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Foundations join forces to launch Chicago social investment tool
From a press release
2016-04-29

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The Chicago Community Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Calvert Foundation announced a new collaboration, called Benefit Chicago, that gives investors who care about Chicago a powerful new way to invest for impact and make the region a better place for all.

The alliance aims to make $100 million available for "impact" investments for nonprofits and social enterprises in Chicago.

Journalist Laura Washington moderated a panel discussion April 25 at the Chicago Cultural Center with Julia Stasch, president, MacArthur Foundation; Terry Mazany, president and CEO, The Chicago Community Trust; Jennifer Pryce, president and CEO Calvert Foundation; Joel Neri of IFF; Shannon Stewart of Inspiration Corporation; and Joel Moore of Merrill Lynch.

Benefit Chicago will make low-interest loans and other investments to accelerate the efforts of local social sector organizations working to address key priorities throughout the Chicago region, such as education and child care, access to healthy food, quality affordable housing, energy conservation, job creation and training and more.

Benefit Chicago draws on the complementary experience and capabilities of a private foundation, a community foundation managing substantial donor-advised fund assets, and a nonprofit financial institution.

"Our goal is to provide a simple yet powerful way for everyone to make investments which, ultimately, benefit the dynamic, diverse city we love—making it a better place for all," said Stasch. "We view this as an idea with universal appeal. MacArthur looks forward to sharing Benefit Chicago's fresh approach with those who may want to replicate it elsewhere, and to applying it in other ways so that the social sector benefits more fully from rising interest in impact investing around the world."

A new report summarizing research commissioned by MacArthur and The Chicago Community Trust, finds a significant unmet need for financial capital throughout Chicago's social sector. This need totals more than $100 million and could rise to as much as $400 million over the next five years, with the caveat that determining when specific organizations are investment-ready always requires rigorous vetting.

At the same time, this research reveals an increasing number of individuals and institutions looking for simpler ways to make local investments that have potential to deliver meaningful social, economic and environmental impact.

Benefit Chicago bridges the gap between these two sides of the region's nascent impact investment marketplace, unlocking new financial resources for organizations whose work benefits the communities and people that need them most.

Benefit Chicago is designed to allow everyone—individuals, businesses, and institutions—to help make a positive impact in their home community.

Investors who wish to participate in Benefit Chicago can purchase Chicago-targeted Community Investment Notes. Calvert Foundation has committed to issue up to $50 million of these fixed-income securities, which offer principal maturities ranging from one to 15 years, with interest payable annually.

The Notes are available directly through Calvert Foundation, through more than 100 brokerage firms nationwide, and as a standing option for eligible donor advised funds at The Chicago Community Trust. The Trust has committed to invest $15 million in a 15-year Chicago-targeted Note, using a portion of donor-advised funds that it manages.

"As The Chicago Community Trust enters its second century of work, we are thrilled to introduce Benefit Chicago to our donors, providing them with a straightforward yet transformational way to invest for impact in tandem with their traditional grant-making and philanthropy," said Mazany.

Calvert Foundation will loan all proceeds of its Chicago-targeted Notes to a new charitable fund that MacArthur has established specifically to advance the mission of Benefit Chicago. The MacArthur Foundation is investing $50 million of its own assets in this new special-purpose fund, which will use the combined pool of capital to make patient, low-cost loans and other investments that boost the impact of Chicago's social sector.

To catalyze Benefit Chicago's scale-up and future success, eligible donor-advised fund account holders at The Chicago Community Trust are pre-approved to allocate additional fund assets for investment in Chicago-targeted Notes. The Trust also will chair a Community Advisory Committee to help inform investment and other activities related to Benefit Chicago.

"Calvert Foundation has been connecting investors to the causes and places they care about since 1995. We're pleased to collaborate in this new way with such deeply-rooted and committed philanthropies by offering a Chicago-targeted impact investment option," said Pryce of Calvert.

Individuals or institutions interested in purchasing a Chicago-targeted Note should visit benefitCHI.org . Applications for financing that will be available in connection with Benefit Chicago will be considered on an ongoing basis beginning in July. To learn about basic eligibility and sign up for informational updates and webinars, visit benefitCHI.org to learn about different investment options.


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