We launched the 2020 Community Bond on May 15th, and truly expected to be at it all summer: a summer full of Q+As, emails, webinars, and the personal, one-on-one conversations that make Community Bonds a community experience. After all, it took four months to raise to the original $1.4M we needed for Annex! It took over 200 days to raise the money we needed in 2014 to buy CSI Spadina.
But here we are. With profound gratitude (and more than a little surprise) it is our great honour to share that, in just 41 days, we’ve raised more than $1.9M using Community Bonds to help build the Next Economy. These investors are our members, staff, neighbours, and community foundations; people like you and I who know this old economy is broken, and who know we deserve better.
The record success of this campaign, during this unprecedented time of hardship and activism, speaks to the moment: great challenges demand that we rise to meet them. As a society, we’re emerging from a time of quiet reflection, during which many of us have, for the first time in our adult lives, been given a moment to catch our breath and think about our work and our values. The potential we have today to reshape ourselves hasn’t existed since the post-war era.
What is a Community Bond?
For those unfamiliar, the Community Bond is an innovation in social finance that allows a nonprofit or charity to leverage its community of supporters to raise money, 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 commercial office building at 720 Bathurst, CSI Annex, in 2010. We used the Bond a second time in 2014 to raise $4.3M from 227 community investors to buy another location: CSI Spadina.
Unquestionably, our tremendous growth over the past 10 years is linked to the success of the Community Bond.
10 Years Later the Community Bond is Still Evolving
The 2020 Community Bond is focused on impact, which is itself an incremental innovation: Traditionally, Community Bonds have been used to finance infrastructure. They have been used for the past decade, by CSI and other organizations, to finance student loans, solar energy projects, food co-ops, biogas plants, and other large capital projects. But never before to finance investments in scaling programs.
While we were structuring the campaign, this raised a few questions (and eyebrows). But the important thing to remember is that CSI invented the Community Bond, so in the Bonds case, ‘traditional’ really just means what we did for the first time, last time.
Programming for Impact
Aligned through six Sustainable Development Goals: Quality Education, Gender Equality, Decent Work, Reduced Inequality, Sustainable Communities and Climate Action, the 2020 Community Bond builds on, and scales, CSI’s existing work in these areas, with the overarching goal to contribute significantly to building the Next Economy: one that puts people and planet first.
Our community of impact investors are some of the most committed people in Canada. They saw the opportunity, CSI’s track record of doing the work and proving that big ideas are possible, and they wanted to be part of the solution. So they bought-in.
A Tool to Help Build the Next Economy
If you’re following our work you know that CSI is focused on building the Next Economy. We first wrote about it in the 2018/19 issue of our magazine, The Collider. Back then we were asking ourselves, what is the Next Economy? We knew that it had different names in many different sectors, and that its overarching goal is to unite these sectors in response to the world’s biggest challenges.
Over time we’ve come to this definition: the Next Economy is regenerative, inclusive, equitable, and prosperous for all.
But what does that really mean? How can we begin to make the policy, culture, and market changes necessary to achieve it? And how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected this movement?
These questions are top of mind at CSI.
The Community Bond is a concrete solution in the push to build the Next Economy. We have seen the power of the Bond to leverage community support and build financial capital with social purpose. It’s proof we can find market-based solutions while being socially and environmentally conscious. Using the funds raised this year for our impact programming we’ll take the movement further and build back better by catalyzing more ideas, tools, solutions that put people and planet first.
Kyle Shantz is CSI’s Director of Growth, and has managed CSI’s Community Bond portfolio through three renewal periods and two capital raises.