- Investor Engagement
- Community Engagement
Key staff: Wealth team, Marketing
Investor engagement is important for encouraging existing investors to renew their investments. It is also important for attracting new investors to the product. Investor engagement requires a deeper set of activities than the marketing strategy; investor engagement requires building trust and reputation with investors.
Engagement for a retail impact investment product also requires greater effort than engagement for a conventional product. In particular, staff will need to communicate with investors about the social impact, as well as the financial performance. To effectively communicate social impact with investors it will be important to translate the financial and social performance measures into a format that is easily understood by investors, and that can be reported in a consistent manner over time.
One way to achieve this is through the use of narratives. Constructing narratives to communicate impact with investors was identified as a consistent theme across all products that are profiled in this guidebook. Stories about the investee organizations, projects and the individuals that benefit from these investments help to connect the investor with the impact of their investment.
With some impact investments, investors can be invited to become directly engaged with the underlying social enterprise. This might include shopping at a retail outlet or becoming a member of a social enterprise financed by the investment. For example, investors in the CSI Community Bond receive a complimentary CSI Community Membership.
It will important to ensure that investor engagement is informed by the member segments that were identified in the marketing strategy. For example, some investors may be more interested in financial performance than others, and as such, the credit union’s engagement strategy should be flexible. This might require dedicated staff to respond to individual investors’ questions, and targeted engagement strategies for different investor segments.
Table 5.2 provides an overview of engagement strategies we have seen deployed by other retail impact investment issuers.
|Engagement Strategy||Key Components||Organizations Employing this Strategy|
|Investor Website||A private website for investors to receive up to date information on the financial and impact performance of their investments. These sites can mirror the look/feel of conventional products, or be customized to reflect the unique information for the impact product, especially around impact reporting.||Vancity, Calvert Foundation, Affinity Credit Union, Solarshare; RSF Social Finance|
|Quarterly Newsletters||Newsletters that provide investors with information on the investments’ social impact, and opportunities to engage with investees and community partners. Newsletters generally have presented the impact through anecdotes and vivid storytelling, and supplemented by some quantitative metrics if available.||CSI, RSF Social Finance|
|In-Person Meetings||Structured meetings with investors conducted on a regular basis that provide a personal connection to the product, and its financial and impact performance.||Jubilee Fund/ ACU, RSF Social Finance|
|Investor Gatherings||Meetings that bring together investors in the retail impact investment product. Meetings can have varying agendas and can be a forum for open discussion or can be more structured, such as discussing emerging issues related to the target sector(s) for the product.||RSF Social Finance|
BOX 5.12: Community Bond investor engagement
In 2015, The Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), a non-profit organization based in Toronto, Ontario, issued its second round of retail community bonds to purchase a second co-working space in downtown Toronto. During and after the initial round of bond issuances, CSI set up a community bonds website and a community bond-specific email account. Through the website, current and potential investors were able to learn about the activities and impact of CSI. CSI’s specific community bond email address serves as a medium for investors to reach staff with inquiries and to provide feedback.
Key staff: Community Engagement and Marketing
Community engagement is necessary to collect feedback from community partners and investees to understand how the retail product is meeting their needs. Community engagement can also be used to validate impact reporting and to identify new potential community partners and investees. The form of community engagement will depend on the credit union’s goals, the scope of its retail impact investment product (i.e., the investees) and the structure of the credit union’s community relationships. Similar to the investor assessment, feedback can be collected in-person through a structured conversation or online through a designated web portal or email. Drawing on the experience of the six cases profiled in this guidebook, we identified four different approaches to community engagement:
- Targeted Community Engagement: CSI’s community engagement is targeted at the organization’s own members. Given the structure of the retail impact investment product, which was used to finance the purchase of a building to be used by CSI members, this form of targeted engagement was most relevant to CSI.
- Relationship Managers: RSF Social Finance relationship managers identify loan opportunities, and strengthen relationships with current and prospective borrowers. Each manager focuses on a specific area and builds subject-matter expertise that supports the evaluation of new loans and projects.
- Broader Community Engagement: The Jubilee Fund provides financing for social impact organization. Key strategies for engaging with the community include participation in community meetings, extensive brand promotion to individuals and organizations and the development of partnerships and strategies with other key community funders, including foundations, government programs and grants providers.
- Building a movement: The Oikocredit Canada Central support association invites all investors in the Oikocredit Global Impact GIC to become a member of the association and to support its work. This encourages investors to think of themselves as members of a movement, not just passive investors in a financial product.
Key staff: Senior Management
Credit unions should integrate the financial results and impact of the product into their reporting. Reporting is a core component of internal management and accountability. Reporting will allow the credit union to reflect on and to improve its product development. Reporting will also allow credit union staff to make the case for greater investment in developing the product, or in developing new retail impact investment products. Reporting on the product also provides an opportunity to demonstrate the credit union’s leadership and commitment to impact investing to its external stakeholders. It is important to recognize that this type of reporting is about more than marketing; it is also way to build trust and loyalty among existing members and new members.
There are a number of reporting platforms where credit unions should consider reporting about the retail impact product, including:
- The corporate social responsibility section of the credit union’s annual report;
- The credit union’s sustainability report, if separate from the annual report; and,
- External reporting initiatives to which the credit union belongs, such as the Global Alliance for Banking on Values or the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment.
Ideally, credit unions will be able to integrate their reporting at multiple levels, in order to prove that they have achieved a level of financial and social performance, but also to use this data to improve strategic and operational decisions. The table below from TriLinc Global describes how they combine a series of measurement approaches and tools to systematically track, analyze and report on their impact.
TriLinc Impact Measurement Engine (TIME)
Source: Nelund and Trant. Creating and Distributing Impact Products for Retail Investors.