Social Finance

Exploring the Purpose of Gift

May 5, 2015

This article was originally published in the Spring 2015 RSF Quarterly.

KelleyBuhles_Books_Large (2)by Kelley Buhles

In 2013, a critical op-ed by Peter Buffett was published in the New York Times titled, “The Charitable Industrial Complex”, his term for the growing industry of philanthropy. Buffet explains, “Inside any important philanthropy meeting you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left.”

His piece sparked a wide debate about the effectiveness, and perhaps even the usefulness, of the philanthropic industry. The backlash from the philanthropic and finance communities was strong.

Critics pointed to a lack of data to back up his claims and the unfoundedness of sweeping generalizations about the motivations of wealthy donors. The biggest problem most had with the article was that he critiqued an industry created for the benefit of humanity and his lack of recognition for all that philanthropy has already done to improve the human condition. In the end, most critics of Buffett came to the conclusion, not that philanthropy is inadequate, but rather that it needs to be better directed and made more efficient.

Here at RSF, the article continues to resonate. His article points not only to giving, but also to how we give. Is expending gift money to analyze the effectiveness of our giving an effective use of funding? Should those who have wealth be the deciders for how their wealth is given away to the community? Is philanthropy something only for the wealthy? Can philanthropy transform the very system that created it?

At RSF we have been exploring deeply the purpose and qualities of gift. One of our first realizations was how different true gifts are from philanthropy. True gifts are given freely and allow for creation and failure. True gifts create trust and solidify community. True gifts are given to us at all aspects of our lives, from the parental gift of nurturing and raising children, to the natural world that supports our lives, to the gifts and talents we each have as part of our being.

We began to see how important gifts are in our lives and in our communities. What happens when these aspects of gift are lost, or overshadowed by the power of money, whether in the philanthropic field or in our modern economic thinking?

In an effort to highlight the important role of gift in the economy, the Philanthropic Services team at RSF created a purpose statement that outlines some of the most important aspects of gifts and our goals for making these aspects more visible in the world. The RSF Philanthropic Services purpose is: To cultivate giving as the source of economic life. And we further qualified the purpose with the following.

As a transformative intermediary we:

  • Move the field of philanthropy towards a gift economy
  • Support and honor our clients’ deepest intentions
  • Integrate gift money into catalytic capital
  • Facilitate the circulation of gift money

As we continue to explore how this purpose fits into our day-to-day activities at RSF, we acknowledge our strong community of values-aligned organizations and individuals that inspire and collaborate with us. Over the past few years we have started to see more and more projects emerge that are taking up similar exploration into the nature and value of gift money and the role gift plays in the world. Here are a few examples:

One of the earliest inspirations for the RSF Philanthropic Services team has been the model of Flow Funding. Created by Marion Weber, Flow Funding is based on the idea of infusing trust, discovery and adventure into the funding process. In her experience as a philanthropist, Marion felt constricted by the work and pressure of deciding how to give away money. She created the Flow Funding model where she would select others, whom she calls “Flow Funders” to entrust her money to. These Flow Funders then would decide how to grant the money out, and could even pass it along to another Flow Funder. Through this process she realized the power of letting intuition and spontaneity into the process, and how that in turn created generosity and feelings of abundance. She also saw how this model expanded the reach of the funds, going to projects that she would have never found on her own. The model democratizes the philanthropic process by having more people involved in decision-making. And, it highlights the value of giving other people the learning experience of being a giver. This model has been an inspiration to RSF’s Shared Gifting model which also works to make the granting process more associative.

Another great project that we have had the pleasure of funding through a Donor Advised Fund is Canticle Farm. Located in Oakland, CA, this community farm has been experimenting with a complete transition towards operating in the gift economy. In 2014, they posted on their website their monthly operating expenses and what those expenses cover in the hope of inviting donors to support their needs. They explain on a post from their website, “What that means for us is making the radical move of detaching the services that we offer to the public from the expectation of receiving conventional currency in return. On the one hand, this presents a challenge in a world where everything (and everyone) is being commodified, and offerings without a price tag may be seen as worthless. On the other, our stance allows a larger circle of generosity—of friends blessed with conventional currency, and time and energy—a means of participating in our shared activities fostering generosity and forgiveness in the human community and compassion for all beings.” This group is pioneering in terms of living fully in the gift economy and we are excited to learn from their experiences.

Photo courtesy of Canticle Farm

Photo courtesy of Canticle Farm

Indie Philanthropy, an initiative dedicated to activating the next wave of thoughtful, proactive giving, is busy blazing a bright trail towards reshaping the field of philanthropy as well. Seeking to add diversity and creativity to the field, examples of Indie Philanthropy practices include crowdfunding, giving circles, community-based funding decisions, and seed funding. The initiative is built and sustained by those organizations whose funding work already exemplifies an Indie Philanthropy field of practice, and fortifies each individual’s work with a common voice. The website hosts a donor education tool, highlights of creative funding methods at work and emerging, as well as stories and guides on the practice of unconventional funding. By creating this cohort of imaginative funders, Indie Philanthropy hopes to embolden and inspire mainstream funders to question the status quo in philanthropy, and imagine how the world’s needs might be better served by innovation and experimentation in the field.

It has been tremendously inspiring to see these, and other transformative projects growing in the world. RSF partners, such as those shared here, provide tools for honoring the spiritual and communal qualities of gift that allow it to play its crucial role in our economy. It is equally important to realize that these ideas don’t just apply to those who participate in philanthropy. As John Bloom, RSF Vice President of Organizational Culture, explains, “Mostly our culture views the capacity to give based upon having more than enough—whether that is money or time. I would propose that the opposite is true—when one gives, one experiences the reality that ‘enough’ does not exist without giving. That is, giving makes us whole.”

Kelley Buhles is RSF’s Director of Philanthropic Services.

Growth Financing for Social Enterprises: 5 Options and How to Make Them Work for You

February 19, 2015

Originally published on TriplePundit

A regional food hub funded by RSF, Common Market in Philadelphia has grown rapidly through a series of integrated capital financings.

A regional food hub funded by RSF, Common Market in Philadelphia has grown rapidly through a series of integrated capital financings.

by Don Shaffer

Social entrepreneurs seeking growth funding often get caught up in the culture of venture capital: They position their enterprise as a rocket business, look for a miracle angel investor and start giving away equity. They’re not thinking about how the investors will get their money back, or whether other options might better support their goals.

At the same time, conventional funders often see social enterprises as too risky or too hard to understand, especially if they’re building a new supply chain, sacrificing some profit to maximize social value or using a hybrid business model.

Fortunately, there are ways around traps and barriers like these for social enterprises that are past the bootstrapping stage. First, here are a few general guidelines:

  • Before you seek financing, define what you ultimately want to do. Are you planning to sell this business? Do you see it as a legacy business that you’re building to last? A long-term, slow-growth plan won’t nix your chances for funding; you’ll just need to look at different kinds of funding.
  • Seek out funders that focus on social enterprises and that have expertise in your field. They’ll have a better understanding of the market opportunity, and they won’t expect your business to compromise its mission in order to grow.
  • Expect a funder to add value beyond financing, such as connections to a network of advisors or technical assistance.

Below are the ins and outs of five funding options — some top of mind, and some you may not have considered.

1. Debt financing

Borrowing money over a defined period of time — from a bank or an alternative lending institution — allows you to maintain your ownership position and thus retain control of the enterprise. This is a good option for enterprises that have the cash flow to make payments and the assets to secure the debt.

Debt financing takes a variety of forms, each with its own underwriting standards: working capital lines of credit, asset-based loans (secured by account receivables, inventory and other assets), equipment loans, mortgages and so on. You will want to seek advice on the best structure. The key questions to ask at the outset are: How will I be able to pay back the loan, and what is the lender likely to do if things go sideways?

Read the full article here

Don Shaffer is President & CEO at RSF Social Finance

Announcing the 2014-2015 RSF Social Impact Fellows

December 19, 2014

RSF Social Finance is pleased to announce the 2014-2015 RSF Social Impact Fellows. This cohort marks RSF’s fifth year of the fellowship program, and the first year professionals have been invited to participate in addition to graduate students.

The Social Impact Fellowship is designed to support the development of the next generation of inspiring leaders in the social finance field. RSF also seeks to bring a fresh perspective to the organization’s business development activities.

Fellows will work closely with RSF’s Lending Team to identify prospective borrowers, conduct due diligence, and structure commercial loans that will become part of RSF’s $85 million Social Enterprise Lending portfolio. The Fellowship is an extension of RSF’s mission to build the field of social finance. Working with graduate students and professionals across disciplines and geographic areas not only allows RSF to build a network of advocates for the industry, it also spreads the work of social finance into places where the concept of values-aligned investing is still very nascent.

Twenty-seven fellows have completed the program since it began in 2010. Nearly half are now successfully working in the social finance field at organizations like Village Capital, Impact Assets, and OPIC.

“I know first-hand, this is an incredibly valuable experience,” said Kate Danaher, Senior Lending Associate at RSF. Danaher was a part of the first cohort of Fellows and now runs the program. “These fellows have the opportunity to identify and engage with pioneering entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of solving pressing social and environmental problems.”

2014-2015 Social Impact Fellows 
                                                                                                                                             

Lisa Fisher is the Founder and President of an independent consulting firm focused on cultivating vision, authenticity, and sustainability in individuals, organizations, and communities with an emphasis on social responsibility and social impact. For 17 years, Fisher has served nationally and internationally as a coach, a facilitator, and an educational, organizational, and development consultant for both for-profit and non-profit organizations. She is a graduate of Wellesley College and holds a Master of Arts in Teaching degree and a Master of Arts in Leadership and Organizational Development. She is currently completing a Master of Arts in Psychology and a PhD in Organizational Systems with a focus on catalytic philanthropy and social enterprise. Fisher is a certified yoga instructor, a former Junior Olympic alpine ski racer, and, most importantly, a mother. She loves to play in the glorious outdoors as often as possible.

 

Nakul Kadaba is currently a Project Associate at the Small-Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund and helps manage their projects and other initiatives in South and Southeast Asia. He has experience in innovative finance, enterprise development, and poverty alleviation for several organizations. He holds a Masters in Public Administration from George Mason University and a Bachelor’s degree from The College of William and Mary. He is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is excited to add to the social finance conversation.

 

Sam.Kressler_Head Shot CroppedSam Kressler is the Executive Chef of Bom Dia Market, a neighborhood gourmet market in Noe Valley. Before joining Bom Dia, Sam ran Stir Consulting, a consulting agency that focused on menu and product development for hospitality and food businesses. Sam holds a culinary degree from the French Culinary Institute and a Masters in Food Systems from NYU. He is a founder of Slow Money NYC as well as a monthly happy hour that brings together Bay Area professionals across the sustainable food and agriculture industry.

 

Dave Hanold is a loan officer at NYBDC, a mission-based lender in New York State. Dave leads a team of community development lenders specializing in SBA loans of $25,000 and upward to businesses that are not eligible for traditional bank financing, with a recent focus on food and beverage producers. After graduating from Macalester College in 2009, he spent a year in the Americorps NCCC program, performing community service projects across the Midwest. When he’s not evaluating balance sheets, Dave’s probably at the climbing gym or playing soccer!

 

Stu Fram currently works at the High Meadows Fund, an environmental foundation in Vermont, where he supports the administration of the Fund’s mission spending budget. Prior to joining High Meadows, Stu received a BA in Human Ecology from Middlebury College, where he co-founded an organization that works to improve the amount of local and sustainable options available in the dining halls. While studying abroad in Madagascar, Stu received a grant to study local and institutional perceptions of integrated conservation and development projects in one of the country’s national parks. He resides in Burlington, VT.

Community Foundations Deploying All Resources to Build Community Wealth

November 24, 2014

The following preface was written by RSF President & CEO Don Shaffer for the Democracy Collaborative’s recent report, A New Anchor Mission for a New Century: Community Foundations Deploying All Resources to Build Community Wealth. The report highlights “The Innovative 30″ community foundations and their cutting edge work focused on deploying resources, in many cases not just grants, in support of rebuilding community wealth. RSF is particularly excited about this report as it ties in well with the ongoing work we are doing with pioneering community foundation leaders who are determined to align their individual foundations’ investments with their deep commitment to place.

community foundations

Preface

Many thanks to The Democracy Collaborative for this insightful paper. As so many of us push for innovation, it’s important we pause today to celebrate–as this paper does–the wide range of benefits that community foundations already generate.

Of many great quotes in the paper, one by Janet Topolsky from Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group brilliantly sums up the challenge: “A community foundation can do anything… But it has to decide what it wants to do.”

On the one hand, community foundations are nonprofit public charities with flexibility in their legal structures to create direct loan funds, loan guarantee pools, collaborations with community development financial institutions, and many other new approaches to working with different kinds of capital to meet the needs of local social enterprises. On the other hand, community foundations face many barriers in trying something new.

Yet, as this report shows, exciting innovation is already underway by community foundations, in both economic development and impact investing. Both are ways of moving toward the vital new anchor mission of deploying all resources to build community wealth.

The anchor institution work that The Democracy Collaborative has pioneered is a no-brainer for community foundations to embrace. Yes, it is resource-intensive and requires skillful partnering. But what is the alternative? It is a challenge community foundations will be wise to embrace.

Regarding impact investing, a massive cultural shift is still needed. There are very few foundation leaders who can say, as Clara Miller from the Heron Foundation does, “Our fundamental question for deployment of all capital will be, ‘what is the highest and best use of this asset for furthering our mission?'”

Short-term paper gains in a portfolio of public companies are just that–paper gains. They do not represent real wealth. The aspirational investment goal for community foundations is deploying 100 percent of assets for impact in their local communities. As this paper reports, Kelly Ryan and her board at Incourage Community Foundation in central Wisconsin are the first among community foundations to make this commitment. It will be exciting to watch as they move toward realizing this ambitious goal. At RSF Social Finance, our vision is of 100 community foundations reaching the 100 percent goal in the next decade.

I send my best to all of you taking on these worthy challenges.

Sincerely,

Don Shaffer

President & CEO, RSF Social Finance

Click here to read the full report.

Who Are the Next 25 Social Enterprise Stars? We’re Still Looking to Meet Them

November 12, 2014

RSF_SocentStarsLOGO-300dpi (2)Our campaign to add 25 social enterprise stars to our loan portfolio over the next year is introducing RSF to hundreds of social enterprises striving for outsized impact—about 1,600 enterprises and referrers had checked out our campaign page by the end of October.

Why is this important? Most growing businesses face challenges raising capital at some stage in their development. But for social enterprises, which use the power of business to directly improve society and our environment, the funding obstacles tend to be tougher and more persistent. By definition, they upend the expectations of traditional investors, lenders, and donors. RSF provides the kind of flexible, mission-aligned capital that meets social enterprises’ needs—but they’re often operating in isolation and don’t know we exist.

So please keep spreading the word! The more #SocentStars posts there are on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, the more social enterprises we can reach and assist. Here are a few post ideas:

Are you one of the next economy’s #SocentStars? @RSFSocFinance can fund your growth: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #socents

Every #socent needs a savvy funder. @RSFSocFinance has loan money for the next 25 #SocentStars: bit.ly/1tH0ytE

Do you know any #SocentStars? @RSFSocFinance has loans for the next 25. Send them here: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #socent

Not sure who would be a good fit? We’re looking for more enterprises like these new RSF borrowers (also see details on the Social Enterprise Stars campaign page).

Liberty Source staff young woman stockLiberty Source

Liberty Source, a public benefit corporation and subsidiary of existing RSF borrower Digital Divide Data (DDD), employs military spouses in U.S.-based business process outsourcing work. Although founded just this summer, Liberty Source already employs over 90 people at Fort Monroe in Virginia. The more than 700,000 military spouses in the U.S. have a higher rate of post–high school education—80 percent—than the general population, but are four times as likely to be unemployed or underemployed because of frequent moves and the limited number of job opportunities near military bases.

“Without support from RSF, we would not have been able to get Liberty Source off the ground,” said Deborah Kops, Board Chair, Liberty Source and Board Member, DDD. “The RSF loan provided us the seed money to hire staff and buy equipment. Only a mission-aligned lender understands both the social impact and the imperative to operate a commercially viable company.”

Stefan Hartman - SK- Black River Organic FarmEastern Carolina Organics

Eastern Carolina Organics (ECO) is a farmer- and employee-owned food hub distributing fresh, seasonal, organic produce to retailers, institutions, distributors, and restaurants across North Carolina. RSF provided a line of credit through our PRI Fund to help ECO bridge the time between payments to farmers and sales receipts from customers.

“Food hubs like ECO have the ability to connect producers with growing market demand, which holds incredible promise for positive impact on the local economy, social equity, and the environment,” says Kate Danaher, RSF Senior Lending Associate.

Know any loan candidates like these? Please send them to Wanted: Social Enterprise Stars.

The Changing Ground of Social Finance

November 11, 2014

This CEO letter was originally published in the Fall 2014 RSF Quarterly.

Don Shaffer - DefaultDear Friends,

I urge you to check out Kiva Zip, a website facilitating interest-free loans to small businesses that are “doing good” in the U.S. and Kenya. It’s in the initial test phase, but they have already connected 32,000 individual lenders with 4,500 social entrepreneurs, and enabled over $4.3 million in loans.

As a lender, you can provide as little as $5 towards loans that will ultimately be from $2,000 to $20,000 depending on the project. 90% of the loans have been re-paid.

Kiva has been a pioneer in the field of crowdfunding for many years already; this is their most recent innovation. I love it for several reasons:

  1. These loans are as direct as it gets. Kiva, the non-profit parent organization, supports the overhead of Kiva Zip, and PayPal is contributing their payment processing services for free. So, at least in the U.S., every dollar you lend goes to the borrower.
  2. It seems that many of the loans are extraordinarily catalytic, enabling projects that would not happen otherwise.
  3. The community-building features are great, and will continue to develop. Kiva Zip requires U.S. borrowers to invite at least 15 people from their “trust network” to participate in the loan, thereby keeping the borrower more accountable to re-paying it. And the Kiva Zip Conversations option is particularly intriguing: it allows the lenders and borrowers to connect and learn more about each other.

Of course there is also the Maimonides factor. The 12th century Jewish scholar Maimonides (my-MON-i-deez) declared that the highest form of charity is providing an interest-free loan to a person in need, so long as that loan creates more freedom for the person. I feel strongly that we’ll see a lot more pay-it-forward, interest-free lending in the near future. As a staff, we have been studying the spirit of gift this year at RSF – it’s been a very fruitful journey so far, and I am curious to see where it leads us.

Relevant to our topic this quarter, I’ve learned that the fastest-growing category on Kiva Zip is agriculture; particularly loans to young farmers, for equipment and other needs where there is a big gap in the market. I have witnessed for many years that wherever there is emphasis on Place and Community, social entrepreneurs in the Food & Agriculture sector are the first to show up.

Another brilliant crowdfunding site called Community Sourced Capital was launched recently, based on a single question: what if financial systems were designed to strengthen communities?

Then there’s all the good work happening at Cutting Edge Capital, helping community-based businesses conduct Direct Public Offerings.

At RSF, as many of you know, we believe trust is derived from financial transactions that are direct, transparent, and personal, based on long-term relationships; and we want to celebrate all the efforts being made right now “to bring money back down to earth”, as my friend Woody Tasch from Slow Money is fond of saying. The field of social finance, as we imagine it, is growing.

All the best in this harvest season!

Don Shaffer

President & CEO

RSF Selected for the ImpactAssets 50 2014

November 6, 2014

IA 50 2014 badge_plainRSF has been selected for the ImpactAssets 50 2014, a free, online resource for impact investors and their advisors. The IA 50, now in its fourth year, is the first publically available database of private debt and equity impact investment fund managers.

This is the fourth consecutive year that RSF has been selected among other industry leaders for the IA 50, which serves as a gateway for those interested in achieving social and/or environmental, as well as financial, returns on their investments.

“We are thrilled to be selected on a recurring basis for the IA 50,” said Catherine Covington, Client Development Manager for RSF.  “This list is very beneficial to the impact investing industry, and I often refer individuals and institutions who are interested in learning more about specific investing options to the IA 50 website.”

The $100 million RSF Social Investment Fund (SIF) provides financing to over 90 businesses working in Food & Agriculture, Education & the Arts, and Ecological Stewardship. This capital comes primarily from 1,600 individuals who have invested $1,000 or more in SIF. Investors earn a competitive return on their money comparable to a certificate of deposit while their funds are deployed to leading social enterprises.

The IA 50 is the only free, public, searchable database of outstanding impact investing fund managers. The showcase includes a range of funds across the globe, spanning diverse issue areas and investment, with demonstrated and compelling social and environmental impact. Fund managers included in the IA 50 2014 manage a combined $15.5 billion in assets devoted to creating measurable, positive impact.

The IA 50 selection committee is chaired by ImpactAssets’ Chief Impact Strategist, Jed Emerson, and includes experts from The CAPROCK Group, Labrador Ventures, Toniic, UBS, and other leading impact investors. The IA 50 2014, along with additional details on the selection process, are available at: http://www.impactassets.org/impactassets-50/review-and-criteria.

About ImpactAssets

ImpactAssets is a nonprofit financial services firm that increases the flow of capital into investments that deliver financial, social, and environmental returns. ImpactAssets’ donor advised fund (“The Giving Fund”), impact investment notes, and field building initiatives enable philanthropists, other asset owners, and their wealth advisors to advance social or environmental change through investment.

Search for Social Enterprise Stars Off to Great Start

October 14, 2014

PrintOur Next 25 Social Enterprise Stars campaign is off to a great start—less than a month after our launch at the SOCAP14 conference, nearly 1,000 social enterprises and their referrers had visited our campaign page to check out borrower criteria and other details.

To recap, we’re looking to add 25 social enterprise stars to our loan portfolio over the next year—and we need the help of everyone in our community to find them. We know there are exciting enterprises across the U.S. and Canada that could grow with our help, but they may not know about us—and we may not know about them.

Please keep spreading the word! The more #SocentStars posts there are on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, the more social enterprises we can reach and assist. Here are a few post ideas:

How much social impact could your #socent have with $800K? @RSFSocFinance has loans for #SocentStars: bit.ly/1tH0ytE

Pass it on: @RSFSocFinance is looking to fund the next 25 #SocentStars. Get details and #loan quals: bit.ly/1tH0ytE

Growing a #socent & need capital? @RSFSocFinance has loans for the next 25 #SocentStars: bit.ly/1tH0ytE

Not sure who would be a good fit? We’re looking for more enterprises like these new RSF borrowers (also see details on the Social Enterprise Stars campaign page).

facebookPACT Apparel

PACT, a Boulder, Colorado–based apparel company, makes supersoft organic cotton essentials that are ethically produced and easy on the environment. Here’s what they say about themselves: “We’re out to change the apparel industry and that change starts with your underwear. At PACT we care about our clothes so much that from seed to shelf, we pretty much follow them everywhere they go.”

RSF is providing a line of credit that allows PACT to build inventory to meet growing demand. It’s a natural fit: “PACT is more than just a sustainable brand,” says Mike Gabriel, RSF Lending Manager. “They are really fostering a community—suppliers, producers, intermediaries, and consumers—to accelerate change in the fashion industry.”

truckHummingbird Wholesale

Hummingbird Wholesale, a bulk food distributor based in Eugene, Oregon, delivers high-quality organic, local, and regional food crops to wholesale customers from Bellingham, Washington, to San Francisco. RSF financing allowed Hummingbird to purchase an environmentally friendly freight truck.

“Hummingbird exemplifies the type of organizations we look to support at RSF. It tries to make a positive impact in every aspect of its work—from ensuring local farmers are connected to markets to employing a zero-waste strategy,” says Kate Danaher, Senior Lending Associate at RSF.

Cocafa1Madécasse

Brooklyn-based Madécasse is the only company making high-quality, hand-wrapped chocolate and vanilla products in Africa from bean to bar. Unlike traditional chocolate manufacturing, which creates only minimal income for cocoa farmers, every process in Madécasse’s chocolate production happens in Madagascar. A line of credit from RSF allows Madécasse to finance inventory purchases and cover cash-flow gaps throughout the year.

“Companies like Madécasse take the concept of fair trade to another level,” says Danaher. “By turning raw materials into finished products in-country, they provide skilled jobs and economic opportunities to people who have few options.”

Know any loan candidates like these? Please send them to Wanted: Social Enterprise Stars.

A History of RSF Social Finance

September 25, 2014

As part of our 30th anniversary we have pulled together a timeline of RSF’s history to celebrate our growth.

Originally published in the Spring 2014 RSF Quarterly

1936 – The Rudolf Steiner Foundation is incorporated as a treasury for the Anthroposophical Society in America. The foundation remains small for nearly 50 years.

1983 – Siegfried Finser (a trustee of the Foundation) begins meeting with colleague, John Alexandra, to look for ways to work with money that are more consistent with the spiritual and social insights of Rudolf Steiner.

1984 – Mark Finser, Ann Stahl, and Philip Mees join S. Finser and Alexandra in the startup. Soon after, RSF receives a request for a loan from the Pine Hill Waldorf School in New Hampshire, which was destroyed by fire the previous year. When the request is made, the Foundation only has $6,000 cash in assets. The founding group reaches out to the community to fundraise, and the Rudolf Steiner Foundation makes its first loan commitment in the amount of $500,000.

RSF_30th_purpleRSF’s first offices are located in John Alexandra’s garage in Spring Valley, New York.

Total assets: $356,000
Loan Portfolio: $88,000
Investor Funds: $315,000
Client Accounts: 17

1985 – RSF begins making grants through its first Donor Advised Fund, made possible by the generosity of Mary T. Richards.

1989 – RSF reaches financial stability, operating income matches operating expenses for the first time.

Total assets: $5,067,000
Loan Portfolio: $2,893,000
Investor Funds: $3,563,000
Client Accounts: 264

1991 – Mark Finser is elected RSF’s first executive president and CEO.

1994 – RSF moves to its first entirely owned property in Harlemville, New York, with a small office still in Spring Valley.

Total assets: $9,022,000
Loan Portfolio: $4,458,000
Investor Funds: $5,060,000
Client Accounts: 445

1998 – RSF moves to the Presidio in San Francisco. This move is symbolic of a major change for the organization. At this point, RSF begins to expand its activities beyond anthroposophical initiatives and becomes more active in the world by standing for change in the way money and resources are viewed and utilized by humanity.

1999

Total assets: $30,608,000
Loan Portfolio: $14,253,000
Investor Funds: $12,568,000
Client Accounts: 535

2002 – RSF launches its first pilot for for-profit lending called the Fair Economy Fund. Early borrowers include Organic Bouquet and Bent Oak Farms.

2004

Total assets: $80,691,000
Loan Portfolio: $34,081,000
Investor Funds: $39,162,000
Client Accounts: 1010

P1000435

2005 – RSF rebrands as RSF Social Finance to be clearer about its position and work in the world of finance. RSF adopts “inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner” to keep the connection transparent.

RSF is among the first in the industry to launch mission-aligned Donor Advised Funds (DAF). With this new format, assets held in DAFs are invested for social and environmental benefit.

2007 – Don Shaffer joins as President & CEO; Mark Finser becomes Chairman of the Board. At that time, RSF’s assets have grown to $120,000,000.

2008 – The RSF Mezzanine Fund is launched. This is the first fund to provide mission-aligned financing (from accredited investors) for early-stage social enterprises.

2009 – RSF breaks from LIBOR as a benchmark for setting interest rates, and launches RSF Prime, a community-based model for determining interest rates. The first Quarterly Pricing Meeting – a community discussion to recommend rates – is held in September at RSF’s offices.

Total assets: $123,005,000
Loan Portfolio: $69,149,000
Investor Funds: $64,785,000
Client Accounts: 1228

2010 – In response to the indirect, opaque, impersonal and volatile nature of the stock market, RSF divests from all public equities and redirects capital to investments more closely aligned with its values.

The RSF Program Related Investing Fund (PRI) is launched. This fund serves the increasing number of private foundations interested in using program related investment to support charitable projects. The Fund focuses on the Food & Agriculture sector.

2011 – The first RSF Shared Gifting meeting is held. Shared Gifting is a new model of grantmaking that gives grantees the power to decide how a pool of funds is allocated among participants. This model encourages collaboration instead of competition and is based on RSF’s Mid-States Shared Gifting Group.

In partnership with Leslie Christian of Portfolio 21 Investments, RSF publishes “A New Foundation for Portfolio Management” a white paper that challenges the traditional notions of portfolio theory and investment management. It is grounded in the understanding that economic growth cannot be infinite on a planet with finite natural resources.

2014 (Q1 2014 estimates)

Total assets: $162,998,000
Loan Portfolio: $74,769,000
Investor Funds: $99,704,000
Client Accounts: 1836

RSF Seeks the Next 25 Social Enterprise Stars

September 2, 2014

Socent logo

Today we’re excited to launch the Next 25 Social Enterprise Stars campaign to attract a new cohort of extraordinary borrowers.

We’re looking to add 25 social enterprise stars to our loan portfolio over the next year—and we need the help of everyone in our community to find them. You’ll be hearing from us about our search and our newest borrowers here on this blog, on social media, at events, in our newsletter—everywhere.

We know there are exciting enterprises across the U.S. and Canada that could grow with our help, but they may not know about us—and we may not know about them. So we’re asking you—our investors, borrowers, advisors, partners and friends—to be our eyes and ears and send compelling candidates our way. You’ll be expanding your impact, and the enterprises you refer will benefit from working with a pioneering funder that has a true commitment to helping social enterprises succeed.

Why are we doing this now? Our assets have grown 39 percent over the last three years, as more and more investors are putting their money to work for social benefit. That means we’re able to lend to more social enterprises than ever.

Here’s what we’re looking for: established businesses and non-profit organizations that are doing groundbreaking work in food and agriculture, education and the arts, or ecological stewardship—and could significantly expand their impact with a loan of about $200,000 to $5 million. (Our average loan is $800,000.)

To receive a loan from RSF, an enterprise should have these qualifications:

  • A social benefit mission in one of RSF’s three focus areas: Food & Agriculture, Education & the Arts, and Ecological Stewardship
  • Incorporation in the U.S. or Canada
  • Strong collateral (which may include pledge or guarantee communities)
  • Excellent history of repayment (both interest and principal) on any existing debt
  • Funding needs ranging from $200,000 to $5 million ($100,000+ for arts organizations)
  • 3 or more years of operating history
  • Operational profit, or a clear path to profitability in 12 months
  • Annual revenue of $1 million or more ($500,000 for arts organizations)

Please send candidates that meet the criteria to our Next 25 Social Enterprise Stars page.

Thank you for helping to build the next economy! And please share news of our search through the social media you use—we’re using the hashtag #SocentStars.

Social Finance

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