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By CDFIs

Searchable List of Every CDFI

Below you’ll find an easy-to-manipulate table of all certified Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) in the United States.

You can filter by CDFI name, state, city, certification date and institution type. In the table you’ll also find a link to the organization’s website if you’d like to conduct additional research or follow up directly.

If you’d prefer to access this interactive table directly, rather than through the embedded table below, you can view the interactive CDFI list here.

This data comes directly from the CDFI Fund, an agency within the U.S. Department of Treasury that is responsible for the CDFI certification process. You can access the source data from the CDFI Fund by visiting this page and clicking the link “View the list of certified CDFIs.”

CNote is a financial platform focused on making CDFI investing accessible to everyone.. We created this list to increase visibility into the growing network of CDFIs and allow users to quickly find CDFIs in a specific locality. This list should be helpful for those looking to work with or support a local CDFI.

For those interested in learning more about CDFIs, CNote has produced an article outlining the history of CDFIs and the work that they do.

By CNote

CNote hires Danielle Burns to Head Business Development

We’re excited to announce a new member of CNote’s core leadership team, Danielle Burns.

OAKLAND, California, July 11, 2019 — CNote has hired experienced Business Development professional, Danielle Burns, to help scale its advisory and institutional sales channels. Prior to CNote, Danielle served as the VP Sales & Marketing for First Affirmative Financial Network. There, she contributed to the growth of the firm’s core advisory business, growing assets to over $1B during her tenure. Danielle brings proven thought leadership in values-aligned investing, having spoken at industry events and educating advisors on how to navigate the Sustainable, Responsible, Impact (SRI) investing and ESG landscape.

“Danielle is incredibly well respected and admired in the SRI industry and we are thrilled to welcome her as a core member of our leadership team,” stated CNote CEO, Catherine Berman. “Danielle has a history of delivering exceptional results for the organizations she supports. Not only is she a proven financial professional, she also has a deep commitment to values-aligned investing and CNote’s mission of financial inclusion.” 

Danielle began her financial services career in 1994 at Wachovia Corporation where she worked for both Wachovia Bank and Wachovia Securities performing a variety of management duties over her nine-year tenure there. Prior to joining First Affirmative, she worked for a premier community bank in Clearwater, FL where she provided marketing, sales, and service support. At First Affirmative, Danielle lead sales and marketing efforts for over six years. Over her tenure, First Affirmative grew to be the largest SRI-focused advisor network. 

Danielle serves on the board of Green America: A not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to harness economic power to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. Additionally, she serves on the Advisory Board for both the SRI Conference and the Investment News Impact Forum. She also helped develop Think Big Productions, Inc., a non-profit youth services organization that cultures young artistic talent in Clearwater, Florida. 

“I’m excited to embrace a new and exciting challenge, helping to scale a high-growth financial technology company that is motivated not just by profits but by building a more inclusive economy as well,” Danielle remarked. 

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Danielle has a passion for the culinary arts. She has an undergraduate degree in Business and an MBA with an emphasis in Marketing. She lives in Noblesville, Indiana with her husband and son.

About CNote

CNote is an award-winning, first-of-its-kind financial platform that allows anyone to make money investing in causes and communities they care about. With the mission of closing the wealth gap, CNote directs every dollar invested toward funding female- and minority-led small businesses, affordable housing and economic development through its nationwide network of CDFI community lenders.

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Links to the press release:

PRnewswire

By Borrower Stories

Meet Donica Johns, Inventive Mother and Entrepreneur

Donica Johns, a New Orleands native, has fond memories of going to Belladonna Day Spa with her mother when she was younger. Looking back, she never thought she would go on to create a line of skincare products let alone create a line of skincare products that would be sold on Belladonna’s shelves, but today, that’s Johns’ reality.

Finding a Solution

When her youngest son began to struggle with severe eczema in 2013, Johns was told by physicians that he’d need regular steroid shots to keep his breakouts in check. She wasn’t opposed to the treatments, but she was concerned about the potential long-term effects of the injections. The concerned mother wanted something safe, natural, and sustainable for her baby.

Johns poured herself into researching natural skin products, and she began experimenting with mixing her own natural butters and oils to alleviate her son’s eczema. It took her about a year before she found the right formula that worked best for him. “I didn’t go to school to be an esthetician,” Johns said, “but I read a lot of books. I couldn’t cure my son’s eczema, but his breakouts are far and few between, and he’s not missing out on school.”

Friends, family members, and even her son’s doctor took note. “The doctor said keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s really working,” Johns said. A friend suggested that she sell her small farm-sourced, organic concoctions on Etsy, and in 2014, Johns launched her first online marketplace. By the beginning of 2015, she had her own website and her own skincare line of about six or seven products, from the original cream that she developed for her son to a beard oil she created for her husband.

Natural Mixologist was not just up and running: it was taking off. Although Johns began fielding inquiries and taking orders from as far away as Europe, her skincare line remained “a side hustle.” She was still working full time as a bartender. “I had people wanting my products in their stores, and for the first time I said, ‘well, maybe this is something really real,’” Johns said. In 2016, the concerned-mother-turned-entrepreneur quit mixing cocktails and threw herself into Natural Mixologist, turning her side hustle into her main hustle.

The Missing Ingredient

Her business’ rapid growth came with a host of challenges. Johns’ biggest issue? She couldn’t figure out the branding she wanted for Natural Mixologist. That’s when she connected with TruFund, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that invests in small businesses in New York, Alabama, and Louisiana. CNote partners with CDFIs like TruFund in communities across the country, funding loans to small businesses and empowering local entrepreneurs like Johns.

TruFund provided the resources for Johns to be able to hire a branding and marketing specialist who had previously worked for Sephora, one of the beauty and skincare industry’s most recognizable companies. “I showed her my branding, and she was like, ‘you’re basically a five out of ten,’” Johns recalled. “I was floored. I bawled out in tears.”

However, there was a silver lining to Johns’ feeling of devastation: the chance to zero in on her target customer. “She was really able to guide me,” Johns said. “Hiring her really did help me focus on what I needed to do to change my business and to make it to where it could be viable. She helped me to get to the point where I could stand on my own two feet. That was really important.”

TruFund also assisted Johns in redoing Natural Mixologist’s website, which, according to Johns, was “all over the place.” She participated in TruFund’s Women In Business:  An EmpowHERment Program which provides innovative financial solutions, hands-on education and business advisory services to small businesses like Natural Mixologist.  Six months after participating in the program, Johns had a more polished, cleaned-up brand. It’s that same website that Johns says is helping to drive her business’ growth and visibility: she recently acquired an account to do private labeling for a California-based company solely based on her website’s design.

“The assistance TruFund gave me helped me to realize the things I was doing wrong with my branding,” Johns said. “I was trying to do too much, and I didn’t know my customer base and I hadn’t figured out what I wanted my brand to stand for. When you’re an entrepreneur, you feel very isolated, and that no one is guiding you. You’re just doing it all by yourself, and you’re not hearing from professionals about what works and what doesn’t work. You really need that feedback. TruFund helped me to get that feedback and to focus.”

Growing Her Business, Growing Her Community

Today, thanks to TruFund’s support, Johns knows her target audience: individuals who are trying to live a healthier lifestyle for themselves and their families. Her new-found, laser-like focus has allowed her to market more effectively, and Natural Mixologist’s products are now in more than a half dozen stores around New Orleans. Interestingly, it was through discovering her target audience that Johns set a benchmark for herself — getting her products into Belladonna, the same local spa she visited growing up.

“It’s one of the best spas in the country,” Johns said. “When they accepted my products into their store, it was the most exciting day for me and my business. Entrepreneurs should have a benchmark of what they think success is. This was my benchmark. When they accepted my products, I felt like I made it. It gave me this confidence to reach out to other companies. It’s been amazing, because I’m getting the acceptance I never thought I’d be able to receive.”

Setting Even More Ambitious Goals

Johns is still riding that confidence well into 2019. Natural Mixologist will have a presence in the new Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport when the terminal opens this fall, and Johns has her sights set on finding a larger production facility, hiring more employees and getting her products into Sephora or Art of Beauty, national beauty chains with access to even bigger markets. “That’s my next really big benchmark,” Johns said. “I feel like because I got into Belladonna, I can get in anywhere.”

Regardless of how big Natural Mixologist grows, Johns will forever remain in New Orleans, even as she hustles to fill wholesale orders and keep up with demand. Her main storefront is near the Marigny district, right off of Saint Claude, in a very old neighborhood that’s going through a transition.

“I purposely chose this neighborhood because of that transition,” Johns said. “I want to help my community grow, and I want to do that by growing my business and by creating economic opportunity for others. We’re trying to change people’s ideas that they can build economic wealth, and that this community can sustain a business.”

Learn More

  • Natural Mixologist
  • TruFund – is a 501 (c) 3 certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) headquartered in New York City with field offices in Alabama and Louisiana. TruFund tailors its financial and technical assistance to the unique needs of each site—from contractor mobilization lending in New York and Louisiana to rural Black Belt initiatives in Alabama.
  • CNote – Interested in helping create another story like Donica’s? CNote makes it easy to invest in great CDFIs like TruFund, helping you earn more while having a positive impact on businesses and communities across America.
By Borrower Stories

Meet Clara Richardson-Olguin, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist and Flooring Enthusiast

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Clara Olguin was passionate about many things: music, dance, theatre, and justice. She even has a law degree from the Dominican Republic and a bachelor in Music Management/Voice from Georgia State. However, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that she became passionate about floors. And not just dance floors.Clara in front of CIC Floors storefront

While Clara was out promoting her annual music show Vivelo! (Live it!), Olguin met her future husband, Cesar, who worked in the flooring installation industry. “You dance salsa on good floors,” Olguin laughed. A year later, the two wed, and as the couple started to grow their family, they simultaneously decided to grow their family business, CIC Floors, which Cesar had founded in 2003.

Clara and Cesar

The Path To Growth

Five years ago, after years of primarily doing installation work, Clara and Cesar decided to open a showroom; however, several banks weren’t willing to approve their loan application. That’s when a friend referred the couple to Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), an Atlanta-based Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). CNote partners with CDFIs like ACE in communities across America, funding loans to small businesses and empowering local entrepreneurs like Clara and Cesar.

The Team Behind CIC Floors

ACE helped CIC obtain a small business loan to rent a small space for its showroom, and two years later, CIC received a second loan from ACE that helped triple the company’s revenues.

Although Olguin credits ACE with allowing CIC Floors to open its first showroom and to grow, it didn’t take long for the small business to outgrow the tiny warehouse space. “We were grateful for the opportunity and trust and money ACE gave us,” she said, “but the showroom was packed, and we didn’t have space to receive all of our customers. We had people waiting outside. Once one client would leave, another could come in.”

More so, as the company continued to get bigger and bigger, it also began to expand its offerings, from carpeting to tile to wallpaper. Plus, as the sustainability movement continued to gain momentum, CIC began fielding more requests for eco-friendly products, and more and more designers asked to bring customers into the store for consultations. “The store was just too small,” Olguin said. “We needed a new location.”

Building On Their Vision

Clara and Cesar found a new space on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, in Norcross, Georgia and started developing designs for the new showroom. Once again, ACE stepped in and helped CIC Floors get the funds it needed to take its next step as a small business, and last year, CIC opened its new 6,000-square-foot location as a one-stop wall and flooring destination for customers, designers, architects and builders. In honor of their roots, the couple brought in flamenco dancers into the store to celebrate their grand re-opening.

Olguin says the new showroom is a dream come true. And business is booming. Whereas CIC Floors hit its first million right before opening the new store last year, it’s increased monthly sales from $55,000 to $91,000 since opening the new showroom. According to Olguin, it’s also attracting clients with larger budgets than at their previous store. The increased revenue is allowing Clara and Cesar to expand CIC’s team. The two are looking to add two more employees to their staff of three full-time and two part-time employees, in the near future.

“For me and my husband, creating floors and supporting our clients in their home renovations or building their new home should be a celebration,” Olguin said. “This is the place where you will dance as a couple, where your kids will play, and where your pets will lie down. Floors are the foundation of your home, and they have to be a special place.”

Given Olguin’s celebratory outlook on the products and services CIC provides, it’s not uncommon to see customers, clients and designers walking around the showroom with a glass of wine or a mimosa as they compare tiles, color palettes, and flooring options. “We have a lot to offer,” she said, “and we don’t care as much about the number of sales we get as we do being able to offer one-on-one relationships with customers. The numbers are important to us, but the relationships are more important.”

Help From A Trusted Partner

Olguin’s confidence is rooted in ACE, which provided CIC with access to both a “marketing guru” and a finance expert. ACE also helped CIC acquire multiple business certifications, including Minority Business Enterprise and Women’s Business Enterprise certifications, and the CDFI nominated CIC to be a part of The Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection and later the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, from which Olguin recently graduated.

CIC’s new location

“I cannot say enough about the networking and connections ACE has made for us,” she said. “Because of them, we got into the Goldman Sachs program, and they helped us to further develop our business and to forecast our growth for the next five years. That’s why I feel so confident today. I know where I’m going. I know where we’re heading.”

Next Steps and Giving Back

Clara and Cesar’s long-term goals for CIC Floors are centered around their five-year plan, which includes supporting their clients, offering exclusive product lines, growing the business, and supporting the community. The company already donates a portion of its annual earnings to various causes, including the Jeannette Rankin Foundation, Georgia Goal Scholarship Program, Inc., and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. However, going forward, CIC’s owners want to explore opportunities to support the flooring installation workforce through classes and trainings, especially for non-native English speakers and refugees. “To us, being a part of our community and giving back makes sense to us,” Olguin said. “It’s who we are.”

Learn More

  • CIC Floors
  • Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE) – ACE is an SBA Microloan Intermediary, a USDA Intermediary Relender and a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI).
  • CNote – Interested in helping create another story like Clara and Cesar’s? CNote makes it easy to invest in great CDFIs like ACE, helping you earn more while having a positive impact on businesses and communities across America.
By Equality, Impact Investing

What’s the Big Deal About Inequality And What Role Does the U.S. Federal Reserve Play?

Why Does Inequality Matter?

The phenomenon of increasing wealth inequality has emerged as one of the major socio-political issues of our time. Whether you turn to TV stations, newspapers, or internet blogs to keep up to date with news and current events, there’s a good chance that you have already seen the topic come up with increasing regularity.

Like other hot-button issues in contemporary political dialogue, arguments are raised regarding inequality’s root causes, the most effective policy prescriptions, and even whether it is even a problem in the first place.1 The fact that the wealth gap is indeed widening, however, is one rare point of general agreement, no matter one’s views on those other questions.

Take, for instance, the August 2017 New York Times piece by David Leonhardt titled “Our Broken Economy, in One Simple Chart.” Leonhardt leads with a chart depicting the differences in income growth between 1980 and 2014, broken down by income percentiles. While those in the lower percentiles once saw higher income growth than those in the top, the situation flipped by 2014 in dramatic fashion, resulting in the so-called “hockey stick” curve, where income growth only skyrockets well into the top decile, particularly at the 99th percentile. Additional charts throughout Leonhardt’s piece all indicate a shift in the distribution of income growth over the past several decades, ramping up significantly in the last few years.

Ray Dalio Enters the Fray

While TV pundits and newspaper columnists continued to argue over the seemingly widening inequality, a LinkedIn blog post penned by famed hedge fund manager Ray Dalio surfaced in April of this year and kicked off another explosion of press coverage.2 Dalio, the billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund as measured by discretionary assets under management, uses the blog post to defend his thesis that “capitalism is now not working for the majority of Americans.”    

In the piece, Dalio acknowledges the productive power of capitalism, which he defines loosely as “the ability to make money, save it, and put it into capital.” At the same time, he believes capitalism has produced “self-reinforcing spirals” that in turn have created “widening income/wealth/opportunity gaps that pose existential threats to the United States.” By the end of Part 1, Dalio connects the phenomenon of widening inequality to the civil unrest and increasing ideological polarity that has led to the rise of populist political leaders worldwide as well as in the U.S.

Dalio engages with the ideas in his post from a systems engineering standpoint, placing emphasis on structural features of the economy. To that end, he slices and dices the data to produce graphs and statistics on such topics as income mobility, education, and health. While the structural reforms Dalio proposes are generally quite vague, he does more clearly spell out a series of investments he recommends focusing on. Areas that he believes have “great double bottom line investments for the country” include programs in early childhood education, microfinance, infrastructure, and public health.

Where the Fed Fits In

Although easy to miss amidst the many charts and statistical discussions of poor social outcomes and seldom discussed in mainstream media channels, Dalio regards the Federal Reserve as a key player in his “diagnosis of why capitalism is now not working well for the majority of people.”3 Recognizing that “reality works like a machine with cause/effect relationships,” Dalio states the following, emphasis added):

Central banks’ printing of money and buying of financial assets (which were necessary to deal with the 2008 debt crisis and to stimulate economic growth) drove up the prices of financial assets, which helped make people who own financial assets richer relative to those who don’t own them. When the Federal Reserve (and most other central banks) buys financial assets to put money in the economy in order to stimulate the economy, the sellers of those financial assets (who are rich enough to have financial assets) a) get richer because the financial asset prices rise and b) are more likely to buy financial assets than to buy goods and services, which makes the rich richer and flush with money and credit while the majority of people who are poor don’t get money and credit because they are less creditworthy.

Shortly thereafter, Dalio runs through a causal chain of events that he believes brought the United States economy to this point. Notably, central bank quantitative easing policy is the second entry on the list, preceding the widening inequality gap, rise of global and domestic populism, and social and military conflicts that Dalio fears will result. He largely repeats the same points as the quotation above when he states that the quantitative easing policies pursued by central banks following the debt crisis of 2008 “pushed asset prices up and pushed interest rates down,” which largely served to “benefit those with financial assets (i.e., the haves).”

Inequality and the Federal Reserve

That there is a causal relationship between central bank policy and the price of financial assets, is far from some esoteric economic theory. Even President Trump has implicitly recognized the connection between Federal Reserve policy and US stock market performance in the following tweet4:

In response to the general pressure exerted by the Trump administration, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President Esther George was recently quoted saying, “Lower interest rates might fuel asset bubbles, create financial imbalances, and ultimately a recession.”5 Despite opposing President Trump’s wishes, Ms. George’s quote is perfectly consistent with the implications of his above tweet, as well as with Ray Dalio’s discussion of the consequences of central bank policy following the debt crisis of 2008.

Plenty of others are also taking notice of the apparent relationship between central bank policy and widening inequality. For instance, Twitter user Nid had this to say:6

Albert Gallo, a partner at Algebris Investments, corroborates Dalio’s central bank narrative, brief as it is, and places the brunt of the blame at the feet of central banks. In the April 26 Bloomberg article appropriately titled “Central Banks Have Broken Capitalism,” Gallo draws attention to the fact that central banks have injected “unprecedented amounts of cash into the global financial system” for a decade now, propelling stock market prices to record highs while also driving global debt to “more than three times world gross domestic product.” Meanwhile, sustained ultra-low interest rate policies have led to more leverage and risk in stock markets and increasing inequality by “giving large firms an advantage through cheap funding in bond markets.” In Gallo’s view, the unprecedented actions undertaken by central banks during the financial crisis of 2008 may have cushioned downturns until now, but only but in the process “have turned capitalism into a short-sighted game of kick-the-can.”

Meanwhile, over in the pages of the Economic Equality blog, Karen Petrou notes how prevailing economic orthodoxy assumes that extremely low interest rates promote equality by allowing more people to access debt. However, the ultra-wealthy have access to the best wealth managers and have a much better chance of beating zero or negative market returns. Low and middle-income households face a considerably more difficult situation, as quantitative easing has driven out asset classes that have traditionally provided lower but more stable returns. In addition, the connection between low interest rates and increased lending rates is also empirically dubious, as bank loans are less profitable as interest rates approach zero.7 In short, Fed policy has been great for hedge fund managers like Ray Dalio, but not for low-income households who have been largely frozen out of the loan market.

On Inflation

In his LinkedIn post, Dalio notes that real wages net inflation have not risen since the 1970s, It is curious, however, that he and many media pundits have quoted statistics to that effect without considering the other side of “real” economic variables.8 In short, changes in “real” variables over time can stem from movements in two different metrics, namely the nominal value of the variable in question and the rate of inflation. The stagnation of real wages, then, means that nominal wages have largely kept pace with inflation over the decades under observation.

To illustrate with a very simplified example, imagine that you earn $50,000 per year and the inflation rate during that time is 1%. If your salary remains the same at the start of the next year, your nominal income will still be $50,000, although your real income is now only $49,500. This is because goods and services cost 1% more than they did during the previous year, reducing your purchasing power to only 99% of what you enjoyed the year before. Of course, your salary may also rise to offset the inflation, as would be the case if you now earned $50,500. In this example with a 1% inflation rate and $50,000 base salary, it would take a pay raise greater than $500 per year to see an increase in real income.

Michael Lebowitz draws attention to the pernicious inequality-generating effects of inflation in his article “Two Percent for the One Percent.” Lebowitz draws attention to the disparate effects of the Federal Reserve’s targeted 2% annual inflation on those living paycheck-to-paycheck versus those with a portion of their wealth in financial assets.9 While those who consume most of their income and consequently invest very little struggle to maintain their standard of living, the wealthy are in a much better position to take advantage of investment products that can keep pace with inflation and benefit from financial leveraged that low interest rates make more accessible. Lebowitz concludes by pointing out how steady inflation “drives a negative feedback loop,” as those who suffer most under the inflation face an incentive to consume more in the present in expectation of future inflation.

The Cantillon Effect

Inflation can thus be considered a “silent tax” that decreases the purchasing power of wealth held in cash.10 Meanwhile, there is an additional aspect of inflation that further benefits the well-connected while leaving lower-income households to deal with the adverse consequences. To use economics jargon, money is not truly “neutral,” meaning that new injections of money into the economy do not lead to higher prices all at once. Instead, different sectors of the economy adjust to the increased money supply at different times.

This piece published by the Foundation for Economic Education explains the mechanisms of what is now referred to as the “Cantillon Effect,” named after 18th-century French economist Richard Cantillon. Cantillon posited that those who first receive newly created money can enjoy purchasing goods and services at old prices before adjustment has taken place resulting from the increase in the money supply. Instead, prices adjust gradually as the new money filters throughout the economy. In the end, those who are furthest removed from the source of the money creation are most negatively impacted by inflation, as they faced higher prices before a commensurate rise in nominal money.

So what does this mean in our economy today?

When the Federal Reserve announces any form of quantitative easing, investors expect prices to rise and seek to enter financial markets, bidding up the prices of these financial assets. Companies and individuals already holding financial assets enjoy this windfall and can in turn invest and consume at old prices using the new profits. Gradually, the new money travels through the economy, bidding up the costs of resources until prices have adjusted to the new supply of money. Wage earners face higher living costs before their incomes can rise commensurately and must demand raises over time to maintain their old purchasing power. While inflation does not affect real economic factors, in the long run, it does affect how resource prices adjust in the short run and serves to aggravate the phenomenon of widening wealth inequality.

Final Thoughts

As Ray Dalio warns in his LinkedIn post, a failure to understand why income inequality is becoming more extreme and how to change the situation could result in “a great conflict and some form of revolution that will hurt most everyone and shrink the pie.” Yet, it is still rare to hear mention of how central bank policies benefit the wealthy and well-connected while comparatively damaging the purchasing power of low-wage workers and households that rely upon savings rather than financial markets.

At CNote, we are committed to growing the pie of wealth by providing those otherwise excluded from the banking system the access to capital they need to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams and build businesses that increase prosperity for all. By investing with CNote, you can earn an annual return of 2.75%, more than keeping pace with the Federal Reserve’s stated inflation target, while making a real impact in the lives of many in underserved communities.

We hope you will consider joining us in our mission to give those struggling in our economy the tools they need to build a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities. Changing macroeconomic policy may seem too daunting, but that doesn’t mean we cannot drive change at a micro level.

By Borrower Stories

Meet Dr. Jeremy Busch, Navy Veteran, Podiatrist, and CDC Loan Recipient

Growing up, Jeremy Busch never thought about becoming a podiatrist. According to him, it was the last thing on his list. The sight of blood — in real life, in movies, or on television — made him squeamish, and besides, his passion was engineering, not healthcare.

Then September 11th happened.

In 2001, Busch was a cadet at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, just across the Long Island Sound from Ground Zero. The campus quickly became an aid station, and facilities were used to both help victims and store bodies. Lacking any kind of medical training, Busch felt helpless. As some of his peers sailed towards the fallen buildings, Busch stayed behind to set up cots and to prepare food at the academy. “I felt like there was more I could be doing to help people,” Busch said.

“I felt like there was more I could be doing to help people.”

Busch changed career paths. He signed up for an EMT course and began volunteering at a local hospital. It was too late for him to switch majors, but while he was completing his engineering coursework, he enrolled in pre-med classes. In 2005, when he graduated from the academy, he was accepted into a condensed post-baccalaureate program for medical prerequisites at the University of Pennsylvania, and in 2008, he matriculated at The Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.

While he was pursuing his medical degree, Busch remained in the Individual Ready Reserves, having already spent time as a midshipman supporting the war effort in both Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. After eight years of service with the U.S. Navy, he received an honorable discharge as a lieutenant. Even though the veteran didn’t initially know where he wanted to go in the medical field, Busch knew he wanted to have his own practice. “I had no interest in working for a hospital,” he said, “and I didn’t have any interest in working for another doctor except for obtaining the knowledge that I would need to utilize in order to start my own practice.”

In 2012, Busch became a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine and moved to Long Beach, California for his residency requirements, where he continued to seek out opportunities to prepare himself to one day build a successful practice.

Rescuing a Sinking Ship

After completing his residency, Busch got a shot at his dream: his own practice. However, taking over Total Foot & Ankle Center in Riverside, California wasn’t easy. The practice he was inheriting was an antiquated operation that needed massive TLC. By the time Busch took it over in late January of 2017, he had his work cut out for him. He was commuting an hour and a half each way and seeing between 40 to 50 patients every day.

“I had to learn how to see a ridiculous number of patients without losing the quality of care,” Busch said. “As doctors, we’re forced to see so many patients in order to be profitable. It’s sad, but it’s true. You can do it, it’s just not a skill that comes easily.”

While Busch was fine-tuning his skills as a patient-focused podiatrist, he was struggling as a business owner. “I didn’t know anything about business,” he said. “It was completely insane, the mountains of paperwork taking over a practice. There was no way of staying on top of everything. I was going to bed at midnight and waking up every single day having to run this marathon.”

Fortunately, Busch found CDC Small Business Finance, a nonprofit that partners with CNote to offer small business loan options to entrepreneurs in California, Arizona and Nevada. If it wasn’t for Busch’s CDC loan officer, Anna Marie Cruz, the former midshipman wouldn’t have been able to keep the practice afloat. According to him, he was doing everything humanly possible to ensure the survival of his practice and to meet payroll. “The CDC loan came through at a clutch time,” Busch said. “What CDC provided me was an avenue for obtaining a goal. They didn’t just throw a book at me say ‘go do it.’ They streamlined the process and answered my questions.”

“Podiatry is one of the medical practices where you can do things that have an immediate effect on people. It’s instant gratification. As long as I’m able to provide that high level of care, I’m going to expand as much as possible.”

The capital working loan from CDC gave Busch the financial runway he needed to get his feet underneath him as a business owner and to continue operations at Total Foot & Ankle Center. The capital injection helped him meet payroll, make minor improvements to the practice, and begin to scale. “It wouldn’t have been possible without that loan,” Busch said. “In the medical field, when it comes to insurance companies, it can take up to four months to get paid for services rendered. That’s frustrating, and it can be killer for sole private practitioners. Without that loan, I would have landed flat on my face.”

Stormy Clouds Behind, Calm Seas Ahead

Busch, however, didn’t land on his face. With the CDC’s help, he navigated a particularly challenging first six months. According to him, his best day as a business owner was when he was able to pay his ten employees with revenue dollars instead of loan money. “To turn around and pay my employees with a check that said ‘Total Foot & Ankle Center,’ it finally allowed me to breathe and say ‘it’s finally working,’” Busch said. “It gave me a lot of confidence.”

He’s quick to credit CDC — and his loan officer — for providing capital and business plan guidance that have ultimately kept the lights on at Total Foot & Ankle Center; however, Busch says without his upbeat, committed staff, his practice would be short on patients. “I can’t take too much credit,” Busch laughed. “My office manager hired such quality employees who turn these laborious appointments for patients into really warm and comforting interactions. My employees have the right attitude, and they make patients feel cared for.”

The word has spread: Busch says that between referrals from current patients and primary care doctors in the community, business is booming. “That’s one of the most rewarding and gratifying feelings,” he said. “I never had to go out there and promote myself.”

Today, Busch is looking to ride his early, albeit hard-fought success towards scaling his practice. He’s already opened a second office in Victorville, and he’s starting up a third location in Barstow. His goal is to ultimately grow Total Foot & Ankle Center and onboard another podiatrist who shares his values for helping people.

“That’s why I got into this,” Busch said. “Podiatry is one of the medical practices where you can do things that have an immediate effect on people. It’s instant gratification. As long as I’m able to provide that high level of care, I’m going to expand as much as possible.”

Learn More

  • Total Foot & Ankle Center
  • CDC Small Business Finance is a leading U.S. small business lender focused on helping entrepreneurs in underserved markets obtain financing.
  • CNote – Interested in helping create another story like Dr. Busch’s? CNote makes it easy to invest in great CDFIs like CDC, helping you earn more while having a positive impact on businesses and communities across America.
By CNote, Impact Metrics

CNote’s Q1 2019 Impact Metrics – Infographic

We know one of the main reasons you invest with CNote, is because of the impact your investment has.

We’re proud to share our Q1 2019 impact data.

In Q1 2019, our members helped create/maintain 262 jobs!

Over half of all invested capital was deployed with minority-led businesses. We’re also extremely proud to announce that more than 78% of CNote capital went to LMI communities!

If you’d like to see our annual impact data, along with an explanation of how we map CNote’s impact investments to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, read our 2018 Impact Report.

 

By Change Makers Series

Change Makers Interview: Tory Dietel Hopps

You could say that philanthropy runs in Tory Dietel Hopps’ family. She’s a fourth-generation inheritor, philanthropist and activist, and she spent the first 25 years of her professional career in the nonprofit sector, focusing on resource development, management and governance for nonprofit organizations in education, health and human services.

Dietel & Partners Team, Tory pictured 3rd from the left.

In 2007, Tory joined her father, Bill Dietel and oldest sister, Betsy Dietel to create Dietel & Partners. Today, the firm provides counsel to more than a half dozen clients whose assets range from $40 million to over half a billion dollars, and Dietel & Partners works closely with over 200 grantee organizations.

CNote sat down with Tory to talk about her career, the nonprofit sector, and donor-advised funds, and we got the chance to hear her thoughts on mission-driven giving, blended investment strategies, and the future of philanthropy.

CNote: How did Dietel & Partners come about?

Tory Dietel Hopps: Dietel & Partners was formed when we were asked by a multigenerational family to build a shared-family philanthropic office. It was an unusual arrangement; it was my family working with another family. Since then, we have specialized in working with multi-generational families and individual donors who have used donor-advised funds and/or foundations. And some have simply done their philanthropy out of their checkbooks. We are vehicle agnostic. The preponderance of our clients have operated without experienced philanthropic council prior to engaging our services.

CNote: What’s something special about your firm?

Tory Dietel Hopps: Our firm is an expression of our values as a family in terms of our commitment to social justice, a deep interest in women’s equality, and a keen dedication to the future health of the planet.

Because the three original partners and everyone that we’ve hired since have all had extensive experience in 501(C)3 organizations, we have a dedicated interest in reforming the power dynamics that exist in our sector regarding grantmaking, as well as social finance more broadly. Operating in a sincere partnership model is in our DNA and is something that requires daily commitment; we take it very seriously.

CNote: How has the industry evolved since you first began your career?

Tory Dietel Hopps: One thing I would cite is the increasing number of people we see who are considering spending down their wealth in their lifetime or within the next generation’s lifetime. That’s been a major trend. It may be special to our practice, but almost every single person we work with has a spend-down mentality. This is a remarkable trend and it does create a sense of urgency.

I would also underline the importance of the increase in use of donor-advised funds. In addition, there is growing interest in the use of an integrated capital or blended capital model and we have seen more client interest in mission-aligned investing.

CNote: You mentioned some “power dynamics” earlier. What isn’t functioning as well as it could in this sector?

Tory Dietel Hopps: When I refer to power dynamics, I am referring to the often unconscious behavior of funders putting their interests and needs first and not recognizing the stress and strain that many of their grantee partners function under on a regular basis. A lot of it is not necessarily something that people mean to perpetuate, but it can easily create difficulties in terms of us all getting farther along the roads we’re trying to move down, regardless of the issue. Challenging those behaviors and bringing a service headset to our relationships is something that’s near and dear to our hearts.

CNote: What have you learned about working with grantees?

Tory Dietel Hopps: We think about grantees truly as partners on the ground and not simply as recipients of philanthropic funding. One of the first things that we ask our grantee partners about is the state of their cash flow. I think too many of us in philanthropy forget that frontline organizations are often walking a very tight financial rope. Studying the cash flow position of an organization tells us a lot about bandwidth and flexibility. It’s an often overlooked early question.

Second, we try to look at all the ways in which we can remove hoops that grantee partners all too often get asked to jump through one more time. So, before we ask an organization to make an application, we are as sure as possible their proposal is likely to be approved by our client partner. Organizations spend an unnecessary amount of time filling out applications, answering questions, dealing with site visits etc.  When we enter the process, we wish to be as forthright as possible about the prospects of support and try to streamline our process.

When we take on a philanthropic client, essentially, we say to the client, “We see both you and your grantees as our partners in this work.” We believe this partnership model is extremely effective.

CNote: What are the issues you’re most passionate about, and what are some solutions you’ve invested in that address those issues?

Tory Dietel:

We are firm believers in the power of human talent. Leadership training, particularly for women is something our family has long supported.  As a firm, we have provided funding for women’s leadership programs run by the Omega Women’s Leadership Center (OWLC) in Rhinebeck, New York. Omega works with a very diverse group of female leaders in government, nonprofit, and business. The OWLC’s tag line is “Do Power Differently” and we really support that.

Climate change is also important to us as a family and as a firm. As all too many of our policy makers are currently unwilling to take on leadership, we have been exploring ways to create change that is not dependent on our federal or state governments. For example, we’ve been looking at using market forces for change, and I have been personally deeply engaged with something called Health Care Without Harm, which is a global entity that is helping to lead the healthcare industry towards sustainability in their operations and address climate change as anchor institutions.

CNote: You mentioned donor-advised funds earlier. What’s your take on them?

Tory Dietel Hopps: Donor-advised funds (DAFs) are by far the fastest growing vehicle within the philanthropic landscape. DAFs can democratize giving. It’s a simpler solution and it’s financially much cheaper than starting a foundation. In my opinion, we do need some regulation around the donor-advised funds for greater transparency.  That being said, they can be a powerful tool for people that are interested in philanthropic giving. It’s not an either/or situation and foundations and DAFs have different capabilities and benefits.

CNote: Is it more challenging to do grant making through the traditional foundation approach versus a donor-advised fund, or are the challenges relatively the same?

Tory Dietel Hopps: It can be important to have both arrows in your philanthropic quiver. The donor-advised fund approach now appears to be more open to impact investing. One of the ways that I got introduced to CNote was through a brand-new entity called CapShift that’s providing impact investing capability through donor-advised funds. So, I think that with the right investment advisor and strategy, you can use a donor-advised fund very creatively, just as you can with a foundation. Typically, the donor-advised funds are in essence democratic and funds can be started with as little as $1,000. Sometimes, the options on the investment side are not as robust with the smaller accounts, but it appears to us to be changing and I think that’s really good news for the sector as a whole.

CNote: To what extent do you see an integrated capital approach to grant making becoming more popular, and what components within that blended approach do you think have the most promise?

Tory Dietel Hopps: It’s a burgeoning area. We ought to be thinking about how we move everything towards mission and towards the reason why we have a charitable tax status. When I think about integrated capital, I think of a continuum, a horizontal line and at the far left I would put grant dollars and at the very far right I’d place equity. In between are a wide variety of different ways to utilize one’s capital to be helpful in achieving mission.  There is a lot of room for creativity.

Historically, the investment and grantmaking sides of most foundations and DAFs have been disconnected. The fundamental shift that needs to happen is to bring the investments more in line with mission. The options and opportunities are growing by the day.

My observation is that the once the intention is translated into adopting an integrated capital approach, the philanthropic process becomes much more effective because you’ve got additional tools and capital driving towards mission.

CNote: What advice would you have for someone who’s starting a foundation, launching a donor-advised fund, or inheriting wealth?

Tory Dietel: The very first thing that people should do is know what they own. So just being conscious of what’s actually in your holdings is the very first step. Okay, “I have an index fund.” Well, that’s great, but what’s actually in your index fund?  I just went through this recently with a client who has been doing remarkable and very cutting-edge grant making in the environmental field. On the investment side of the house, they had funds that were in index funds, and those index funds were holding companies in industries that the grant-making side of the house was working to shift and fight against, from a watchdog standpoint and from a policy standpoint. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. So, step one is really understanding what you own by way of investments before you start grantmaking. Your money is working all the time, and you need to ask is your money working for what you want it to be doing in the world both in terms of investments and grants?

CNote: What’s the future of philanthropy look like in the next five to 10 years, and what are you most excited about?

Tory Dietel: As philanthropy grows and younger people in particular become more engaged, donors are becoming more creative and experimental. We are moving away from foundations giving just 5% of their assets away in grants to foundations activating the other 95 percent for mission as well.  DAF holders are also beginning to work towards aligning of all assets towards mission. I find this shift to be very encouraging.

I’m not sure there’s a silver bullet or the perfect vehicle that’s right for everybody, but the fact that there’s experimentation going on is a good thing.  I think that the younger generations are more global in their exposure, their education and their interests. Technology helps us to connect in ways we never have before, which is exciting for the future of the field.

It is important that there is more focus on trying to hold the philanthropic community accountable in different ways. That is a positive trend if it continues with a desire to truly make things better and not simply to shame. That’s part of why I think some the regulation component is needed in the donor advised fund space and what could be really helpful – transparency is important, particularly within the donor-advised field.

Finally, I am fascinated by the current interest in building communities of practice. There are many associations, councils and networks of funder groups developing across all fields. For example, the number of members in the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders has at least tripled in the last 10 to 15 years. That’s an exciting indication of the rise of these collective funding and learning entities. I see it as a positive sign that people do not want to work in silos but are eager to do things collectively and collaboratively to build more effective strategies. This has many positive implications for the future of philanthropy.

Special thanks to Tory Dietel Hopps for sharing her story and vision for philanthropy and impact investing.

About Dietel & Partners

The Dietel & Partners business grew out of the Dietel family’s collective experience in the giving and receiving sides of philanthropy. Our founder worked as president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund for two generations. Today, three partners and a full-time team provide counsel to several clients and families. Together, they have almost 80 years of experience nurturing long-time relationships with some of America’s most influential families who have trusted their approach to philanthropy.  Dietel & Partners was certified as a Women Owned-Business in 2019.  www.DietelAndPartners.com

By Impact Investing

Doubling the Impact: The Benefits of Integrating Impact Investing with Donor-Advised Funds

The Growth of Donor Advised Funds

When it comes to charitable donations, the increasing importance of Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs) is undeniable. In 2017, DAFs accounted for as much as 7% of total charitable giving and 10.2% of individual giving, rising from just 4.4% of individual giving as recently as 2010 1 In short, Donor-Advised Funds are a force to be reckoned with in the charity space and must be regarded as a major vehicle through which philanthropic giving now occurs.

DAFs operate by accepting funds from donors, who then can take an upfront charitable tax deduction. These donors then recommend how the DAF should distribute the donated funds to nonprofit organizations over time. This eventual charitable distribution usually takes the form of grants. Typically, only a fraction of total charitable assets held by DAFs are distributed within a given calendar year. Grant payout did rise from 20.6% to 22.1% from 2016 to 2017, but considering DAFs held $110 billion in charitable assets, that still amounts to over $85 billion in charitable assets seemingly warehoused in 2017 alone. 2

An integrated approach can help donors achieve objectives prior to grantmaking and assure that participants take a holistic view where they can see the forest for the trees.

Challenges Present Opportunities, The Growth of an Integrated Approach

Integrating impact investment options with DAFs can solve two problems at once, generating social impact in the here and now while simultaneously enhancing a fund’s future grant-making capacity.

The fact that there are no shortage of causes that could use capital while many billions of dollars earmarked for charity sit idle, sometimes for years at a time, has led some organizations, such as the Institute for Policy Studies, to levy criticisms towards the growing prevalence of DAFs. 3

Notably, some question the extent to which the proliferation of DAFs in recent years has drawn attention away from more traditional charitable vehicles.4 In addition, given that major players in the DAF world include names like Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, Schwab, and Vanguard, some have also noted an apparent “Wall Street takeover” of charitable fundraising.5

Despite these objections, there is no doubt that DAFs are here to stay as a major force in the charitable donations space. At the same time, there is increasingly a desire of donors to align philanthropic activity with a values-based approach. Integrating impact investment options with DAFs can solve two problems at once, generating social impact in the here and now while simultaneously enhancing a fund’s future grant-making capacity.

Benefits of Impact Investing for DAFs

While each individual DAF will likely identify unique ways in which impact investing can complement and improve their operations and satisfy their donors, we will focus on three broad ways in which DAFs can clearly benefit from pursuing greater integration with impact investing.

1. The flexibility of DAF Capital

Combining DAFs and impact investing allows a greater degree of flexibility for donors looking to make a difference. While grants can certainly be a powerful vehicle for charitable giving, they usually consist of one-time transfers that take time to administer and may have long lead times for generating measurable impact. Given that the scope of grants can be limited, donors may wish to improve the odds that their funds will have an impact before that final grant outlay.

The utilization of impact investments not only keeps the capital moving to different opportunities in the short term while awaiting its final deployment but also gives DAF donors a wider range of causes through which to distribute funds. Donors that consider impact investment options will be more likely to find a suitable match for their particular values and desired charitable ends. In that way, adding more ways in which funds can be productively allocated can only benefit DAF sponsors in attracting donors and give donors the best opportunity to make the kinds of impact they are looking for.

2. Do More Good More Often

As already mentioned, it can often take a long time for DAFs to distribute funds. In the intermediate time period between when funds are provided by the donor to a DAF and its eventual distribution in the form of grants, pursuing impact investment opportunities can go a long way towards helping the capital reach more of those who need it most, increasing the chance of leading to productive or maybe even life-changing outcomes.

To illustrate, with many impact investing platforms centered around supporting the development of local communities, donors with significant sums of money tied up in DAFs can find creative ways to make an impact in their communities through small loans while waiting for large-scale grant-making opportunities that strike their fancy. This can enhance the reputation of the donor or DAF sponsor or simply provide the psychological satisfaction that comes along with making a meaningful impact early and often.

3. Growing Assets While Doing Good

No list of benefits of impact investing would be complete without mentioning that targeted impact investing can earn a return on donor principal while making a difference. Any returns can then be reinvested back into more impact investing opportunities, put towards future grants, or even withdrawn as profit if the donor so wishes.

While there may seem to be something of a disconnect between the impulse to engage in charitable contributions through DAFs and the idea of earning a return on investment, there is nothing immoral about providing capital to entrepreneurs with positive social visions and sharing in their success. After all, a donor who benefits financially from impact investing is free to invest further in the beneficiary of the impact investment or put the returns back into the DAF for future use. Of course, it is also possible to pursue impact investing options that do not promise a return if the donor does not even want the appearance of earning a return on their funds.

Roadblocks to Integration between DAFs and Impact investing

Education about impact investing is likely one of the major obstacles to its successful integration with DAFs. 6 Since donors are largely in control of the funds that they transfer to DAF sponsors, they and their investment managers must be aware of the range of impact investing options available and participate actively in the distribution process. This requires that they understand the process of impact investing separate from the grant-making that DAFs typically engage in and be on board with the mission of the chosen impact investment targets.

There are challenges to a more integrated approach, but they are not insurmountable.

Not only must donors sign off on particular impact investments, but the DAF sponsors must be willing to move quickly to take advantage of particular opportunities. Since many DAF sponsors currently require certain account minimums before allowing donors to actively direct funds to opportunities outside those already offered by the platform, such account size restrictions must be decreased or standard offerings must be expanded to encompass more impact investing options. Either way, DAF sponsors are likely to take such actions only at the request of donors, further reinforcing the importance of donor education about the benefits of impact investing.

Active communication between donors and DAF sponsors is vitally important for such changes to take place. While DAF sponsors are largely responsible for identifying impact investing opportunities, the donor is more likely to be supportive if they are sourced for ideas about where funds can best be deployed. In that way, impact investing should be seen as an avenue for collaboration between donors, funds, and capital recipients with the potential to create a substantial value-based impact.

Themed Investment Portfolios & Promise for the Future

While there is no way to predict all of the ways in which DAFs will take advantage of impact investing opportunities in the future, we can look to recent developments that signal potential avenues through which the necessary education and integration can be achieved. For instance, the emergence of themed impact investment portfolios demonstrates a clear solution to the problem of matching the charitable intent of donors with opportunities that are promising, actionable, and aligned with donor values. Such themed portfolios might consist of impact categories such as equitable economic development, environmental conservation, achieving health outcomes, and so forth.7

In addition, there is already a trend of DAFs incorporating impact investing opportunities into their product lineup for those who know where to look. For example, the Triskeles Foundation offers donors the opportunity to invest in funds social outcomes and ESG initiatives. 8 Furthermore, Fidelity Charitable, by far the largest donor-advised fund in the US, also offers a range of dedicated impact investment options. 9

Finally, we’d like to highlight that CNote is already working with DAFs to generate income and impact prior to grantmaking. Our product offerings provide flexibility quarterly liquidity, and a solid return on investment of 2.75%, and, most importantly, a vehicle for driving meaningful change in the economic development of under-served communities across the United States.

With that said, we look forward seeing the further integration of impact investing with donor-advised funds in any way that it may manifest, as we recognize the potential benefits that can arise when we work together to match available capital with those looking to build stronger local communities and in the process contribute to the flourishing of all.

By CNote, Impact Metrics

CNote’s 2018 Impact Report

See the impact your money had with CNote in 2018

Click to read CNote’s 2018 Impact Report.

The report highlights a few borrower success stories from 2018 along with how CNote is pursuing specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Highlights include: 

  • Over 1,400 Jobs Created/Maintained
  • 60% of all capital deployed with minority-led businesses 
  • 43% of all capital deployed with women-led businesses
  • 58% of all capital deployed with LMI communities
  • 286 Loans Funded

CNote is also extremely proud of our financial performance, assets deployed grew by nearly 3x, we had no defaults, late payments or losses while generating competitive returns for investors.

CNote’s 2018 Impact Report

 

By CNote

CNote in the News: A Retail Impact Investment Revolution in the Making?

CNote co-founder Yuliya Tarasava recently sat down with Anthony Randazzo, CFA of the Impact Money Blog to discuss CNote’s mission, plan for the future, and how we’re working to change finance.

We thought the article provided such a great overview of CNote’s vision, we wanted to share it here as well.

COO Yuliya Tarasava (left) and CEO Cat Berman, co-founders of CNote

“I always saw finance as a tool for positive change and economic development,” says Yuliya Tarasava, co-founder and COO of CNote, an online investment platform that makes it convenient for everyday retail investors to achieve real economic development impact with their money.  CNote is not only a potentially powerful tool for “positive change” but it may have solved one of the most vexing problems facing the impact investing space.  How can retail investors invest in social enterprises that support under-served communities when virtually none have issued stocks or bonds on public markets?

Yuliya and her co-founder Cat Berman may have found the answer. They are using a clever combination of technology and a not-very-well-known regulatory window (so-called “Regulation A+”, more on that later) to enable everyday investors to crowdfund impact investments in increments as small as $1. CNote aggregates and lends these funds to Community Development Financial Institutions (or “CDFIs”), which provide loans for affordable housing and small businesses in disadvantaged communities. There are over 1,000 of these mission-driven CDFIs across the United States, which have a successful track record of providing financial services to areas under-served by mainstream commercial banks since the 1970s.

…Continue reading the full story at Impact Money

By CDFIs, CNote

Announcing The Wisdom Fund

CNote Launches Wisdom Fund to Close Lending Gap for Women

New impact investment vehicle provides funding to underserved women of color and low-income women entrepreneurs across the country

OAKLAND, Calif., March 20, 2019 — Women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. Yet less than 5 percent of small business lending—only $1 in $23—goes to women. CNote aims to fix this disparity with the Wisdom Fund, a new impact investment opportunity launching today.

Created in partnership with mission-driven lender CDC Small Business Finance and four innovative nonprofits, the Wisdom Fund funnels money from accredited investors—institutions, funds, foundations, family offices and individuals—into business loans for low- to moderate-income women and women of color. The loans are provided by nonprofit community lenders with decades of experience delivering the capital and resources that women small business owners need.

Fixing a social injustice

“We hear a lot about the gap in venture capital funding for women, but the vast majority of women who need capital are not forming hyper-growth startups; they are starting small businesses to pursue economic freedom, flexibility and independence. The financial system is not serving them well, and we’re very much failing women of color in particular,” said Catherine Berman, CEO and co-founder of CNote, an impact investing platform whose mission is to close the wealth gap in the U.S.

“With the Wisdom Fund, we’re taking a major step toward fixing a huge injustice—women’s businesses receive far less funding than they deserve,” said Berman. “We’re working with an amazing group of nonprofit community lenders nationally to entirely rethink lending to women.”

CNote is also already earning support from major corporations as well as nonprofits. “Access to capital is one of the top challenges female small business owners face and we’re excited to see CNote working to combat this with the introduction of their Wisdom Fund collaboration,” said Amy Neale, vice president and startup engagement lead for Mastercard Start Path, which supports high-potential startups around the world, including CNote. “At Start Path, we look forward to helping CNote scale their business to ensure a more inclusive economy, because when you invest in women the returns are priceless.”

Collaboration drives scalability and impact

During a three-phase build-up, Wisdom Fund partners will collect, share and act on data about what works for women entrepreneurs. In the first eight months, participants will fill in the knowledge gap, gathering information on how women interact with the loan process, what hangs them up and what eases their path. In phase two, the partners will experiment with new ways to serve women that remove barriers. Around the one-year mark, the focus will shift to scaling the program by continuing to add new lending partners, increasing investment and implementing best practices across the network.

“There’s lots of data on how women are shut out of venture capital. We don’t know as much about why women are shut out of debt capital,” said Allison Kelly, senior vice president of strategy and innovation at CDC Small Business Finance. “What are the product-level needs? Who are the business owners and what barriers are they experiencing? Why are women opting out of taking on debt? The whole financial system is set up to serve a certain segment of the population. Maybe we need to rethink the distribution of capital and how we assess risk. The Wisdom Fund is an opportunity to create new debt products by working collaboratively with the women we aim to serve.”

CDFIs are an under-the-radar impact powerhouse

Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) like the ones CNote is working with are perfectly positioned to take on this work. They’re distributed across the country, they have always invested in financially underserved communities, and they have enormous unrealized potential for financial and impact returns.

“We looked at the trends and realized that CDFIs are undercapitalized,” said Kelly. “The sources of capital were mismatched to CDFI needs—it was all big capital sources deploying larger chunks of capital to fewer and fewer CDFIs.”

That’s where CNote comes in. Since its September 2017 debut with a product for retail investors, the fintech startup has invested more than $18 million in underserved communities through a growing CDFI network covering more than 35 states. Those investments have helped to create or maintain over 2,000 jobs and fund more than 400 small business loans.

Investors can start funding women-owned businesses now

Investors in the Wisdom Fund will earn an estimated 4 percent annual return, over a 60-month term, on a loan portfolio that’s diversified across established CDFIs. Email wisdomfund@mycnote.com to learn how you can help fund more women-owned businesses today.

Women seeking loans should contact a participating CDFI. Partners in the Wisdom Fund’s first phase include:

  • Carolina Small Business Development Fund, which provides small business loans and financial training to startups, existing businesses and community organizations in North Carolina.
  • LiftFund, a Texas-based organization that empowers underserved entrepreneurs with capital and support services in 13 states.
  • TruFund, a national nonprofit organization that provides affordable capital and business development services to small businesses and nonprofits in Alabama, Louisiana and New York.

In addition, Pacific Community Ventures will match all borrowers from the Wisdom Fund with pro bono business advisors. Pacific Community Ventures, a Bay Area–based CDFI, invests in small businesses in California that are past the startup phase and creating jobs, and manages a national network of pro bono expert advisors who mentor small business owners on any topic, challenge, or opportunity.

About CNote

CNote is an award-winning, first-of-its-kind financial platform that allows anyone to make money investing in causes and communities they care about. With the mission of closing the wealth gap, CNote directs every dollar invested toward funding female- and minority-led small businesses, affordable housing and economic development in financially underserved communities across America.

About CDC Small Business Finance

CDC Small Business Finance is a leading small business lender, award-winning nonprofit and advocate for entrepreneurs. Over four decades, it has provided more than $18 billion in funding to over 11,000 borrowers…and counting. Its lending also plays a role in bolstering economic development, and has helped to create or preserve more than 200,000 jobs in California, Arizona and Nevada.

Media contacts

Thinkshift Communications

Anya Khalamayzer | anya@thinkshiftcom.com, 732.614.2318

Sandra Stewart | sandra@thinkshiftcom.com, 415.391.4449

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PDF of the release

By CNote, Financial Planning

CNote & HIP Webinar Recording: Income + Impact, Investing in Volatile Times

On February 27, 2019, CNote co-hosted a webinar with HIP Investor that was moderated by Sonya Dreizler of Solutions with Sonya.

The presenters highlighted some of the investment options currently available, tools for measuring impact, and some unique advantages that come with an impact investment strategy.

CNote’s CEO, Catherine Berman, presented for CNote and answered attendee questions about CNote’s offerings and how CNote is helping to mobilize more community investment.

The webinar is worth a listen if you’d like to learn more about impact investing.

Webinar Recording and Slides

If you weren’t able to watch the webinar live you can watch the recording at your leisure. You can also download and review the slides here.

Join CNote’s Mailing List To Get Updates About Future Webinars

If you’d like to stay in touch and get notifications when we host future webinars and other events, please provide your email below.

Financial Professional Looking For More Information?

If you’re a financial advisor looking to offer CNote to your clients, visit our Advisor page to learn more about how CNote can help you deliver strong returns and impact to your clients. There, you can also start a conversation with one of advisor onboarding experts.

By CNote, Small Businesses

Visualizing Your Impact

Creating Success Stories

Seeing the impact of your investment is a persistent challenge for impact investors.

It can be difficult to take abstract metrics like dollars invested or jobs created and visualize what that means for individuals and the communities they live in.

We created this short video to highlight how impactful your investment in CNote can be.

Diving Deeper On Impact

If you would like to read the detailed profiles of these success stories, you can review them here.

By CNote, Impact Metrics

CNote’s Q4 2018 Impact Metrics – Infographic

We know one of the main reasons you invest with CNote, is because of the impact your investment has.

We’re proud to share our Q4 impact data.

As you may have noticed, our quarterly job creation numbers are trending upwards along with our allocations across key demographics, like women, minority communities, and LMI communities.

In Q4 2018, our members helped create/maintain 430 jobs!

Over 65% of all invested capital was deployed with minority-led businesses!

We are extremely proud of our Q4 results and will be releasing our full 2018 Impact Report shortly. In the interim, check out our 2017 Annual report.

By CNote

CNote is Now a Certified B Corp

We believe business can be a force for good.

That idea is embedded in our social mission of closing the wealth gap and building a more inclusive economy for everyone.

Our team thought it was only natural we formalize that commitment by becoming a Certified B Corporation®. Now CNote’s commitment to profit with purpose becomes even more clear for our investors, members, and partners.

We’re excited to join a growing list of companies that are working to build sustainable businesses along with a better world.

Some statistics about B Corps™:

  • There are over 2,600 certified companies
  • Covering 150 industries and 60 countries
  • B Corps were 65 percent more likely to survive the great recession in 2009

What B Corp Status Means

CNote was certified by the non-profit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. That required us to evaluate how our practices impact our employees, our community, the environment, and our customers.

“Think of it this way: USDA certifies organic foods, and Good Housekeeping puts its seal of approval on quality products, like washing machines and skillets. And since 2006, a nonprofit organization called B Lab has been certifying corporations it deems to be concerned about their communities and the environment.” – NPR

Certified B Corporations® are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit.

They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.

This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.

The entire CNote teams is excited to be a part of this movement!

By CNote

CNote + HIP Investor Webinar

Want to add impact and ESG to your portfolios?

Not sure how to get started with impact investing?

Want to hear industry experts talk about their passion for leveraging finance to build a better world?

Great, sign up for our FREE “Investing for Income + Impact” webinar.

Join CNote and Friends for a Free Webinar

Join us on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, featuring leaders in income and impact — Cat Berman, CEO of CNote; R. Paul Herman, CEO of HIP Investor; and Sonya Dreizler, CEO of Solutions with Sonya.

The webinar will be emceed by Sonya Dreizler, who helps advisors and financial experts pursue impact Investing, and how to better manage your RIA, Mutual Fund, and Broker-Dealer.

Please join us for an insightful exploration and deep discussion on Income + Impact, along with active Q and A along the way.

What We’ll Cover

This and much more:

  • Portfolio options that generate Income and Impact across multiple asset classes, including strategies involving muni bonds, real estate, cash alternatives, and other asset classes
  • How you can invest in community development and increase capital access for women and people of color
  • How to structure a portfolio to target UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) across both U.S. and Global markets

When

Feb 27, 2019, at 1:00 PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Register for Free

RSVP: “Investing for Income + Impact” on Feb. 27 @ 1:00 pm

By CNote

CNote In The News – A Solid Start to 2019

What We’re Focused On

Our mission at CNote is to create competitive financial products that make money for our investors while building a more inclusive economy.

Seriously. 

We know its a big goal, but big goals can create big change.

Some Exciting News

Occasionally, we’re lucky enough to receive industry recognition or build partnerships that help push us towards our goals and remind us that the work we’re doing resonates with a broader audience.

This week is one of those weeks for our team.

We wanted to briefly mention a few highlights we’re proud of.

Mastercard Start Path

We’re excited to announce that we’ve been selected to join this year’s Mastercard Start Path cohort.

It’s a long-running program with a track record of helping startups build key partnerships and gain broader access to customers, investors, and ecosystems.

Nearly 200 companies have participated in the program, and we’ve connected with nearly 10,000 of the world’s smartest startup founders to build the future of commerce together.

Thanks to the entire Mastercard team for their support!

CB Insights

Additionally, we’re grateful for recent recognition from CB Insights in their 2019 Fintech Trends to watch report.

We were previously invited to their Demo Day event, and given CB Insights’ growing reputation as a key provider of business intelligence and predictor of trends, we’re grateful they think our impact-focused Fintech company is worth a mention.

If you’re interested in Fintech or just enjoy lots of charts, their 2019 report is worth a look. The slide (p. 77) mentioning CNote is excerpted below.

Credit: cbinsights.com

We’re hoping 2019 is filled with even more milestones like this. Learn more about CNote.
By Borrower Stories, Wisdom

Yahaira Caraballo – Nail Glam Studio – Sisters Find Success in the South Bronx

Yahaira and her sister Onaney

Perseverance Breeds Success

It’s October 1st, 2013, opening day for Nail Glam Studio and Yahaira Caraballo is nervous. After months of grueling effort, her south Bronx-based nail salon is finally ready and open to the public.

The only problem? The public didn’t come. Not on the first day, at least.

Like everything that brought her to this point, however, Yahaira’s persistence soon paid off. Although Nail Glam Studio, in her own words “didn’t make a dime the first day,” it did manage to turn a profit by the end of the first week and has only grown since.

Nail Glam Studio Founder, Yahaira Caraballo

While Yahaira’s determination enabled her to push past a number of obstacles, it took the help of many other hands to effectively turn Nail Glam Studios from a vision in her head into a thriving business.

One primary source assistance came from CNote’s CDFI partner, the Excelsior Growth Fund (EGF), which provided essential guidance in the early stages of forming the business, along with the funds to make the necessary upgrades to comply with new regulations and to expand operations.

The other essential ingredient in Yahaira’s small business success story is family. From her brother helping to build and repair the shop to her husband providing the painting expertise, she was not short on support from those closest to her.

Yahaira did not just receive help from family, however, but was able to provide something even more important to her sister, Onaney Caraballo. In fact, one could say that Onaney was the driving force behind the idea to open Nail Glam Studios all along.

The Origins of Nail Glam Studio

Yahaira was sure that she wanted to start a business since she was young but just couldn’t find a place where she could make an impact. Despite taking on a full-time job in New York City, she still never lost her entrepreneurial ambition and continued to look for ideas and ways that she could turn her dream into reality. In the end, her sister provided the inspiration to finally take the steps towards forming a small business of her own.

Nail Glam Studio Team

Following a move to New York City from their native Dominican Republic in 2003, Onaney quickly established herself as a stylist, gaining recognition at local nail salons and practicing on Yahaira in her spare time. Seeing her sister’s talent and looking to finally realize her own dream to be a small business owner, Yahaira cleared her savings account and began to take the steps necessary to open Nail Glam Studios.

Nail Glam Studios soon become more than just a business for the two sisters. In fact, it became a way for both to live out their respective dreams and come together in a way they never previously imagined. Where Yahaira could fulfill her ambition of owning and operating a small business, Onaney could finally have the kind of stable and supportive working environment that enabled her to focus on improving her craft without worrying about working hours or other issues that usually come with freelance and studio work.

The idea was in place. Now Yahaira just needed funding to get Nail Glam Studios off the ground.

Getting a Loan

Yahaira first sought to get a personal loan from Chase Bank. Such loans come attached with high interest rates on repayment, but Yahaira was dedicated to seeing the idea of opening a nail salon for her sister through to completion. While she was refused for the loan on the grounds because that local branch did not invest in small businesses of Nail Glam’s size, she was given referrals that culminated with her collaboration with EGF.

EGF helped connect Yahaira with the right experts, who were able to walk her through the intricacies of operating a small business. For example, they taught her how to complete the required paperwork, including a fully-formed business plan, that were required to apply for a loan. Along with the business advice and guidance, EGF provided the loan necessary for Nail Glam Studio to comply with the aforementioned state regulations, as well as enable the hiring of two additional staff members to expand the business with new pedicure and manicure stations.

Success and Community-Centered Growth

Since that first day without a paying customer, Yahaira estimates that they see more than one new customer every day simply through word-of-mouth. She credits this to a number of factors, including her focus on providing quality service at an affordable price. However, the emphasis on building a strong community is what really sets Nail Glam Studios apart from other nail salons in the area.

To that end, Nail Glam Studios holds community events every three months, usually corresponding with public holidays like Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving. Yahaira sees the events as a way to give back to those who are a vital component in the nail salon’s success.

Yahaira particularly enjoys Customer Appreciation Month, held every October to commemorate Nail Glam Studio’s founding–and that first nerve-wracking day–where she provides free goodie bags filled with nail-care products to customers.

A Family Success

Yahaira with her brother and sister

While building a community of happy customers in the south Bronx makes Yahaira proud, the most meaningful impact comes from much closer to home. A great example coming in the form of a text message from her nephew. In that message, he thanked his aunt for providing a place for his mom, Onaney, to practice nail styling and pursue her passion. This display of gratitude touched Yahaira and served as proof that she had achieved in what she set out to do–both professionally and personally. After all, none of this would have happened without Onaney, and now the sisters have succeeded in building a thriving business together.

Looking Forward

What began as a three-person operation has, with the help of the SBA micro-loan from EGF, now expanded to a staff of seven. For her part, Yahaira says that she is grateful for the loan and all support she has received until now from EGF. “I’m speechless with everything I’ve gotten as result of submitting this application. They have a lot to offer.”

Yahaira is now paying forward the help she was given by EGF in her own way, assisting other small business owners in the south Bronx as they seek to overcome the inevitable struggles encountered while striving to their own entrepreneurial dreams. She also has ambitions to open another store in the future to create even more employment in the local community.

Her story underscores the commitment of CNote and the EGF to helping ambitious women like Yahaira receive the support they need to turn their dreams into reality and enable local communities to thrive as a result. If you, too, would like to make a difference, please consider investing in CNote today.

Learn More:

  • Nail Glam Studio
  • Excelsior Growth Fund – A leading CDFI based out of New York and the CNote partner that provided the loan and technical assistance that helped make Nail Glam Studio a reality
  • CNote – Interested in helping create another success story? CNote makes it easy to invest in great CDFIs like the Excelsior Growth Fund, helping you earn more while having a positive impact on businesses and communities across America.
By Quick Tips

Financial Quick Tip: How to Identify Helpful Financial Advice Online, And Avoid The Junk

(And Why You Shouldn’t Take Financial Advice from Twitter)

The face behind most of the financial advice you’re reading online.

Today we’re going to have a bit of fun looking at the highs and lows of financial advice available on the internet.

Don’t take this post too seriously, but nonetheless, we’ve actually tried to include some useful resources along with clearly useless advice you’ll see below.

The Bad

What happens when roughly eighty percent of people in a country have access to the internet but as many as two-thirds of them cannot pass a basic financial literacy test?

Tweets like this:

And this:

As we’ve grown more accustomed to having approximately the sum total of all human knowledge one click away, it is tempting to set aside rational thought and expect the top Google search results or social media will provide us the definitive answer on a topic.

While this works fine when learning innovative origami techniques or the perfect method to boil eggs, talk is cheap and uncritically trusting unsolicited online advice can be hazardous to your financial health.

For instance, you might encounter reasonable-looking money management advice like the following:

But with 6-month CD rates hovering around one percent, this means locking $500 into a CD would roughly earn a whopping… drumroll, please… $5. And even that is on the better end of what you could reasonably have expected over the past decade in what has been a uniquely low-interest-rate environment. Not bad advice, just maybe not the best advice for your situation.

Still, its better than this advice:

Which leads to:

The Good

Believe it or not, there are actually a lot of places to find great advice. You just have to know where to look and make sure that its a trusted source. Generally, let common sense be your guide.

One great crowd-sourced option is the Personal Finance subreddit. Not only does this community curate some of the best topical financial advice, but the admins and active users have created a great “wiki” page that answers many common financial questions and provides life-stage financial advice based on your age (25-35 example).

They also cover the fundamentals in a comprehensive way, from things like building an emergency fund, prioritizing the debts you pay off, and 401k matching suggestions (hint, contribute the % your employer will match, at a minimum).

This really basic flowchart from that subreddit provides some key guideposts on building savings and retirement investments for someone who has no idea about money:

Finally, r/personalfinance has a great reading list that can help you get started on a lifetime of financial success.

Even Twitter has the occasional gem, you just have to dig through all the junk.

All fun aside, here are a few key qualities that distinguish the most helpful online financial advice from the not-so-helpful.

All of these criteria do not necessarily make a piece of advice useful, but you should look for at least one or two to be present before taking what you’re reading seriously.

Helpful financial advice should be:

1) Accessible

What good is financial advice if you can’t actually use it?

The most useful financial advice will be relevant to your situation and actionable. You also might ask yourself whether your financial goals match the advice on offer. If not, pay extra heed not to get sucked into an overblown get-rich-quick scheme, possibly in the form of unsolicited email newsletters alerting you to the “investing opportunity of a lifetime” in some “little-known industry” poised for “incredible gains.” If nothing else, at least such emails give us an opportunity to be thankful for spam filters.

On a positive note, there are a number of blogs that are excellent sources of accessible financial advice on topics ranging from paying off debt to building credit to first time home buying. Some examples include Money Under 30, Get Rich Slowly, and Debt Roundup, just to name a few, but you should search for the resources that best cover your particular financial needs. Just look for clear writing, up-to-date information, and a set of concrete steps that you can take to follow.

2) Authoritative

As with anything in life, it’s nice to know that advice is coming from someone who knows what they’re talking about. For instance, if you have the (ill-advised) aim to get your financial inspiration from Twitter, the odds are more in your favor if you follow the advice of Mark Cuban rather than @catluvr411invest. This doesn’t mean that celebrity investors like Cuban are always right or that anonymous Twitter users are always wrong, but it’s best not to put too much stock in the musings of strangers with little in the way of credibility.

On the topic of Twitter, there are actually some top-notch accounts run by finance experts like Meb Faber and Roger Ma that are accessible to everyone. However, Twitter is generally regarded as a good way to follow real-time financial news rather than a platform to receive actionable financial advice.

It’s important to know who’s giving you the advice.

If you like to know that the financial advice you receive is from someone who has actual qualifications on the subject, you can search the CFP or FINRA databases to check the credentials of the financial professional in question. There are also specialty websites such as Brightscope that can help you quickly and effectively find the financial planning advice you are looking for.

3) Well-Sourced

Good sources of financial advice will provide plenty of links to support any claims made, encouraging you to do your own independent research. This also signals increased credibility, although make sure you actually click the links to verify the information presented.

Creditability is especially welcome when dealing with crowdsourced platforms. For example, the personal finance subreddit mentioned above includes valuable resources and recommendations on commonly-searched topics such as budgeting and saving for retirement, even if the posters have little in the way of proven qualifications–the fact that hundreds, if not thousands of people have critiqued and reviewed the advice means its likely to be more reliable. Nonetheless, it still pays to be wary of any given forum post or comment, but there is no denying that there are occasionally some user-created gems like this personal income spending flowchart.

Conclusion

While the above tips are hardly exhaustive, sources that contain some combination of accessibility, authority and verifiability are much more likely to help you find high-quality financial advice that you are looking for.

Information on the internet can serve as a great compass or a ticking time-bomb depending on who is giving it. Clearly defining your goals in advance and bringing a measure of critical awareness to bear is key when searching for and choosing to follow online financial advice.

After all, there’s plenty of good financial advice out there on the web for those who know how to look.

In the end, the best advice is to build a foundation of personal knowledge so you can make well informed and independent decisions.

By CNote, Impact Metrics

CNote’s 2018 Year End Summary

2018 Impact Metrics At A Glance

Over 1,400 Jobs Created/Maintained

Over 250 Small Businesses Funded

For Each Dollar Invested in CNote:

43
went to women-led businesses (WLB)
60
went to minority-led businesses (MLB)
58
went to Low to Moderate Income (LMI) communities

A Few Words From CNote’s CEO

2018 was a time of significant growth for CNote. The total number of users on our platform grew substantially and we took on institutional investments from amazing partners like the Sierra Club Foundation.

This influx of capital meant we were able to deploy more assets to our network of non-profit lenders across America. Those CNote-investment dollars funded loans that helped individuals pursue their dreams of starting small businesses, helped build affordable housing, and helped to bring economic development to communities that need it most.

Our intention is to continue to deliver competitive financial returns while generating measurable and significant positive social impact. To that end, we’ve roughly doubled our impact metrics from 2017, across the board. While pleased with the 800 jobs created/maintained in 2017, we are thrilled that we nearly doubled that number to more than 1,400 in 2018.

Additionally, our growing network of partners that now covers 37 states, allowed us to deploy capital with even more intention in 2018. This meant that for every dollar you invested in CNote we were able to deliver significant targeted impact. To illustrate, historically around 4.4% of all small business funding goes to women-owned firms. 1 Meanwhile 43% of CNote’s investment dollars were deployed to women-led businesses, almost 10x the norm. It is radical shifts in capital access like this that will build a more inclusive and robust American economy–which is our overarching mission at CNote.

Finally, on the financial front, starting in January 2019, the rate of return on all CNote accounts will be increasing to 2.75%. This is in furtherance of our goal to prove that impactful investing can be profitable as well.

Wishing you a prosperous and impactful 2019!

Cat Berman

CEO

Some Small Business Success Stories From 2018

*Note that pro-forma numbers were updated to final impact numbers on March 6, 2019, after receiving finalized impact data from our CDFI partners. Previously, the above numbers were pro-forma calculations based on Q3 performance and the total capital deployed in Q4.