Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Keeping the Faith

By Patrick Davis, Calvert Foundation Senior Associate.

In November, after returning from the Resource Center for Religious Institutes (RCRI) Conference in St. Louis, I was moved to write about my experience for the UnSectored blog. Now, a few weeks later, I wanted to share a version of that post with readers of Calvert Foundation’s blog.

RCRI is primarily a conference for religious treasurers to learn about developments in financial management that relate to their ministry. Not surprisingly, topics in Socially Responsible Investing are particularly prominent, and so I attended on behalf of Calvert Foundation. There I was joined by many impact investing (or community investing) organizations including Oikocredit, Partners for the Common Good, Leviticus Fund, Hope Enterprise Corporation, Urban Partnership Bank, and Mercy Loan Fund, among others.

I was fortunate enough to spend some time with many great people, but I especially appreciated the chance to reconnect with two nuns that I’ve worked with previously. Sister Pam Buganski of the Sisters of Notre Dame and Sister Corinne Florek of the Religious Communities Investment Fund are each forces of nature in their own right – inspiring, compassionate, tireless advocates for social justice...and new thinking in finance. Sister Corinne has been featured in this blog before, for her work using impact investing principles to care for retired nuns while supporting people in underserved communities

My conversations with the sisters reminded me of the faith community’s special and often unrecognized place in the development of what we now call impact investing. More than 30 years ago, faith-based investors began to point to scripture as a basis for moving real assets into the community development space. In fact, the faith community provided critical seed funding that jump-started countless community loan funds and microfinance institutions that we know well today. For more background, check out the Community Investing Toolkit for the Faith Community report from the Social Investment Forum Foundation.

Congregations and religious retirement funds continue to be some of the most significant contributors to impact investing institutions, and this commitment to social justice through investment was established decades prior to the current excitement about impact investing. As an industry, impact investing cannot realize its vision without understanding its roots. Faith communities have continued to support the industry when it’s been difficult, unpopular, or in glaring contradiction to the prevailing financial philosophies of the day.

Flying home from RCRI, I found myself reflecting on the recent buzz around impact investing. The industry has attracted interest from a wide range of institutions - some are drawn to impact investing because they believe in the potential for market-beating returns in the long run, others because it allows for the integration of social or environmental values in investment portfolios. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the impact investing movement is that serves such a wide spectrum of beliefs and values, and as such, transcends common political, religious, and social boundaries.

In the melting pot of all those beliefs and values, though, there have been only a handful of steadfast supporters. In our culture, we approach hot new things with both enthusiasm and trepidation. As it was described to me recently, everyone wants to be the “first second” adopter of a new behavior. When it comes to impact investing, the faith community has been quite the opposite – jumping in with both feet. With values systems firmly rooted in concepts of equity and social justice, faith-based institutions have contributed enormously to the development of the impact investing industry. Personally, I’m deeply grateful to Sister Pam, Sister Corrine, and the countless other supporters of our work that I get to see each year at RCRI. In years to come, I hope that our supporters in the faith community earn as much benefit from their investment as we have from their involvement.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Warm Welcome to the Newest Additions to the Calvert Foundation Team

As if having the chance to change the world by providing opportunity to the underserved weren’t enough, we at Calvert Foundation also have the great privilege of working with a team of dedicated and talented professionals. Working hard each day, it’s easy to get caught up in our to-do lists and hectic schedules. But when we have a new hire in our midst, it helps to remind us why we’re here, the pride we feel in our mission and our work.

And so it is with great pleasure that we extend a warm welcome to these new additions to the Calvert Foundation team.

Catherine Godschalk
Prior to joining Calvert Foundation in July, as the new leader of the domestic lending team, Catherine was the Washington, D.C., Regional Office Director at Self-Help Ventures Fund, where she led the organization’s efforts to provide more than $33 million in financing to support commercial real estate, affordable housing, charter schools, and other community facilities in underserved areas around the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Catherine also led Self-Help’s national Foreclosure Recovery Initiative, developing loan products and lending capital designed to support the redevelopment single family and multifamily foreclosed properties.

Michael Grossman
Our new Manager of International Lending, Michael was previously a Senior Advisor to McKinsey & Company’s Social Sector Office where he worked on economic development assignments with a focus on the financial sector and inclusive agriculture development. In addition, Michael led the creation of the African Development Bank’s $1 billion trade finance initiative and developed small enterprise financing strategies for two African governments.

John Ducey
John Ducey brings 23 years of community development experience to Community Investment Partners, a subsidiary of the Calvert Foundation. As Vice President, John is responsible for CIP's $120+ million asset management business, in addition to direct client portfolio management duties. For the previous five years, John worked at Enterprise Community Investment Inc. (Enterprise). As a Vice President there, he was responsible for the company's placement of equity for workforce housing and New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) investments targeted at mixed-use and commercial developments.

Richard Tran
Richard brings more a decade of experience in telecommunications networking technologies for both non-profit and corporate sector organizations to his role as Manager of Information Technology. Prior to joining Calvert Foundation in 2011, Richard served as a Network and Telecommunication Administrator at Calvert Investments, where he managed multiple projects from development to implementation. In addition to his great people skills, Richard brings a wealth of experience in technology and strategic solution analysis to Calvert Foundation.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Celebrating Communities, the Holidays, and You

Dear Friend,

Every day, we at Calvert Foundation hear stories that give us hope for a brighter future. Every day, people use capital from our investors and donors to start new businesses, build affordable homes and make their communities better. Every day, new investors buy the Community Investment Note and align their investments with their values, earning social returns along with financial returns.

We also see the issues of economic disparity and uncertainty on the front page every day. Since 1995, Calvert Foundation has been working to create opportunities for hard-working people in the U.S. and around the world so they can create better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities. As we count our blessings this year, we ask you to make a donation to Calvert Foundation. As a nonprofit, we rely on donations to leverage investor capital and transform lives.

We’re proud of our impact:
  • $104 million to help create jobs and grow businesses
  • $65 million to ensure that families have decent affordable homes
  • $30 million for community facilities, like charter schools, health care centers and arts facilities
  • $4 million for fair trade and sustainable agriculture
A few highlights from 2011:
As we look forward to 2012 and all of the opportunities a new year represents, we wanted to take a moment to thank you. It is your engagement, compassion and interest that make our work possible. This holiday season, we at Calvert Foundation send our best wishes to you, your families, and friends.

Lisa Hall
President and CEO, Calvert Foundation

Monday, December 12, 2011

Building Trust Through Information

This post, by Christina Conrad Cuenca, Manager, Lending and Advisory Services, was originally published on November 2, 2011, in the Microplace blog

Impact investing has been getting a lot of great publicity lately, but that doesn't necessarily translate into comfort for investors. Knowledge and information, on the other hand, do. Which is one of many reasons we are so glad to be a part of the Global Impact Investing Rating System, or GIIRS, an independent third party that assesses the social and environmental impact of companies and investment funds.

GIIRS is a project of B Lab, one of our borrowers, and was announced officially in September at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York.

Calvert Foundation is one of the “15 Pioneer Investors” who have declared a preference for GIIRS-rated funds and companies in their impact investing decision process. Furthermore, our participation in this is a signal to more mainstream institutions and investors that credible metrics on impact are necessary for impact investing to succeed.

As the head of Calvert Foundation's risk management team, I take a special interest in encouraging efforts such as GIIRS. One of the great challenges we face in evaluating investment opportunities is a lack of standard metrics across sectors (such as affordable housing and microfinance) and organizational models (such as social enterprises and co-operatives). While we have been successful at navigating our way through these challenges - often by creating our own metrics and screens - the industry as a whole has a better chance to grow and thrive if there is a third-party rating system that investors can turn to for information and comparison.

GIIRS, which has an aggressive five-year plan to provide ratings for more than 2,500 companies and over 350 funds, typically rates venture capital and private equity funds and for-profit companies. Because of this, most of the organizations we invest in wouldn't qualify yet - and neither (as a 501c3) would we. Because of Calvert Foundation's complex model, we often don't quite fit into a defined model, but we are working with GIIRS and the industry at large to change this, one step at a time.