New Options for Impact Investing

Investing in women is smart economics, according to the World Bank.

impact investment, social enterprise, women entrepreneursGreater participation by women in the labor force would raise GDP worldwide. In America, GDP could rise by 9% and in the Eurozone GDP by 13%. The impact in the Middle East and North Africa would be even greater: average household earnings would increase by as much as 25%.

Investment in women has a multiplier effect. Women spend more of their money on food, healthcare, home improvement, and schooling for their children and families than men do.

Notice I used the phrase “invest in women” not donate to charities supporting women. Donating is important, but sometimes you want/need a financial return. Investing for both return and social good is called impact investing. You’re getting a two-fer: financial and social return.

You don’t need to earn big bucks or amass the kind of money needed to qualify as an angel investor. I’ve written about ways wealthy women can invest in social good and in women. This kind of investment is within the reach of any woman. You can invest for as little as $20. You can invest directly or through your brokerage account.

The Women Investing In Women Initiative is a project of the Calvert Foundation. Its goal is to raise $20 million dollars to provide loans to women entrepreneurs and social service organizations, such as daycare and healthcare, that support women. The lion’s share (75%) of the money will be spent here in the U.S. and the rest internationally.

Loans are provided at below market rates to women and organizations supporting women who traditionally have a hard time getting loans. Risky? Not according to Lisa Hall, president and CEO of the Calvert Foundation. They have a high rate repayment rate (over 98%) because of the due diligence Calvert does to vet each organization before they give a loan. They have been using this process for 15 years. She also said that the community development fund institutions, which distribute the money, provide technical assistance to increase the likelihood that the organizations receiving the loans will be successful.

The Women Investing In Women Initiative isn’t just targeting women as investors in its fund. Men and institutions (Citi Foundation was an early investor) are welcome. However, women control more than 50 % of the wealth in the U.S. and tend to be more socially responsible than men. The Calvert Foundation wants to get some of that money invested in women, who need it both here is the U.S. and internationally, Hall said.

If making a difference and making money, is your goal impact investing is for you. To learn more about the field, read these Forbes articles:

It’s about time!

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