RSF Board & Staff

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. 

What Funders of Social Enterprises Want

June 5, 2013

Don Shaffer - Default

Originally published by Sustainable Industries

by Don Shaffer

Interest in social enterprises is growing—and believe it or not (some entrepreneurs may have their doubts), so is the pool of capital available to them.

The broad field of impact investing—which involves directing capital to enterprises that are doing good, rather than simply screening out companies that have strong negative effects—is projected to grow by a billion dollars this year. Impact investors surveyed for a J.P. Morgan and the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) report released in January said they plan to commit $9 billion to impact investing in 2013, up from $8 billion in 2012.

Of course, much of that money will go to larger, more established businesses, not to emerging social enterprises. But RSF Social Finance does finance social enterprises that need growth capital—and our investment funds mirror the broader trend. RSF’s main investment vehicle, the Social Investment Fund (SIF), grew 20 percent in 2012, to $90.5 million.

In addition to a larger pool of capital, several other trends are creating opportunities for social entrepreneurs:

  • There’s a growing focus on developing social entrepreneurs through the use of accelerators and technical assistance groups. Some examples are Village Capital, Ashoka Fellowships, and Hub Ventures.
  • Investors are looking at alternative forms of investing, including royalty payments.
  • There’s increased interest in investing regionally, specifically in the United States.

What are investors looking for?

Many of the investment organizations funding social enterprises specialize in particular niches, or work on a few key focus areas at a time. If you’re seeking capital, your first stop should be a funder that specializes in your area—they’re more likely to understand the business opportunity, and can plug you into a valuable network.  For example, one of RSF’s current focus areas is the creation, support and expansion of decentralized, regional food processing and distribution operations, because they contribute to strong local economies by providing markets for small and midsize farmers, helping with the logistics of aggregating food from multiple suppliers across a region, and serving as market creators by connecting producers with local food buyers.  We’re also seeking to build relationships with impact-making borrowers in our other two focus areas: ecological stewardship, and education and the arts.

What qualifies as a social enterprise?

Every funder has their own criteria, but ability to demonstrate impact and capacity to run a successful business will probably always be top of the list. RSF defines a social enterprise as a for-profit or non-profit venture in which the economic activity is a means toward creating significant social or ecological impact. We vet borrowers for:

  • Social and ecological impact for public benefit: Is the organization’s economic activity a means toward directly solving or alleviating society’s greatest challenges in our focus areas?
  • Advocacy for change: Is the organization an advocate for or does it demonstrate social change in its field? Does the organization hold itself accountable and is leadership committed to the social mission?
  • Capacity to accomplish the mission: Does the organization have the capacity to tackle the problem? Do its activities have the potential for scale?
  • Commitment to financial and operational sustainability: Is management committed to and capable of growing a profitable or self-sustaining independent enterprise? Could RSF’s involvement be catalytic? Does the business meet high standards for workplace and environmental practices?
  • Community building: Is the organization building a community committed to its success?

If you have an enterprise that meets those criteria and needs a finance partner to reach the next level, please get in touch. If you’re not there yet, I encourage you to take advantage of the resources available to social enterprises. There’s never been a better time to be a social entrepreneur.

Don Shaffer is President & CEO of RSF Social Finance, as well as an alumni speaker at the Sustainable Industries Economic Forum.

Announcing the 2013 RSF Seed Fund Grantees!

May 31, 2013

by Ellie Lanphier

Every spring, RSF provides small gifts to seed new initiatives that offer innovative solutions in the field of social finance, or address issues in one of our three focus areas. Thank you to all of our individual investors, donors and staff members who make the RSF Seed Fund possible!

Introducing the 2013 RSF Seed Fund Grantees:

Rising Sun 1Rising Sun Energy Center is a leading green workforce development and retrofit services organization located in Berkeley, CA. The Seed Fund grant will support Rising Sun Energy Services, a project that provides highly subsidized energy efficiency audits and retrofits to moderate income home owners in Richmond and Berkeley. Rising Sun Energy Services employs graduates from the non-profit’s Green Energy Training Services program. A successful pilot program was completed in the summer of 2012, which employed 17 graduates and retrofitted over 120 homes.


Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), iSustainable Economies Law Center 1n Oakland, CA, was founded by two attorneys, Janelle Orsi and Jenny Kassan, to provide the essential legal tools to support a transition to localized, resilient economies. SELC seeks to educate communities about the possibilities and limits of creative economic solutions such as cooperatives, community-owned enterprises, cohousing, urban agriculture, barter and local currencies. They also advocate for laws that clear the way for more sustainable and equitable economic development. The Seed Fund grant will support new pathways to financing for small farms through Direct Public Offerings (DPOs). SELC believes that DPOs could be an effective financing strategy for beginning farmers, as DPOs enable farmers to publicize opportunities to make micro-loans or equity investments in their farms. To test their theory, SELC will manage all legal compliance paperwork for a beginning farmer with the hopes of creating tools to enable others to replicate their work.

Calypso Farm 1Calypso Farm & Ecology Center is an educational, working farm near Fairbanks, Alaska whose mission is to promote local agriculture and environmental awareness through hands-on education in farming ecosystems. The Seed Fund grant will support their Farmer Training program, a residential, experiential program focused on providing the skills and confidence necessary to embark on starting a small farm. Participants learn how to become self-reliant farmers by working alongside practiced farmers through the entire growing season and gain first-hand experience in marketing their produce through operating a CSA, running a farm stand, and selling to local restaurants.

Cultivate Kansas City (Kansas), the city’s center for urban agriculture, grows organic vegetables on two farms, trains farmers, Cultivate Kansas City 1supports local food projects and helps build communities that support small scale city farms. To date, they have helped start more than 40 farms and have provided thousands of hours of technical assistance. The Seed Fund grant will support installation of an irrigation system at the Somali Bantu Community Center Community Garden. Funds will support the design and installation of an efficient watering system, the excavation, permit and the purchasing of equipment and materials.

Creative Action 1Creative Action, in Austin, is central Texas’ largest provider of afterschool programming, arts enrichment and character education. The Seed Fund grant was awarded to support Color Squad, a teen program that will teach youth how to design and construct public murals. Color Squad will work under the guidance of a Creative Action teaching artist to identify how a historically underserved neighborhood could benefit from beautification and placemaking. Through extensive interviews of key players in the neighborhood and the city beyond, as well as internet and library research, the team will investigate the space with a focus on history, community aspirations, and current challenges. Using the information gathered, the Color Squad will design a mural and related public art projects that elevate, illuminate, and beautify the space with the ultimate goal of supporting and uplifting local residents. They will build and paint their project, and end with a community celebration of the artwork with neighborhood residents.

Raphael Academy, is a Camphill-inspired private school initiative for students in grades six through twelve and young adults ages 21+ with Aspergers, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and other learning disabilities. Located in New Orleans, Raphael Academy’s mission is to meet its students with reverence and compassion and to educate them wholly, awakening their full potential as unique individuals, actively involved in life and engaged in the community. They are currently enrolling students for the school’s 2nd year. The Seed Fund grant will support specialty, vocational skills classes such as gardening, ceramics, cooking, and weaving.

Raphael Academy 1

Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg, MD, collects and distributes three million pounds of food annually to food-insecure clients in the Washington DC area. The Seed Fund grant will Manna Food Center 1support their partnership with Farm to Freezer. Manna receives a generous donation of unsold surplus fresh produce from local farms and farmers markets during the growing season. Farm to Freezer prepares and freezes surplus produce in season to supplement the shelf stable items provided to the center’s clients in the winter months. The grant will specifically fund the development of an educational component to the program so that clients are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to integrate the produce into healthier meals.  A Farm to Freezer kitchen manager/educator will work with Manna’s dietician to teach hands-on cooking skills and nutrition classes to Manna’s clients as well as partner organizations such as Family Services, serving psychiatric rehab clients, and Montgomery County Pre-Release program, serving incarcerated residents in their transition back into society.

Catskill Mountainkeeper, of Youngsville, NY, was founded as a community-based environmental advocacy organization dedicated to creating a flourishing sustainable economy in upstate New York. The Seed Fund grant will support their Capital Access program to facilitate farmer-friendly loans and business planning services. The program specifically looks to provide capital to farmers who want to innovate, diversify, grow or otherwise strengthen their business to establish the Catskill Mountains as a prominent foodshed for the New York Metropolitan market, as well as a consistent and reliable producer for the local economy. Catskill Mountainkeeper will include a business planning component as a requirement for participants of the Capital Access Program to help ensure a high success rate.

Catskill Mountain Keeper 1

Ellie Lanphier is Program Assistant, Philanthropic Services.

Investing with a Gender Lens

May 10, 2013


This post was originally published on TriplePundit

By Marlena John

As a woman entering the finance world, the title of the session at the Slow Money National Gathering, Female Investors: The Most Important Change Agents on Earth, certainly sparked my interest.

Don Shaffer, President & CEO of RSF Social Finance started by telling the story of when he was a golf caddy in New Jersey, slinging golf clubs for Wall Street traders and bankers. Back then, women were not allowed on the golf course, which reflected the situation of most of Wall Street and the finance industry as a whole. The few women who did work in finance got paid a lot less than the men.

Fast-forward twenty or so years. There are a lot more females in the field, taking leadership in investment opportunities, and playing golf. The Equal Pay Act of 1963, signed by President Kennedy, prohibited pay differences based on sex. Great! But, if you think that everything is hunky dory, then you’d be wrong. As it turns out, women are still making less money than men on average, and this is particularly true on Wall Street. Shaffer claims that females on Wall Street make 55-62 percent as much as males do, though I’ve seen statistics that claim it is as high as 77 percent. Even if the 77 percent stat is accurate, women in finance are experiencing a significant, and unwarranted, pay gap.

So, women are getting paid less, and that’s not cool. We also have many more men than women investing and working in finance. But why should we care how many women investors there are? Don Shaffer laid it out well.

Continue reading on TriplePundit


Easter in the Investment Conference Room

March 28, 2013

At this time last year, RSF investor Rosemary Feerick, brought her two sons to our office to open their very own Social Investment Fund accounts. Later, she decided to share the story of her experience that day.

This essay was originally published in the Harvest Time newsletter.

by Rosemary Feerick

When we arrived at RSF Social Finance, Ellie, the receptionist, asked if we wanted a cup of tea.  It was the day after Easter, a day off from school for my sons.  I told the boys that we were going to San  Francisco to invest some of their college savings.

On the way to the city, we stopped at our credit union and withdrew money from a savings account I had set up for my eight year old son Ian. I gave Ian the check to hold in the car. He studied the piece of paper carefully. When we got to RSF Social Finance, he was still holding the check with care.

“I would like a cup of darjeeling, please,” Ian responded to the receptionist’s question.

“Darjeeling. Hmm. Let’s go see if we have some,” she offered, leading us into the kitchen.

Mark Herrera, RSF’s Client Development manager met us there. As Ian and Ellie focused on tea, Mark showed the composter to my 11 year old Roddy and explained what biodynamic sugar is. “These are some of the products made by the companies supported by the fund in which you’ll be investing,” Mark explained.

Next, he led us upstairs to the conference room overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. We felt very important.

In the conference room, Mark gave the boys samples of organic cookies. Together they read the ingredients, all of which actually sounded like food. Then, Mark told the boys about a company that employs people who are newly released from prison. Next, he described with excitement a sustainable fishery in Alaska that is allowing the Eskimo people to keep their way of life. “These are more of the companies the fund you are investing in supports.” The boys nodded.

Mark then sat down with Roddy and Ian and explained the mechanics of the investment, making sure they understood how it worked and what the rate of financial return would be. Together they did the math to figure out what that translated to in terms of the boys’ investments.

Rose Feerick & Sons

Rose with her sons Ian and Roddy.

When Mark was satisfied that Roddy and Ian understood what they were getting into, he had them each fill out an application and sign it. Their accounts were officially open.

On one level, this exchange felt like no big deal; it seemed like how making an investment should work. But as I watched, another part of me wanted to celebrate. I was aware that what I was witnessing was the result of years of my searching for a different way with money.

Twenty years ago, I received a gift of love that came in the form of a financial portfolio. At the time, I understood little of how investments worked. But as I learned about the mutual funds in my portfolio, I realized that I was invested in companies whose products and ways of doing business offended my conscience. I searched for other models of investing and discovered socially responsible mutual funds.

Initially, I felt good about moving my money into those funds. But as I read through the prospectuses and annual reports, I soon realized that in spite of a variety of social screens I was still invested in companies whose products I would not buy. The socially responsible mutual funds I had in my portfolio felt to me like the lesser of two evils.

A few years later, I was attending a conference on Sabbath Economics when Rob Baird of Progressive Investments (now Portfolio 21) got up to speak about investing. He did not have any fancy visuals, but as he spoke, I felt as if fireworks were going off. Listening to Rob, I saw for the first time a way that investments could do something good in the world.

Up until then, I felt I had to hold on to some of my investments in order to care for my family. But I felt horribly conflicted about doing so because it felt that my money was sitting inside of a global economic system that is causing harm. As Rob spoke about different models of investing, a door to a whole new world opened for me. I started to search for investments that could do good.

I learned about investing in microcredit; in affordable housing mutual funds; in community development banks; fair trade companies; and social investment funds. I worked with Andy Loving, an advisor who shares my faith and began to move some of my money into those kinds of investments. When the financial statements came each month, I noticed how differently I felt opening the ones that came from investments I had chosen. Instead of feeling guilty, I felt excited. It felt like a privilege to participate in the work of fair trade companies and local organic farms.

Shifting to alternative economic models required that I let go of the possibility of a high financial return. Having been raised to believe that receiving a high financial return was “good stewardship,” that was hard at first. Didn’t I have a responsibility to seek high returns for myself and for my children?

But as I learned about the impact many corporations are having on the ecosystem and the human family, I came to believe that that definition of good stewardship was inadequate. Good stewardship, for me, needed to take into account the world that I am passing on to my children as well as the money that will eventually change hands. I wanted any investments that I participated in to be part of creating a world full of life.

On one level, my visit to RSF Social Finance to invest a portion of my children’s college savings on Easter Monday was simply the next step in my process of shifting the investments I manage into such vehicles. But that day in the conference room I felt as if something else was happening too. There was something there that felt holy.

As a mother, I feel a responsibility to form my children in Easter hope. I try to do that by modeling and letting my children know about ways of living that respond to the crises of this historical moment with alternatives that bring life. My children will inherit this world. For me, it is not enough to bring them to church. I feel I also need to show them how to discern where God is moving in the world and teach them how to participate in that.

That is what it felt like was happening that day at RSF. In the conference room, I sensed that my boys and I were participating in a way of investing money that brings life to everyone it touches. In addition, Mark’s taking the time to teach the boys about how their investment would affect others was powerful. It was as if he understood that giving children life-giving possibilities when it comes to money is a radical investment in the future.

As I witnessed the exchange, I felt a sense of awe and gratitude. I felt a Holy Presence with us as we sipped tea, ate cookies, and filled out investment account forms on Easter Monday.

Fourth Conversation on Money, Race, & Class

August 2, 2012

By John Bloom

Conversation is powerful technology. It can be used to build community, engender trust, transform people, and renew what it means to be human. Such communication can invite a sense of the sacred by the very willingness of participants to delve into deep and complicated topics out of interest in each other, and an openness to be in the tender condition of vulnerability. If successful, one leaves the gathering as a different person, a keeper of others’ stories. When the stories focus on the entwined realities of money, race, and class, and are shared in a group that is cross-class and race, the conversation brings forth extraordinary challenges. The genius is in both acknowledging those challenges and making the safe space to work through them.

On December 9, 2010, RSF hosted the fourth Conversation on Money, Race, and Class. This full-day gathering, brought together a diverse group of fifteen community leaders from the Bay Area. Each responded to the invitation out of an interest in the topics, and opportunity to explore them in an unhurried collaborative environment. Further, each participant agreed to recording the conversation, so that it could have lasting value. Click here to download the full transcript. Each of the participants has reviewed the transcript and has released it to be published. We have tried to create a collectively held copyright in that each participant maintains the right of use, while RSF holds a general copyright for any inquiries.

It is fair to ask why RSF Social Finance, with my leadership, would invite such a gathering. The answer is quite simple. We need to get past not talking if we want to bring about change. Money and the effects of the financial system touch everyone. If we are striving to transform how we work money and how it works on us, then we are called to learn how to have conversations that may be uncomfortable, challenging, sometimes confrontational, inspirational, and include often unheard voices at the table. The stories can be painful, sometimes celebratory—to tell and hear. Imagine someone saying how painful it is to talk about race, but it is a good change from the pain of not talking about it. Imagine, from a position of privilege, absorbing someone speaking of the legacy of shame due to poverty. Or, to be able to own and share a prejudice against people with wealth even as some of those present are wealthy. These are transformative moments, certainly moments of deep learning for me, borne of a willingness to listen deeply, and to being present with each other. Understanding the complexity of human issues working in our economic life is useless without understanding how those issues feel to and directly affect each participant day-to-day.

Patricia St. Onge, our facilitator, helped us set the tone of inquiry and the basic ground rules for the day. She led the first experience, Conocimiento, for which each of us was given a large sheet of paper and a choice of drawing and coloring media. The “task” was to create a picture based on the following: my name and (if there is one) the story behind it; I am from… ; my people are… ; a childhood memory of understanding money and/or family dynamics about money… ; an early experience of economic injustice… ; tracking the changes in my attitudes about money; and, today, money holds meaning for me in these ways….. Following the completion of these works, we did a gallery tour in which each person told the story of their drawing and was then acknowledged by the whole group. What a beautiful beginning way to get to know each other’s story. The thoughts and feelings spoken during this session continued to reverberate through the day.

The Conocimiento was followed by launching into the first conversation question: What is the connection between who we are and what our experience is of wealth, economic need and prosperity—for ourselves and in our community? This question and the issues that emerged through asking it engaged us for the better part of the day. For the latter portion of the meeting, we drew questions from the group, and spoke to them until it was time to close for the day. We closed with a brief sharing of insights from the day, a wish for the group, and a wish for the world.

Following the gathering, we asked for reflections. In response to the question: How were you affected by the conversation? One participant wrote:

“It is so rare to have the opportunity to sit and think and talk about the important issues of our contemporary lives. To have the luxury of time. To have the luxury of a safe space. To have the luxury of both familiar and unfamiliar faces, all of whom are compassionate warriors in the struggle for making the world a better, saner, safer, more loving place to live and grow. The day fed my mind, soul, heart, and body. What a blessing. I’d like everyone on the entire planet to have a day like this. I, who live a privileged (though not wealthy!) life, find this experience so healing. How many millions of people on this planet (whatever their socio-economic status may be) may not even know that being this way is possible? Maybe that’s the transformative moment—to have the lived experience, that this being this way, in conversation, open and thoughtful and compassionate, is possible.”

It is with humility and an awareness of others’ realties that RSF convened this conversation on money, race, and class in collaboration. It is our hope that the wisdom and insights shared in these collected conversations serve anyone wishing to transform themselves and their communities. We are currently editing the fifth conversation held in January of 2012, and are looking forward to planning the next.

Click here to download the 2010 Money, Race, and Class Transcript

To learn more about this event and review past transcripts visit

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

Changes to RSF Prime

July 11, 2012

Dear Clients & Friends,

RSF has elected to lower the interest rate by 25 basis points (0.25%) for the third quarter of 2012. RSF Prime will now be 4.75% and investors will earn an interest rate of 0.75%.

RSF’s most recent pricing meeting was held in Sebastopol, CA earlier this month. This was the twelfth such meeting we’ve had since RSF made the decision to change how our quarterly interest rate is determined. Prior to October 2009, we used the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) as a benchmark to determine our rate of return. Since then we’ve been using this customized rate established by our Social Investment Fund (SIF) stakeholders — RSF staff, SIF investors, and borrowers in our Social Enterprise Lending program. The SIF investor rate is then added to a 4% spread (for RSF’s operations) and the resulting rate, named RSF Prime, is the base rate for borrowers.

This pricing mechanism is more deeply aligned with our values to make financial transactions as direct, transparent, and personal as possible. Further, we’ve been able to offer a significantly higher interest rate to investors than if we had continued using LIBOR.  Important to note: with this change in pricing, investors will continue to earn a rate several times that of a conventional bank CD.

Following the meeting we reflected on an important conversation that took place: would lowering RSF Prime make us more competitive in attracting high impact social enterprises in need of financing? Ultimately the answer was yes.

With that said, we are aware that the average RSF investor, for this next period, will experience a lower return (a decrease of $125 annually for the average $50,000 SIF Investment Note). For borrowers the impact is greater, as their average loan size is over $900,000, and their annual costs will be lowered by $2,000 to $2,500 annually.

We believe that lowering RSF Prime to 4.75% will help us retain and attract worthy projects to support through our Social Enterprise Lending program. To learn more about the projects we fund, visit the RSF Impact Map.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  In a spirit of transparency, we are happy to talk with you about our decision directly.

Current investors can contact Mark Herrera, Senior Manager, Client Development at or 415.561.6160.

Current borrowers can contact Ted Levinson, Director, Lending at  or 415.561.6179.


With best regards,

Don Shaffer – President & CEO


A Few Things We Accomplished in 2011…

January 5, 2012

By Jillian McCoy

Happy New Year!

It’s always such a good feeling to kick off a new year and we are really looking forward to what’s to come in 2012. But before we dive in, it’s worth taking a look back at what happened in 2011.

I pulled a few statistics on the past year and was very impressed with the results. We certainly experienced a flurry of activity in the last quarter, and although the dust hasn’t completely settled (stay tuned for our 2011 Annual Report for the final numbers – they could be even higher) this is a great indication of our work last year.

The most critical part of our work is the people we connect with every day in our mission towards transforming the way we work with money.  So here’s a look at how we grew the RSF Community.

We welcomed

13 new borrowers – Aquatics Informatics | Bare Fruit | Crown O’Maine | Estancia Beef | EVOL Foods | Good Earth Natural Foods | Guayaki | interrupicion* Fair Trade  | Kuskokwim Seafoods | Summerfield Waldorf School | Uncle Matt’s Organic | Wild Planet | Waldorf School of Pittsburgh

Kuskokwim distributes sustainably sourced seafood caught by native Alaskan fisherman.

2 new Mezzanine Fund investments – Scandinavian Child | HappyFamily (via our Core Lending program)

241 new investors to the RSF Social Investment Fund and $19 million in new funds (surpassing our previous record of $15.6M in 2006!)

11 new Donor Advised Funds and $10.5 million in gifts, and

8 new RSF staff members (to help us do all of this amazing work!)

We also

Made $5 million in grants from our Donor Advised Funds to 274 non-profits

Hosted 10 events, with over 1,000 attendees

Held the first RSF Shared Gifting meeting with a focus on Food & Agriculture in the San Francisco Bay Area

A Shared Gifting grantee, People's Grocery works to improve the health and economy of West Oakland through the local food system.

Published the innovative white paper “A New Foundation for Portfolio Management” with Leslie Christian and Portfolio 21, and

Celebrated Rudolf Steiner’s Sesquicentennial with 500 of our closest RSF friends!

Our friends from Small Vines Vineyard pouring biodynamic wine for festival guests.

Well isn’t that impressive! We’d like to thank all of our clients, partners, and friends who helped make this possible and we look forward to bigger and better things to come in 2012.

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



The Infinite Value of Giving

November 23, 2011

We spend a lot of time talking about the investing and lending part of our work.  This time of year, we like to turn our attention to giving, the third pillar of our work with money.  This season, we give thanks and give of ourselves.

Earlier this year, we published a piece by RSF founder and trustee Siegfried Finser in the RSF Quarterly.  Given its enduring message, we wanted to share it again, for your reading pleasure.


Giving transforms the world from inside out and draws spiritual beings into the human sphere simply because it is always sacrificial regardless of the size of the gift. The act of giving is more important and greater than the gift. We may be able to hand over a dollar without much feeling, but any sacrificial giving calls upon the highest levels of feeling in us. Every giver reaches for the ideal element in his soul in considering and consummating a gift. It is simply in the nature of this transaction.

In the United States our national tax structure favors and encourages giving. Every university, orchestra, dance and drama group, all museums and in fact all of our culture would not exist and would not continue to exist without giving. Last year alone, in trying financial times, more than a trillion dollars were given, the vast majority from individuals who found in themselves a motive higher than benefiting themselves. Giving is very different from the other two types of financial transactions – buying/selling and lending/borrowing. It is well worth our time to look a little deeper at this often under valued transaction in our world economy.

Let us say that you love the school where your children are being prepared for life. The school needs an auditorium to showcase the work of the children and to meet as a community of caring parents and friends. You decide to give $1,000 to the capital campaign. Many others contribute and the auditorium gets built. It is beautiful as well as useful. You see the first Shakespeare play in which your child has a role. He speaks so clearly. You marvel at his poise and sense for the dramatic. You feel already that your $1,000 was the best possible sacrifice you could make.

The work of the $1,000 is still going on. Other plays take place. Other children are learning and growing up in the same auditorium. Your child has graduated, yet the gift goes on benefiting others.

Children washing paint brushes at the Lakota Waldorf School, an RSF grant recipient

If the auditorium stands and remains useful for 100 years, perhaps as many as 5,000 children have grown up in it. Perhaps several hundred teachers were able to educate them and develop as they taught. The graduates marry and they have children. They work in every kind of business there is. Some work in government, some are musicians, entrepreneurs, artists, attorneys, carpenters, singers, financiers, teachers. The list goes on and on. Every profession is affected by the gift that now lives on in people. The graduates travel and visit or work in every country in the world and are involved in every religion and every type of spiritual search.  Five thousand graduates no doubt affect perhaps as many as one billion people around the world, and the gift still goes on working.

That is the true nature of the gift. It is a sacrifice made on the basis of love and works on to the end of time affecting eventually every human being on earth and in the future. When you gave the $1000, most of the children benefiting from it were not even on earth yet. They kept coming and coming, benefiting from your $1,000. When each of us leaves the earth and even our memory begins to fade, the gift endures. It has a kind of immortality none of us have.

Every gift no matter how large or how small has this innate quality of working on to the end of time and benefiting all humanity. Now I ask, “Who is really the receiver of a gift?” Is it the one who accepts it? The one who accepts it is obligated to do what he/she has promised to do in order to accept the gift. Perhaps the one who accepts the gift simply carries on the giving, making sure that what is done with the gift will benefit all. Perhaps the real receiver of a gift is the whole of humanity until the end of time.

Giving arouses in each of us the longing to see the world deeply changed, improved in some way. The giving draws out of the spirit what can further the development of mankind. Long before the school’s auditorium is built, the architects tried to capture in drawing and pictures what is living in the imagination of the community. Each has a personal picture of what it could look like. Weaving through everyone’s own picture is the over-arching imagination of qualities and potentials to be realized.

What first lives in the imagination is not physical. At that point it is spiritual in that we all see it, not with out eyes, but with our capacity to envision what we plan to implement. Our feelings connect themselves to this imagination and stir the wish to see it become “real.” We then give. As the result of our giving the auditorium slowly materializes. Now everyone can see what we alone saw at the beginning. Spirit has descended into matter and our senses now enjoy it.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet both gave away enormous parts of themselves. Recently they challenged all persons of wealth to give at least 10% of their earnings to charitable causes. They are championing the cause of giving not for a specific project, but for its own sake. Perhaps unwittingly they are working to begin the slow transformation of our present economy to a gift economy.

Giving/receiving is the transaction that unites the spirit living in each of us with the spirit alive in the universe. It draws spirit into matter and is a beginning point leading to action and achievement in our culture. The best way to celebrate the transaction of giving is to do it.

Siegfried E. Finser

On behalf of RSF Social Finance

The 2011 RSF Borrower Gathering and Community Supported Transformation

September 27, 2011

by Reed Mayfield

In July, over twenty RSF borrowers convened at the San Francisco Waldorf School for our third annual RSF Borrower Gathering. One would be inclined to describe the energy of the group as “engaged and enthused.” The feeling is mutual amongst the many people with whom there exists a direct relationship based on reciprocity and common values – RSF staff & board, investors, donors, partners, and friends. We fondly refer to this group as the RSF Community.  This community is united by the impact we collectively bring forth into the world, the transformation we seek. The impact is evidenced in a number of ways: supporting Fair Trade practices, organic alternatives to store bought foods, Waldorf Education, environmental stewardship, food security, social finance, and much more. Among all this activity, progress is made with the creation of innovative and transformative ideas, through co-creative conversations. The RSF Borrower Gathering is an excellent representation of one of these conversations.

Over the course of one and a half days, the RSF Borrower Gathering brought together a variety of RSF borrowers, all with extensive hands-on experience in building successful non-profit and for-profit social enterprises. Borrowers shared insight into their respective industries from many different geographic areas and across all three of RSF’s Focus Areas (Food and Agriculture, Education and the Arts, and Ecological Stewardship).  During a session titled “Engaging Your Local Economic Community,” moderated by Raphael Bemporad of BBMG, a panel of RSF borrowers discussed the many innovative ways they engage with their communities. Jessica Rolph of HappyBaby, Jason Graham-Nye of gDiapers, and Denise Hamler of Green America shared the thought processes and methods that have contributed to the stellar communities grown around their organizations.  Denise said that to advance your mission, “know what you do well, and find out who is good at what you need.” Jason spoke about how gDiapers corporate culture extends beyond the walls of their offices and also about their use of social media to communicate with customers. Jessica discussed the importance of utilizing community engagement in their decision-making process and how the business truly took off when they “really began to listen” to the HappyBaby community.

Other highlights to the gathering included:

  • A presentation on Co-Creation from Raphael Bemporad of BBMG, a “brand innovation studio” focusing on “sustainability, technology, and social purpose.” Click here to read more.
  • “Managing an Intelligent Organization” with Dale Rodrigues from Mary’s Gone Crackers.
  • Break-out sessions with RSF’s senior management team and industry sector experts.
  • Updates about RSF, including the Social Impact Assessment Project, new initiatives, and the future of the organization.
  • An evening reception held at the CompoClay Showroom and Resource Center with RSF investors and staff.

The gathering was held at the San Francisco Waldorf High School. The school is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council as a LEED Project, and is currently working on its Gold Level Certification. RSF is deeply appreciative to the school and staff who allowed us to use their beautiful facilities.

Each member of the RSF community is a cornerstone in our organization. If there were no value-aligned investors how could social enterprises maintain their values when seeking financing? Without the high-impact borrowers, would capital be channeled to organizations our investors would not be proud to support?   The Annual Borrower Gathering is an example of how RSF utilizes community, transparency, and direct personal relationships to achieve our mission of transforming the way the world works with money. This event continues to grow in both size and content each year, bringing new borrowers, investors, and staff together to generate valuable learning experiences and to build stronger relationships. Thank you to RSF Community for contributing to the success of the 2011 RSF Borrower Gathering.

Reed Mayfield is Lending Assistant at RSF Social Finance.


RSF Board & Staff

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