The CSI Community Bond 2020

The CSI Community Bond 2020

UPDATE: Amazing news! As of June 25th the 2020 Community Bond is SOLD OUT! 

The Community Bond is an innovation in social finance that allows a nonprofit or charity to leverage its community of supporters to pursue its mission, build its resiliency, and create more vibrant communities.

CSI invented the Community Bond in 2010 as a means to turn a non-profit’s social capital into financial capital. 10 years later, the Community Bond is a household name in impact investing, having been replicated around Toronto, and the world.

We used the first Community Bond to raise $2M to purchase our first building, CSI Annex, in 2010. We used the bond a second time in 2014 to raise $4.3M from 227 community investors to buy CSI Spadina. CSI has never missed an interest payment, and now has enough equity to pay out its bondholders many times over. Our success is linked to the success of the Community Bond.

Now in 2020, the CSI Community Bond is back! And once again we’re inviting our community of members and supporters to invest in in the people, place, and programs that put people and planet first.

The 2020 Campaign Goals and The Next Economy 

In 2018 and 2019, we began convening outside stakeholders around the idea of building the next economy. We saw this as both a strategic objective, in order to position our existing services within a competitive coworking environment and because it would give us the opportunity, once again, to prove that a new way is possible. We were also exploring what future role CSI should take as we looked at the larger ecosystem.

The biggest take-away was we should “walk away from the typical ‘growth’ paradigm” and embrace a more regenerative, human-centred, place-based approach to what we do. This really resonated with us. Refocusing on our place-based work, by honouring and celebrating what we really do well – people, animation, culture, trust, authenticity, love and kindness – we can rethink our own growth. We can let go of the ideas of scaling big. We can then look at the even bigger ideas of proving that new economic models are possible Everywhere we turn, this direction is being reinforced. To be local, to prove its possible, to leverage our experience, to honour our community, to bring people along, to rethink growth, to redesign our economic systems, to prove that things are possible? This feels like a natural next step in our work. We want our CSI supporters and our investors to join us as we take those brave new steps, together.

We drew inspiration from the Sustainable Development Goals, as published by the UN task force. Specifically, we will focus our energies and resources on six goals. You can click on each one below to see how your investment in a CSI Community Bond will create impact in each area.

How do I invest?

The first step is to check out the investor package. It contains everything you need to know about the 2020 Community Bond, including how you investment will create impact across six of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The investor package contains the business plan, offering statement, term sheet and trustee agreement;  everything you need to know about your impact investment in Centre for Social Innovation.

Once you’ve read the package, you can invest by clicking below. You’ll need a photo of void cheque or pre-authorized debit form from your online banking.

Two Bonds to Choose From: Income or Growth

To make it easy for you to commit, we’ve shortened the term of the 2020 Community Bond to just three years, at a very competitive 3% interest rate. We’re offering two versions: a growth bond that compounds the interest over the three-year term, and an income version that pays out interest annually.


Growth (Series F)

Rate: 3%
Term: 3 Years
$1,000 Minimum
Interest compounds annually, is paid at maturity

Income (Series G)

Rate: 3%
Term: 3 Years
$10,000 Minimum
No compounding, interest is paid out twice a year

What if I have more questions?

You can download the full investor package here, check out the FAQ below, watch the interview with Tonya, or email

Frequently Asked Questions

I’m new to impact investing, what is a Community Bond?

Our friends at Tapestry have a great description:


Community Bonds are a proven social finance tool, used by not-for-profits and co-operatives, that generate both a social and financial return. This tool allows an established organization to leverage their community of supporters to help finance the purchase of a fixed-asset, like a new space or major equipment.


Key Information

Community Bonds are:

  • Issued exclusively by non-profits, charities and co-operatives
  • Issued in the name of the local organization
  • An interest-bearing loan which must be repaid with interest

How does a Community Bond work?

Some things are different from bond to bond, but what usually happens is this:

  1. An organization, like CSI, identifies a large capital need that would be best financed over several years rather than paid out all at once from cash flow.
  2. The organization will then create a Community Bond; essentially a loan agreement that specifies the amount of money they are seeking from their community, a term (how long they would like to borrow it for) and an interest rate (the amount of money the organization will pay the investors in order to borrow the money).
  3. A community investor will then provide the organization with funds, and receive a bond certificate detailing the agreement in exchange. This certificate entitles the bond holder to a return of their money at the end of the term, as well as interest. Interest can be paid monthly, annually, or all at once at the end of the term, depending on the bond offer.
  4. At the end of the term, the community investor either receives their investment back from the organization, or the organization can offer the investor a new bond which the investor can either accept, and reinvest in, or refuse.

What is the difference between a Community Bond and a donation?

In essence, a donation is a gift: something you give away and don’t expect to get back.

A Community Bond is an investment. It is a 100% repayable loan, which earns interest, that you lend to a non-profit organization so they can create impact. But unlike a donation, at the end of your term you get your money back.

Is a Community Bond a safe investment?

Safe, in investment terms, is a relative concept. On one side of the spectrum the value stored in a Canadian $20 bill is only as safe as the existence of Canada, which most people consider to be pretty safe. But of course, because of inflation, paper money actually shrinks in buying power every year. Paper money also doesn’t accomplish much of anything sitting in your wallet.

After that, you’d probably count federally insured deposits at Canadian banks as pretty safe, and because they’re so safe banks pay very little interest on money they hold for you; often less than inflation too. And, they can use your money to invest in all kinds of things you don’t know about.

Community Bonds are all different, so it’s not possible to describe their general safety in an FAQ, but CSI Community Bonds have a few things going for them: they have a long track record, they’re secured to real estate with lots of equity, and they make a BIG social impact, providing essential infrastructure and services to thousands of social innovators.

Who invests in Community Bonds?

By the numbers: people. Most of our bonds are held by CSI members, staff, volunteers, neighbourhood supporters, and board directors. Community Bonds are primarily a way for our existing community to buy-in and be part of the solution.

That said: CSI Bonds, especially now that they have been proven and replicated all over the word, are in demand by all kinds of community investors. From supportive foundations seeking a safe haven that does no harm, to local impact investors seeking a dual return, the CSI Community Bond has become the impact investment to beat.

Are Community Bonds regulated by the government?

The short answer is no: Community Bonds are exempt market, and can only be issued by non-profits and charities, which face a myriad of other financial regulations private corporations do not, including annual third-party financial audits.

But here’s part of the innovation: the Community Bond is structured to meet or exceed all of the standards and regulations that govern provincially regulated co-op bonds. In practice, that means the Community Bond has opted-in to the standards mandated by regulation to play on the same field as other investments.

Are Community Bonds RRSP eligible?

Legally YES! Practically…maybe.

Here’s the deal: CSI Community Bonds are mortgage backed, and mortgaged backed investments can be legally held in RRSPs. So step one check.

Step two is more complicated. If you take your CSI Community Bond into your local bank branch and try to deposit it, you will likely be met with a blank stare. They’re not used to people trying to deposit paper securities anymore, especially ones issued by a local non-profit. Step two is just getting them to listen to you.

Step three, and this happens after you’ve directed them to this great MaRS paper on Community Bonds, so they now can wrap their heads around what a Community Bond is, is convincing them they have a reason to hold a Community Bond for you. Unlike their own mutual funds, or exchange traded securities, banks cannot earn a commision on Community Bonds, and therefore aren’t generally interested in pursuing ways to accept them. In our experience, exceptions are made for wealthy investors as a customer service concession, and not many others.

But all is not lost. As Community Bonds rise in popularity, we’re seeing more and more interest from banks and other financial institutions in them as a way to meet their social goals. And look, just 10 years ago these things were just a glimmer in a small, local, non-profit’s eye. The story of the Community Bond has just begun…

Why does the income bond have a $10,000 minimum?

We set a $10K minimum for  income bonds because we’ve learned that the extra admin load of mailing cheques twice a year can be very time consuming for our accounts department, and therefore expensive, especially when we have hundreds of investors. For example, 3% on $1000 would be a cheque for $15 every six months. As you can imagine sending hundreds of cheques for $15 doesn’t make a lot of sense and with postage and time can easily double the real cost of the bond.

CSI’s growth bonds compound, and therefore end up paying investors more in the long run, while being less expensive for CSI too. Win win!

Do I have to invest a round number, or in increments of $1000?

Any amount higher than the minimum is fine and greatly appreciated. Because of renewing bonds with accrued interest, we’ve issued bonds for seemingly random numbers like $14,543.32, for example.

Why is there a $1000 minimum? Could you make an exception?

We set the minimum at $1000 because there are fixed costs associated with each investor, things like postage and data storage, and below a certain investment amount the cost ratio becomes very expensive. Consider that an extra cost of even $30 a year on $1000 would double the interest costs, diverting twice as much money from programs to administration.
Any amount offered by a supporter is incredibly kind and generous, especially during this terrible time. W’re bound, legally speaking, to the terms in the Offering Statement which specify a $1000 minimum so we can’t make case-by-case exceptions. We are very honoured to know you would invest in CSI. Thank you!
You could also consider-making a donation to The Social Innovation Institute here