JFOrganization (Credit Union) Description: Assiniboine Credit Union (ACU) is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. ACU has 21 branches in Winnipeg and Northern Manitoba. As of 2016, the credit union has $4.1 billion in assets under administration, over 480 employees, and approximately 113,000 members.

Organization (Partner) Description: The Jubilee Fund is an ethical investment fund based in Manitoba. The fund provides short-term loans to non-profit organizations, cooperatives, and social enterprises for community-based projects that aim to address community needs and priorities.

Structure: The JIC is a fixed-term deposit product that is processed (set up, statements, renewals, etc.) by ACU under the partnership agreement with the Jubilee Fund. The certificate provides investors with a return on investment that is slightly below the market return on a conventional GIC. The certificates are not guaranteed, meaning that investors are at risk of loss on the principal and interest. The Jubilee Fund has a loan loss reserve in accordance with its by-laws, which provides a layer of protection to investors against losses. The reserve is adjusted to reflect the total outstanding loan guarantees in the portfolio. The JIC is used to secure loans provided by ACU to social sector enterprises and individuals that do not meet the conventional security or equity requirements and that meet the Jubilee Fund’s impact investment criteria. By combining this higher-risk from the Jubilee Fund with conventional lending from ACU, the certificates are able to meet the needs of communities.

Target Demographic: The JIC is targeted at investors that are specifically interested in local, ethical, and socially responsible investment. As there is no guarantee on the investment and as interest on the certificate is lower than conventional GICs, the certificate tends to attract investors that are motivated by social impact and the desire to make a difference.

Impact Focus: JICs are used to provide loan guarantees or bridge financing for CED projects that would not be eligible for loans from traditional financial institutions for reasons such as shortage of collateral to secure financing, mismatches in repayment periods, or deal sizes that do not meet minimum requirements. ACU conducts the financial assessment and due diligence. The Jubilee Fund is responsible for assessing the social impact against its own criteria. The Jubilee Fund targets three thematic areas:

  • Affordable Housing: The Jubilee Fund works with local organizations and housing cooperatives to provide loans and bridge financing for renovations, in-fill housing, or new housing units in low-income neighbourhoods. The housing is targeted at low-income families and individuals, students, housing cooperatives, and special needs groups.
  • Small Business: The Jubilee Fund provides loan guarantees that enable small business owners, low-income and worker cooperatives, and other community-based enterprises to access other funding to start or expand a business.
  • Community Projects: This type of investment enables individuals to create employment opportunities through providing services to working families in the community. The Jubilee Fund supports the development and expansion of non-profit daycare operations, employment training, and recreation programs in the community.

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

The development of the JIC is interwoven with the creation of the Jubilee Fund itself. The product development process contains information pertaining to the creation of the product and the Fund, as detailed below.

Planning

In 1998, a national coalition of churches organized a cross- country series of events to enhance the economic literacy of social justice advocates. Each event included some national trainers and one local trainer. The local trainer in Winnipeg was Garry Loewen, who at that time was employed by the Mennonite Central Committee. The event inspired some of the forty Winnipeg participants to organize an ethical investment fund to advance the cause of social justice across the province.

“There is a substantial community of people who have a passion for economic justice, based on their faith and principles, and are a good fit for a fund like this.” – Garry Loewen, CED consultant

A task group was formed to create the Jubilee Fund. The Mennonite Central Committee and one of the Catholic orders agreed to capitalize the fund by each donating $100,000. As the group began its work, it became apparent that it would benefit by partnering with a financial institution with the expertise and infrastructure to develop and manage such a fund. The natural choice was ACU who had established a reputation as a financial institution eager to use its resources to promote social and economic justice. ACU agreed to become a part of the initiative and assigned its CED Manager as its representative. The Jubilee Fund’s supporters, who at the time were mainly religious investors from churches, were interested in investing their money in ways that could reflect their values.

Product Design

A total of twenty-two meetings took place over two and a half years in the establishment of the Jubilee Fund. During that time, a group of volunteers worked to develop a set of by-laws, obtain charitable status, and went out in the community to encourage more faith groups to join. Their first annual meeting was held on March 23, 2000. By December 2000, the Fund had investments totaling $345,500 and raised $56,004 in donations.

Pre-Launch

With approvals in place, ACU’s board worked with volunteers and staff from the Jubilee Fund to create the Jubilee Fund’s Investment Certificate. Although the process below is presented sequentially, some activities were conducted in parallel.

  1. Establishing Organizational By-laws: The committee and volunteers jointly created organizational by-laws, policies, and procedures. The governance standards created by the Jubilee Fund were key to building the credibility and professionalism needed to obtain their charitable status and establish a formal partnership with ACU.
  1. Defining a Clear Mandate: Along with the by-laws, the Jubilee Fund had to have a clear mandate. The organization decided to focus on providing financing to CED and social impact organizations that were not able to access traditional financing. This helped to clarify the use of proceeds for JICs to provide capital for affordable housing and community projects, and to facilitate loan guarantees for small businesses.
  1. Applying to Revenue Canada for Charitable Status: This was important to allow for charitable receipts. It was also felt that it would assist with obtaining RRSP eligibility.
  1. Approval: Meetings were held with the Manitoba Securities Commission to receive approval for the sale of JICs.
  1. Review Staff Requirements: The committee members realized that they would need a staff member to assist with the sale of investments, soliciting of donations, and reviewing of requests for funding that were starting to arrive.
  1. Seeking RRSP Eligibility: Numerous meetings were held with federal and provincial government members in the efforts to obtain RRSP eligibility. The Social Investment Organization (now the Responsible Investment Association) assisted in writing letters to the federal government and in discussions with the federal finance minister. However, the JIC did not become registered as an investment product eligible for RRSPs.

Launch

The JIC officially launched in January 6, 2000. Their first annual meeting was held on March 23, 2000. Their first staff was hired in May, 2000. The organization sold its first certificates to members of the religious investor community. That the certificate is still available in 2016 demonstrates a long track record of success. Most investors that purchase the certificate continue to represent the faith-based community. As Rita Borthwick, Fund Development Manager for the Jubilee Fund notes, “Most investors purchase a Jubilee Investment Certificate because their investment, no matter how large or small the amount is, will make a difference in the community. They want to help their fellow citizens. They are not concerned about what sort of money they will make; in fact, nearly 10% donate the full interest back to the Fund.”

The organization or CED project that is seeking financing approaches ACU or the Jubilee Fund directly. A meeting is then established with ACU’s account manager to understand the financing needs. ACU conducts the due diligence necessary to assess the viability of the deal (loan or bridge financing). If the deal is considered viable from a financial perspective, ACU submits an internal application to the Jubilee Fund. If a need for additional financial security is identified, ACU approaches the Jubilee Fund with a proposal for a loan guarantee. The Jubilee Fund finance committee and board make the final decision.

Post-Launch

Since the launch of the JIC in 2000, both the Jubilee Fund and ACU have made considerable changes to their roles in both the sales and deployment process. Post-launch activities that have enabled the organization to further fulfill its mission are described below.

Increasing Marketing and Sales

In 2003, the Jubilee Fund hired a full-time fund development manager to increase the promotion of the investment certificate. The fund development manager has invested her time in creating and maintaining positive relationships in the community, including attending community and religious gatherings, in order to raise awareness of the JIC among prospective investors. It has been clear that personal interactions, particularly with faith-based community organizations, were key to translate investor interest into action. Over time, ACU has become more involved in the marketing of the JIC. ACU features the JIC on its website and other promotional materials. ACU staff has also internally advocated the JIC, informing and educating financial advisors on the product as a potential investment solution for individuals interested in investing in line with their values.

Impact Measurement and Communication

Throughout the course of their investment, investors receive regular updates from the Jubilee Fund on the impact of their funds. Impact is communicated through a mailed newsletter (digital and print) and through the Jubilee Fund website. The Jubilee Fund employs storytelling and testimonials in their marketing and investor relations materials, which are gathered through the Fund’s community outreach manager who maintains a close relationship with all borrowers.

Renewals

The Jubilee Fund development manager sends letters to investors with requests for renewal or with a request to increase investment. This is followed up with a phone call or in-person meeting. Investors in the JICs tend to be older, which can present a challenge for renewals because older investors often require funds for their own retirement.

Community Engagement and Awareness

In 2012, the Jubilee Fund hired a community outreach manager to raise awareness among and increase engagement with prospective community organizations. The community outreach manager attends non-profit board meetings, local community town halls, municipal discussions on CED, and other community meetings to build the profile of the Jubilee Fund and develop a pipeline of potential investment opportunities.

“We talk about the things that we have done, how we have created employment opportunities for people that do not have work, how we’ve helped newcomers to Canada by supporting programming for them, how we’ve helped low-income people with support such as daycares. Having examples of the work that we have achieved makes a difference when we are talking to investors about the certificates.” – Rita Borthwick, Fund Development Manager, Jubilee Fund

THE MECHANICS

Step 1: Any investor interested in the JIC must make a minimum $1,000 investment into the financial product.

Step 2: Money from deposits is pooled internally within the Jubilee Fund to be used as loan guarantees for social impact organizations in need of bridge financing for CED projects that would not be eligible for loans from traditional financial institutions.

Step 3: Social impact organizations that are unable to obtain traditional financing from other financial institutions approach ACU or the Jubilee Fund for financing. ACU account managers assess the loan application as they would any other loan application.

Step 4: The Jubilee Fund community outreach manager assesses whether the proposal meets social impact criteria. If the Jubilee Fund’s finance committee approves the proposal, it is brought back to ACU for administration.

Step 5: The investee pays back the loan, and, if necessary, the loan guarantee is called upon to fulfill any shortfalls.

Step 6: Interest is paid out to investors from the Jubilee Fund on a compound annual basis.

Key Success Factors

Communication: The Jubilee Fund’s relationship with ACU is based on a foundation of consistent and clear communication. The Fund’s community outreach manager communicates with ACU regularly on issues ranging from current loans, upcoming projects, and investee challenges in meeting payments. In addition, on a quarterly basis, the director of ACU’s Community Financial Centre attends the Fund’s board of directors meeting together with the Fund’s community outreach manager. The meeting provides opportunities for both parties to discuss anticipated challenges with investees and to reflect on future strategic challenges and opportunities.

Lending Expertise of ACU: The partnership with ACU has been the key to success. ACU brings lending expertise and due diligence to loan applications. ACU has a solid understanding of the challenges that face non-profits and CED project funding, which has contributed to good lending decisions. The Jubilee Fund contribution is in the form of risk management and maintaining close contact with the projects. Issues that may affect loan repayment are identified early, thereby providing ACU with the opportunity to formulate a timely response.

Brand Awareness: Over the course of its 16-year history, the Jubilee Fund has established strong brand equity within the community. The Jubilee Fund is able to confidently assert that “no investor has ever lost a cent in the 16 years of the fund.”

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