstream begin to realize that building green makes better economic sense than business-as-usual?”

What has happened over the course of the past decade is that general awareness about the long-term and externalized costs of not building green have become widely understood and, for various reasons, that has motivated owners and developers to take the plunge even when there might be a first cost premium.  Consumer demand has also factored heavily into that shift, as has the growing body of data that documents the real performance and health benefits for human beings that occupy green buildings.  I would say that, because of all of these factors, by the end of 2007 the cost conversation largely disappeared as the principle decision-making criteria about whether to build green.

Has green building had any effect on healing the broader economy? If not yet, is there potential?

I would say yes.  The building industry is enormous and touches every other industry and every individual.  Because of that, green building has become part of the parlance of almost everyone in the developed world.  It has raised awareness globally about environmental sustainability and that awareness has bled over into the many other conversations in many other industries.  Businesses, of course, are populated by people, and that awareness also then affects how those people act in other areas of their life.  It was my own growth in awareness through green building that led me to see communities and local economies as critical domains for implementing change and the financial industry as the “pig in the pipe.”

Are there any lessons learned that could be applicable to other environmental/sustainability movements?

I believe there are opportunities for movement building that can be discerned through examination of those key drivers that catalyzed and accelerated green building.   The most important of these is meaning.  There is no more powerful force on earth than a person with a sense of purpose.  If we can find ways to elicit people’s most deeply held values (they tend to be the same for most of us by the way), connect those values to the global issues facing the human family and then empower them to act on those values in their daily lives, movements happen.  The fundamental increment for change is the individual human decision.

During his three-decade career Sandy Wiggins in the real estate industry, Sandy Wiggins has led the development and construction of projects totaling over one billion dollars. He is Past Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council, Founding Chair of the Green Building Certification Institute, and co-author of LEED for Neighborhood Development. He serves as a Senior Advisor to RSF Social Finance and is a Director of RSF’s Social Investment Fund.

An End to the Age of Entitlement: Part II

August 5, 2013

This is the second post in a three-part series by John Bloom challenging the modern economic approach to land. Here, Bloom proposes a new approach that views land as resource rather than commodity and focuses on stewardship rather than consumption.

In my last post, I proposed a new way of thinking about our relationship to land. I recast the question of land ownership in light of two other critical but less attended to elements: use and community.


Historically land ownership was invented as a right, a legalistic structure that was designed to serve power and to wrest control from that which resided in the commons. The language itself—title, deed, lots or allotments, boundaries—is a reflection of the power and value structures inherent in the concept of ownership. I am reminded of a famous line delivered by baseball umpire Bill Klem when a batter complained about a pitch call: “It ain’t nothin’ till I call it.” This is absolutist thinking driven by a kind of self-assigned divine right, the same divine right that drove manifest destiny, colonization, and the destruction of indigenous wisdom along the way—the very wisdom we now need to resurrect and cultivate with new collaborative consciousness if we are to survive on this planet.

The outcome of the present legal structure of land ownership in America is that the land itself is placed into the world of commodities, bounded, parceled, priced, and marketed, with the landowner having virtually absolute control over use. Were we to remove these artificial, self-serving, state-created aspects of ownership, we could see that there are some very positive aspects to ownership. If an individual or private entity owns the land, whether inherited or purchased, then that person’s identity and destiny are connected with that land. In this light, ownership is a cultural or spiritual responsibility. The owner has a free choice to steward the land for future generations or, at the other end of the spectrum, to treat it as a commodity to sell or use without reference to community. Of course, ownership comes with the right to sell, but toward what end, and for what purpose are the significant destiny questions. The options are many, but could be looked at through the lenses of use and community as tools of discernment and guidance.


Use of land is attached to the ownership of it, and the owner bears the right to determine its use, but these two concepts are not the same. The tendency is to conflate them. If I buy a residential house with land, the intent and use are clear. However somewhere in the background, unless it is contested, the use of land is governed primarily by agreements such as zoning laws and tax structures, and most notably by lease agreements if the owner is not the user. Such agreements are framed in something of an exchange in which both parties give up an element of control in order for their needs and the community’s needs to be met. The contracts that arise from these agreements supersede the rights of either party, except the right to cure, renegotiate or abrogate the agreement if the terms are not met. If I were to want convert a residence into a business, I would likely have to seek a zoning variance by way of public hearing. Even property tax is a kind of use agreement in the sense that the right of owning in a community comes with a required financial contribution back to the community to maintain shared services such as road access, fire protection, and law enforcement. One result of this is that potential owners or businesses choose where to locate based upon the expected contribution or, in the case of businesses, tax incentives offered. Thus the use of land, regardless of ownership, is a matter of rights and agreements.


In some ways community is the most complicated of the three elements to articulate, because it is the most diverse in its expressions and our culture barely holds it consciously. I have already touched on community tangentially in the use section addressing the question of taxes. Clearly taxes are set by elected or appointed officials who represent the broad interests of the community, as defined by political boundaries. Such officials serve at the will of the community. Tax levies arise not only as an expression of community agreements, but also in the framework of the economy of the community. As I mentioned, taxes are mandatory gifts and are therefore a critical component of economic life. Without shared roads, businesses would have a difficult time getting supplies, and then distributing manufactured goods. It is through zoning that the community indirectly chooses the best use of land, whether residential, educational, or industrial. But community does not get to determine who owns private land. Instead, ownership is a product of real estate market activity. This situation has resulted, for example, in corporations or real estate speculators purchasing land and, as owners, using or developing that land for private gain without necessarily having accountability for how they have treated the land, or supported its productivity or fertility. While profit may have been extracted from the land, those profits often leave the community to go instead into distant shareholders’ hands. In these circumstances, the “investor” community is de-localized from the land and has no direct or real accountability within the community of place, and, further, often drives the economic process through the free market principle of profit maximization. In this situation, the profits leave the community, but the unaccounted expense of compromised land stays as a burden to the community without recompense. Thus, the place-based economy often becomes unsustainable and non-regenerative.

The consideration of community is an important, and often ignored, element in the context of ownership and use. From the vantage point of the land, community is an economic function. The community is formed on the basis of interdependence. I may own a piece of land and lease it to a farmer. If that farmer then uses toxic chemicals that seep into the ground water and thus pollutes the watershed, the whole community bears both the consequences and the expense. Ecological economics recognizes the systemic interconnections in nature, and sees also the truth of our interdependence as humans dependent for our wellbeing upon the land, the earth and all its natural resources. From an economic standpoint, community is inseparable from land.

Continue to read Part III

John Bloom is Senior Director, Organizational Culture at RSF Social Finance.

Drivers of Change: Part I

July 31, 2013

Sandy Wiggins is a renowned sustainability leader. Here, he shares how green building became a worldwide movement. 

How did you come to work in this field—why green building?

I would say it actually chose me. I needed to make a living and through a series of what seemed at the time random events I stumbled into a career building things.  I quickly discovered that I was good at it and enjoyed the challenges it presented.  It was also creative and financially rewarding, so I followed that course for the next 18 years, allowing one challenge to lead me to the next and soaking up success.  Then I woke up one day and realized that I was living a mercenary life and that all of the joy and meaning had gone out of it.

In 1995, shortly after this realization, I was having lunch with a friend who was also the architect for a project I was developing.  He handed me a tiny article he had run across on the environmental impact of buildings.  I was dumbfounded.  I had never before that moment considered that the decisions I was making every day as a businessperson were having such a direct impact on the world.

That was when green building chose me.  Understanding those impacts became an itch that I couldn’t stop scratching.  As my understanding of the magnitude of the suffering inflicted by the building industry grew, I felt compelled to do something about it; with knowledge comes culpability.  And I found that my experience and success in the industry opened both doors and ears so that I could act on that impulse.

What were the key drivers that moved the green building movement along?

As with most movements, there wasn’t a plan. But, I have spent a lot of time thinking about this in order to understand the drivers that might be replicated in support of other sweeping changes.

From its outset, the green building community was inclusive and operated on consensus.  Everybody was welcomed into the tent to join in the conversation about what it meant to build green and how to go about it.  That’s messy, but it generated broad industry buy-in early on in the movement’s development.

Another early driver was the brilliant distillation of the impacts of the built environment into clear, concise, and memorable data points.  The elevator pitch that never fails to open people’s eyes is: In the U.S., building accounts for 40% of all raw material consumption, 40% of all of the waste in our landfills, and buildings are responsible for 40% of our energy consumption and carbon production.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), of course, has been a major driver.  Establishing a system that measured the “greenness” of a building and also rewarded the building’s owner completely changed the game.  It created a common language, where none existed before, for what it meant to be green.  It also became a brand that drove market awareness and competition.

Addressing the economics of building green coupled with broad education about those economics slowly changed the way that people in the industry talked about cost.  It enlarged the field of view and brought capital projects and operations people together, often for the first time, so that operational costs and Life Cycle Assessment crept into decision-making that had formerly been made solely on a first-cost basis.

As a third party verification system, LEED also made the adoption of public policy possible, which turbo-boosted the growth of green building.  The US GSA started this trend, which was quickly picked up by hundreds of other national, state and local agencies.

Another driver was the publication of a series of seminal studies that linked green building strategies to improved human health and performance.  The first of these studies, published by Heschong Mahone in 1999, linked student performance to daylighting in green schools.  This was quickly followed by studies linking green building strategies to the performance of office workers, increases in retail activity, reductions in absenteeism, reductions in nosocomial disease, and improved public health.  All of these phenomena could easily be translated into economic as well as quality of life benefits and became powerful motivators for change.

The most powerful driver, however, is one that is least talked about.  From 2005 through 2007, I spent much of my time traveling across the country speaking to and meeting with business people from every sector of the industry.  It was during this period that I realized that the engine driving this sweeping change wasn’t the buildings or their impacts, it was the people.  Everywhere I went I met architects, engineers, developers, bankers, manufacturers, and builders whose lives had changed as a result of their engagement with green building.  Like me, most of these people had reached a point in their lives and careers where they had lost their sense of purpose and joy.  Green building was waking them up, connecting them with a larger purpose and each other, and infusing their lives with meaning.

Read Part II

Sandy Wiggins During his three-decade career in the real estate industry, Sandy Wiggins has led the development and construction of projects totaling over one billion dollars. He is Past Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council, Founding Chair of the Green Building Certification Institute, and co-author of LEED for Neighborhood Development. He serves as a Senior Advisor to RSF Social Finance and is a Director of RSF’s Social Investment Fund.

This was originally published in the Summer 2013 RSF Quarterly

An End to the Age of Entitlement: Land Ownership, Use, and Community Reconsidered

July 26, 2013

This is the first post in a three-part series by John Bloom challenging the modern economic approach to land. Here, Bloom proposes a new approach that views land as resource rather than commodity and focuses on stewardship rather than consumption.

Ask the question: What is my purpose in this lifetime? What resounds is a picture of culture and consciousness at work in forming me. That each of us has the privilege of asking him or herself such a question reveals an important aspect of what it means to be human. However, when I look about me in the world, I realize all this inquiry is meaningless without paying particular attention to the earth we all stand on and cohabit. While each of us wrestles, if we choose, with the question of purpose, we rarely ask the deeper questions about the meaning of land, our connection to it, and the reality that it is our shared commons—even though we have been conditioned not to think of it this way in Western culture.

Modern economics has parsed land in a way quite destructive and unimaginable to many indigenous cultures—certainly to America’s first peoples. This market-centered methodology is founded upon a materialistic worldview that values things, commodities, and quantification above all else. Ownership of land and its attendant control has become an end in itself that has been used to justify some extraordinary means including rendering the land infertile in the pursuit of profit from it, or distorting its value by using it as a kind of root cellar for capital and generator of appreciated development value. This may seem harsh judgment, but both conditions have rendered much productive land unusable and inaccessible, either through industrial farming or overdevelopment. Both are anathema to anything like a regenerative economy. Superfund sites and real estate speculation are more a commons of economic distress in the sense that we all share the costs of their consequences. The long-standing imperative to own and control land as property has its parallel in the competitive drive for control of markets and economic life in general. This age of entitlement must to come to an end along with its destructive practices. From the perspective of the land, we are all commoners, even if we would prefer not to think of it this way.

As a counter imagination, wise stewardship of the land and natural resources upon which humanity depends might render a more mutual and compassionate interdependent community—a true commonwealth. Farmers working with high integrity sustainable practices understand this. Their ultimate purpose is building soil fertility. Land trusts are founded on the principle of protecting and stewarding land on behalf of the commons. Neither the farmer nor the land trustees treat the land as a commodity. To do so would be an abrogation of their missions and the high purpose of their service. And thankfully there are many private landowners who operate in solidarity with these principles—but not currently enough to rescue the earth from commercial abuse.

I am proposing here to recast the question of land ownership in light of two other critically important but less attended to elements, namely, use and community. Imagine these three—ownership, use, and community—as the primary elements of the human relationship to land, and, from a different perspective, the aspects of consciousness and praxis that the land is calling forth from us. Each of these elements has its particular qualities, practices, and ethic, and yet they are inseparable. Use and community are often subsumed within our concept of ownership, a situation that no longer serves the economic future in which ecological limits and the diminished capacity of land (and all natural resources) to support human needs are becoming painfully evident.

Change will require a new consciousness, one that transcends conventional polarity and dualistic thinking that are the hallmarks of the bicameral mind. Instead we will need to cultivate what was called in ancient Greece and Buddhist practice the middle way, a path that recognizes the both-and, holds the extremes of the polarity and that which mediates them. This requires a certainly flexibility of mind, and I would say feeling. In this threefold picture, each of the three elements are of equal importance and serve as tension holder and balance to the others. Collectively they are a unified system; each with its unique character completes the others. Like the three primary colors from which all other colors emerge, ownership, use, and community are the primary elements of a whole relational system. While this may seem a highly theoretical approach, my hope here is demonstrate quite the opposite—it is both directly practical, a bearer of collaboration rather than competition, and a possible tool for healing our centuries long violent relationship with the earth and each other. This last hope may seem arrogant and overreaching, and it is with all humility that I propose it. But I do not know how else to frame a counter imagination to the dominant paradigm of land ownership.

Continue to read Part II

John Bloom is Senior Director, Organizational Culture at RSF Social Finance.

2013 BALLE Conference Recap

July 23, 2013


by Catherine Covington


It’s a beautiful morning here outside my sun-porch office at RSF and my spirits are high. I am reminded of the level my spirits reached during BALLE’s 11th annual conference in Buffalo, NY, last month. I came back so inspired by my fellow attendees, the projects they are working on, and the action they are taking in their communities.  RSF has been a long-time sponsor of BALLE’s annual conference. BALLE’s work, which is focused on creating real prosperity by connecting leaders, spreading solutions and driving investment toward local economies, is very much in line with our mission and the kind of collaboration we seek to support.

A theme that was continually referenced throughout the conference was a focus on shifting from an “egosystem to an ecosystem”, from a system focused on “me” to a system focused on “we”.  This theme resonated with me and the image of what such a community would look like continued to develop in my mind as the conference progressed.  Janine Benyus, Founder of Biomimicry 3.8 Institute, gave an incredible presentation on not what we can extract from organisms and their ecosystems, but on what we can learn from them.  She highlighted sustainable solutions that can be found by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies and left the audience awestruck with her visual images and analogies.  A similar presentation by Janine, given at a TED conference, can be found here.

What would our economy look like if everyone knew their neighbor, lived with less and wasted almost nothing, and could invest money in their local community?  Well, one aspect of community health that is important to all of us, the production of and access to healthy food, could be addressed in part if local investment models such as the Farmer Reserve Fund were replicated in other communities.  Tim Crosby of Slow Money Northwest shared the nuts of bolts of how the fund was established during a panel we both participated on called “Rethinking Investment for the New Economy”.   The Fund was made possible by a partnership between Slow Money Northwest, RSF grantee and borrower Viva Farms and North Coast Credit Union (NCCU), which serves Skagit and Whatcom counties in Washington.  Much more detail can be found on Slow Money Northwest’s website, but in short, the Fund is able to provide a pool of capital to help new farm businesses, which often don’t have a credit history, have their best shot at being successful.  The innovative structure of the Fund builds on NCCU’s internal system of risk management and rigorous due diligence, reduces the risk of the loans by utilizing Viva Farm’s expertise to provide technical assistance to the borrowers, and enhances the existing loan loss reserve balance by leveraging small foundation grants and gifts from individuals.

I highly encourage you to check out some of the video clips from the conference. In particular, there is an inspiring presentation by Nikki Henderson, Executive Director of People’s Grocery, a long-time RSF grantee (the clip begins 1 hour, 56 minutes into the BALLE Friday Morning Session video).  She never ceases to amaze me with her ability to engage with the audience so naturally while delivering a powerful message in a most memorable manner!  Her message focuses on moving from breakdowns to breakthroughs, the difference between intention and impact, and responsibility without shame.  My favorite part is the how she finishes out her talk with an emphasis on how she sees us being able to bring all of work together to “congeal” through celebration, culture, and rhythm (she likes to dance!).

Click here to view more conference videos

Catherine Covington is Senior Associate, Philanthropic Services at RSF Social Finance.

Financing Ecological Stewardship

July 17, 2013

This letter was originally published in the Summer 2013 RSF Quarterly

Don Shaffer - DefaultDear Friends,

This issue [of the RSF Quarterly] is focused on Ecological Stewardship, a topic of great urgency in the midst of what one could call “climate chaos.” We are working very hard to find and fund those social entrepreneurs who have demonstrated success in solving ecological challenges and are supporting a restorative economy. Their work is needed now more than ever, and we would like your help in identifying and directing such enterprises to us.

As Kenny Ausubel, co-founder of Bioneers, says in his sobering and hopeful guest essay, these are critical times for action by those who care for the earth and our place in it: “Everyone is called to be a leader, to be a healer. Inquire within.”  This last call speaks to the personal transformation each of us will need to engage in if we are to shift whole economic and environmental systems in time to keep the earth inhabitable. On a personal note, the annual Bioneers conferences in the 1990s were an important influence on my life and how I imagined transforming the world.

In the area of Ecological Stewardship, we would like to make more loans to help mitigate climate change, reverse the depletion of natural resources, and support biodiversity. We are particularly interested in green building, resource recovery, and the restoration and conservation of water and water systems. Current examples of RSF borrowers working in these areas include EcoScraps, New Leaf Paper, and RecycleForce (featured in this issue as one leader building the next economy).

In the abundant beauty of Northern California, it is hard to keep present the very real challenges facing farmers in drought conditions, or manufacturers who depend on depleted supply chains. We need your help in connecting with proven innovators who need loan capital to catalyze their capacity to solve these and other ecological problems we face.

We also continue to expand our portfolio in our focus areas of Food & Agriculture, and Education & the Arts. Our investors remain excited about the innovative work we are doing here, all of which is dependent upon a healthy environment and thriving earth systems. I am reminded of E.B. White’s famous quote: “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” We have much to do to assure that our world remains a healthy place to be enjoyed by all.

All my best,


Click here to download this issue of the RSF Quarterly

If you have ideas for social enterprises we should be working with, let us know!

Don Shaffer is President & CEO at RSF Social Finance.

RSF Pricing Meeting: Resetting Rates, Recognizing Interdependence

July 8, 2013

by Jillian McCoy


For many years, we based our investors’ return rate on the 13-week U.S. Treasury Bill.  Each quarter we recalibrated the rate based on this well-publicized benchmark.  In 2006, we shifted to a different benchmark – LIBOR, or the London Interbank Offered Rate – which at the time represented the most commonly accepted barometer for short-term interest rates worldwide.

In 2009, well before the now notorious LIBOR scandal, RSF staff knew that a seemingly arbitrary rate, disconnected from the needs and activities of our community, was not a right fit. During a staff study group of Rudolf Steiner’s lectures on economics, we realized that the community of participants in the RSF Social Investment Fund were best suited to accurately determine a price that meets the needs of all parties.


As of October 1, 2009, RSF adopted a community determined rate recommended each quarter through collaborative conversation with representatives of all three stakeholders in the RSF Social Investment Fund – investors, borrowers, and RSF staff.  A 4% spread (used to fund RSF’s operations) is then added to this customized SIF rate to determine RSF Prime, the base rate for borrowers in our Social Enterprise Lending program.

This collaborative process begins at each of our quarterly Pricing Meetings where stakeholders gather to meet one another face-to-face, discuss their needs and intentions, and share how an increase or decrease in the rate might impact them.

To date, we remain the first and only lending institution that has facilitated meetings between investors and borrowers to determine loan pricing.  With RSF staff at the table facilitating the conversations, all three stakeholders are reminded of the impact of their financial decisions. In this environment of direct engagement, the conversation is elevated beyond efforts to pay as little as possible or earn as much as possible. Instead, the stakeholders seek to achieve a balance between the financial and impact needs of everyone present.

Over 100 guests joined us for a community reception following our most recent pricing meeting in San Francisco.

Over 100 guests joined us for a community reception following our most recent pricing meeting in San Francisco.


In 2012, RSF Prime decreased by 0.25% to 4.75%. This was the first decrease since RSF Prime was first established. Since 2012, the rate has dropped an additional 0.25%. The driver behind the decrease was to ease some of the financial burden of existing borrowers and increase RSF’s ability to attract new borrowers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, at our most recent pricing meeting in San Francisco, there were requests from the investor community to increase the rate. However, over the course of the evening, their understanding of the impact of the interest rate shifted from their natural self-interest to an understanding of the whole system.

As one RSF staff member who attended the meeting commented, “One of the significant moments came when one of the borrowers talked exactly about how an increase in the interest rate would affect her company financially, and prohibit them from making a key hire at a time when her company needs additional staff to support growth. Investors could see in no uncertain terms the consequences of their stated need for a higher return. The resulting recognition of how their interest was directly connected to the borrowers was a transformative moment.”

In fact, although most of the investors noted that they would like an increase in the interest rate, they decided not to recommend an increase after learning how it would negatively impact the borrowers. At one point, one investor became emotional while expressing just how much it meant to her to be a part of this community, and learn more about how each borrower is having a positive impact in the world.

The borrowers were also touched by the conversation. One participant reflected, “It is thrilling to be a participant in the avant-garde of social finance. The current system is broken and we applaud this process where a more sensible and holistic paradigm can be practiced.”

Before the close of any quarter the RSF Pricing Committee, an internal RSF team, meets to discuss and reset the interest rate. The committee considers the input from the Pricing Meeting attendees in addition to reviewing macroeconomic conditions and the competitive market. The committee determined that the interest rate will remain the same for Q3 2013 – 4.5% for RSF Prime and 0.50% for investors.

Jillian McCoy is Senior Associate, Communications at RSF Social Finance. 

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