The CSI Community Bond 2020

The CSI Community Bond 2020

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.

What’s the plan?

The 2020 Community Bond is presently being structured, and will first be offered to our existing Community Bond holders whose bonds are renewing on May 15th. By providing first access to our existing community, we’re saying “thank you” for their support so far. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for their leap of faith in our little social finance experiment, way back in 2010.

How do I invest?

The first step is to register your interest using the form below. On March 30th, we’ll email registrants the details, offering statement, and other legal disclosures, along with a subscription (investment pledge) form. Between March 30th and May 15th we’ll be accepting investment pledges on a first come, first served basis.

CSI Community Bonds are the original Community Bonds, with a proven history of happy impact investors. We think they’ll sell out fast. Don’t miss out!

What is the social impact of my investment?

The 2020 CSI Community Bond is using the ever-popular, and increasingly standard, United Nations Sustainable Development Goal framework to tell the story of its impact.

Sign-up using the form below and be among the first to receive the investment package, and learn more about how an investment in CSI is an investment in impact that spans multiple goals and social outcomes.

What if I have more questions?

Check out the FAQ below, or email bonds@socialinnovation.ca

Sign me up!

You bet! Please fill in the form below to be notified when investments open to our larger community.

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…