As one might expect, faith-based organizations have a long history of involvement with community investing, which is one of the fundamental approaches of socially responsible investing. They’re often small, local groups, well-connected to their communities and aware of their needs.
Now the Social Investment Forum has produced a very informative and useful guide for religious investors who want to get more involved in community development. The guide, titled “Community Investing Toolkit for the Faith-Community,” provides some background on religious institutions and community investing, a description of the institutions and products that make up community investing and a focus on eight faith-based organizations and their work in community investing.
Community investing and faith-based investing are two rapidly growing subsets of socially responsible investing. From 1995 to 2007, total community investment grew from $4 billion to nearly $26 billion, according to SIF. The opportunities for faith-based investors, who often go by the term “morally-responsible” investors, have also ballooned. In 1999 religious mutual funds held about $4.5 billion in assets under management. By 2006 that figure was up to $17.7 billion the SIF reports.
If you run a faith-based organization that's anxious to increase community investing or if you’re an individual looking for organizations to support, you’ll find some useful information in this guide. You can read about the Adrian Dominican Sisters, for example, who established a community investment fund in 1978 that has made more than 300 investments totaling more than $13 million. There’s also the Burlington Ecumenical Action Ministry (BEAM), which created the Opportunities Credit Union in 1989 to provide banking services, business micro-loans and low-interest mortgages. The bank has a 99 percent repayment rate for the more than $140 million in loans it has made.
The guide also includes 14 recommendations from active community investors about how you can proceed. Step one - build your investment plan upon your organization's mission and principles.