Investing for Social Impact >>

Positive Social Investing: Transforming an Urban Core One Block at a Time

Nov. 2015

Investments aren’t charity; they’re designed to make money for investors. But a popular form of investing called social impact first (SIF) aims not only to deliver financial return, but also to support companies that have the goal of changing communities for the better. How? By tracking the measurable difference those investments are making in the world.

Portico Benefit Services selected IFF, a community development financial institution (CDFI), as its first SIF investment in Nov. 2015. CDFIs are dedicated to offering financial services for non-profits and small businesses that create opportunities for people who need them most. IFF serves low-income and special need communities in the Midwest.

"Portico chose to invest in IFF because creating measureable social impact is part of IFF's mission and DNA," said Kurt Kreienbrink, Portico's manager for socially responsible investing and investor advocacy. "Any organization it lends to is required to demonstrate in advance the level of social impact it intends to create."

IFF’s Revitalization Efforts

As a mission-driven lender, real estate consultant, and developer, IFF-funded projects have included a family health center for low-income and underinsured patients in Chicago, affordable housing for senior citizens and disabled residents in Milwaukee, and a grocery store focusing on affordable ethnic and international foods in a diverse neighborhood in Des Moines. Since 1990, IFF has financed more than $500 million in loans for projects in nine states.

As an example, Walker’s Point is an IFF-supported redevelopment in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Milwaukee, WI. A former manufacturing hub in the heart of the city, Walker’s Point deteriorated rapidly after its industrial sites closed down, leaving blocks littered with abandoned buildings. In the last decade, however, visionary developers intent on revitalizing the city’s core have brought new energy and services to the area. IFF has contributed to this revitalization by providing more than $7 million in loans to six non-profits with missions that benefit the residents of the Walker’s Point neighborhood. Thanks to IFF loans, the historic landscape now boasts a holistic health facility serving low-income and Latino residents, a charter high-school, an arts center that includes space for an after-school arts program for children, and a gallery for showcasing local artists.

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