Investment Tools

The current regulatory framework that governs investment practices puts people into a couple different categories that determine what kinds of opportunities you can be a part of in growing the good economy. Perhaps the most important distinction is whether you are an “institutional“/”accredited” investor or a “retail” investor.

The SEC expects that institutional and accredited investors have significant net worth and a high level of investment expertise, and as such they may have a greater tolerance for risk. Conversely, the SEC attempts to protect retail investors from high risk investments by enforcing regulation that restricts average folks from investing in unsuitable opportunities.

Given these distinctions, we’ve separated our toolkit below for individuals and institutions. We hope you’ll identify content that is relevant to you, and help us build our toolkit by suggesting other resources we may be missing!


Individual Resources:

Choosing a Bank:

Banks, just like people, have a complex set of values and financial imperatives that contribute to their philosophy and practices. Check out our surfer friend, Kyle Theirmann, explaining the impact our deposit choices have at TEDxSantaCruz.

Check out the Find a Bank Tool to learn about community development banks in your backyard.  Also, you may be interested in checking out the Move Your Money Project, a national movement in 2011 that resulted in a massive transfer of assets to local community development banks and credit unions.  For more information on these kinds of banking institutions, head over to the National Federation of Community Development Credit Union’s website, the Community Development Bankers Association website, or the Community Development Financial Institution website.

Investment Opportunities:

MicroPlace, an online platform, allows people to invest directly through PayPal or bank accounts with as little as $20.  Here you’ll find opportunities to invest in fair trade, economic development, women’s empowerment, and sustainable agriculture, among other things.

Calvert Foundation’s Community Investment Note, which can be purchased through a brokerage account, online, or directly with a check and application.  The Community Investment Note supports a portfolio of investments in affordable housing, small business, fair trade, microfinance, and the environment.  To learn more about the beneficiary organizations, check out the interactive map on Calvert Foundation’s website.

RSF Social Finance offers individual investment opportunities through its Social Investment Fund, which supports innovative social enterprises in Food and Agriculture, Education and the Arts, and Ecological Stewardship. They even have a nifty chart that tracks the performance of their Social Investment Fund against the S&P 500 over the last 10 years.

Socially Responsible Mutual Funds - There are many mutual fund options that have to meet various screening requirements based on environmental, social, and governance factors.  Some examples of organizations that provide socially responsible mutual fund options are listed below.  These funds range in philosophy from those that screen out certain public equities (tobacco, weapons manufacturing, alcohol, etc) to those that invest directly in companies that are providing solutions to pressing social and environmental problems.

 

The Forum for Responsible and Sustainable Investment includes many handy resources for learning more about Socially Responsible Mutual Funds, including a performance chart, among other things.

 


Institutional Resources:

Colombia University’s RISE program developed a comprehensive database of institutional investors by industry here.  ImpactBase has another comprehensive searchable, online database of impact investment funds and products designed for investors.

The Social Investment Forum’s Institutional Primer for Overcoming Barriers to Community Investment includes an examination of impact investing opportunities across asset classes from fixed income to private equity and venture capital.  Increasingly, notable private foundations are exploring opportunities to have a greater impact with their assets. Program Related Investments or PRIs allow foundations to expand their impact beyond traditional grant activity.

A short, and by no means exhaustive, list of organizations that are taking a direct approach to financing the impact economy is below. All of these institutions work with institutional investors in various capacities, some serving as asset managers, and others offering direct investment opportunities for institutional investors.

Their websites include further resources to learn more about specific approaches to tackling poverty and environmental sustainability through investment.

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