From the Executive Director
Dear Friend,
Happy New Year and welcome to the inaugural issue of  Capital Effects , the newsletter of Benefit Chicago. Through this quarterly publication, I will keep you abreast of developments and provide a closer look at how borrowers are putting capital to work to expand and grow.  We also will introduce you to investors -- large and small -- who are demonstrating their commitment to the strength and vitality of our region's communities, and share information about the quickly evolving world of impact investing.  For those of you who like a "quick read," there will be profiles, videos and more; as well as links to in-depth articles, books, speeches and other resources, including upcoming meetings and conferences for those who want a deeper dive.
After more than a year as Executive Director of Benefit Chicago, I am thinking a lot about where we have been and where we intend to go. When I came on board, the immediate goal was to complete the first group of loans. In May 2017, we announced the first six loans, to nonprofit and for-profit organizations and to financial intermediaries, which in turn finance local economic development projects and entrepreneurs.
Based on experience to date, going forward, Benefit Chicago will place a high priority on organizations that:
  • Build wealth in or for communities through economic development, growth of community assets, and support of community-based entrepreneurs
  • Create jobs that are accessible to community residents, particularly for those for whom access to employment can be a challenge  
  • Enhance job readiness and skills for those seeking to find, maintain and advance in employment
As we begin a new year, I am also pleased to share the news that, with more than $83 million raised, we are closing in on our goal of securing $100 million to invest in strengthening local communities and improving the quality of life for their residents. Benefit Chicago partner Calvert Impact Capital makes investing easy through the sale of Chicago-targeted Community Investment Notes in denominations as low as $20 on-line, or up to $5 million or more through a brokerage account, financial adviser, or donor-advised fund.  More than 150  individuals, organizations and institutions have invested to date. 
As always, I am eager to meet with people and organizations across the region to share information about Benefit Chicago and to help identify potential borrowers and investors.
In the meantime, I welcome your comments, suggestions and ideas.
William W. Towns
Executive Director

By the Numbers

$167 million  
in financing requests
for-profit and non-profit applicants 
$83 million  
in investment capital raised, closing in on our goal of 
$100 million
6 loans
for $12 million with more to close soon
For Benefit Chicago's announcement of first round loans, click here.
Capital at Work

Sweet Beginnings

Sweet Beginnings was among the first six organizations to receive a loan through Benefit Chicago.  The for-profit subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network is well-known for its honey-based skin care products and its work with returning citizens and other employment-challenged community residents.

With its products sold at Mariano's, Ten Thousand Villages, Sugar Beet Food Co-op and several online venues, the popularity of Sweet Beginning's products was never in question.  However, the organization lacked sufficient resources to increase the number of hives, production space and, more important, the workforce to fully realize its mission.

According to Brenda Palms-Barber, founder and CEO of Sweet Beginnings, Benefit Chicago made the desired growth possible.  "Developing a detailed growth plan, experiencing the rigor of the underwriting process and establishing proof of a social and financial return on investment were all a part of the process.  We were fortunate enough to be ready, and the approval has validated our cause and model," she said.

For the complete profile, click here.

For all borrower profiles, click here.

Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI)

A community celebration honoring the grand opening of a Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the recently completed 111th Street Gateway Retail Center was the occasion for the residents to celebrate the renaissance of Pullman and thank Benefit Chicago and others whose confidence and investment in the community has made positive change possible.

At an event attended by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Anthony Beale, and scores of corporate and community leaders, David Doig, president of site-developer CNI, spoke about the importance of access to capital in making the Retail Center and the opening of the community's first sit-down restaurant possible.

For the complete profile, click here.

For all borrower profiles, click here.

Investor Profile

Mark Regier, Praxis Mutual Funds
Promoting impact investing in companies and organizations that serve Chicago-area communities where need outstrips resources, Benefit Chicago attracts investors with strong values and a desire to advance positive change.

Praxis Mutual Funds is one such investor.  Praxis is part of Everence Financial, a diversified financial services organization owned by the Mennonite Church USA.  Praxis was introduced to Benefit Chicago by Calvert Impact Capital, and was immediately interested in Benefit Chicago's focus on community impact.

For the complete profile, click here.
News and Views

Innovations Award
Honoring the collaboration among the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust and Calvert Impact Capital, in October Benefit Chicago was named a Top 100 Most Innovative Company and received the Chicago Innovation Award for Collaboration.  Out of 530 nominees, Benefit Chicago was honored for its distinctive role in the financial ecosystem of the city.

Chicago Community Trust Has a New CEO
Only the seventh leader in the organization's 102-year history, in October Dr. Helene Gayle became the new President and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, bringing a wealth of national and international experience.  Prior to joining the Trust, Dr. Gayle served as CEO of the McKinsey Social Initiative, an independent nonprofit organization founded by McKinsey & Company that works to develop innovative approaches to complex social challenges.  She also served as president and CEO of CARE USA, a global organization dedicated to ending poverty.  Gayle also worked at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where she directed programs on HIV/AIDS and other global health issues.

"The Chicago Community Trust is one of the three pillars on which Benefit Chicago has been built," said Benefit Chicago's Executive Director William W. Towns.  "We look forward to working with Dr. Gayle as the collaboration grows, bringing new resources to communities and strengthening the organizations -- old and new -- that are working to provide the innovations, skills and jobs that are the foundation for growth and well-being of neighborhoods, the city and indeed the region as a whole."

Read more about Dr. Gayle here.

"The world's richest families are increasingly investing their money in good causes, giving a boost to the growing, if still challenged, impact investing space.  More than a quarter (28%) of ultra-net-worth "family offices" are now putting money into social and environmental areas.  And, as younger generations take the reins that percentage is likely to rise significantly in the years ahead."

Read the full article here.

A Conversation About Benefit Chicago
Benefit Chicago's  Executive Director, William W. Towns, joined Microsoft's Director of Civic Engagement, Shelley Stern Grach to speak about how Benefit Chicago fills the gap between traditional financing mechanisms and local social entrepreneurs building organizations that improve the quality of life in the Chicago region's diverse communities.
William W. Towns, Executive Director, Benefit Chicago
William W. Towns, Executive Director, Benefit Chicago
A Conversation About Impact Investing
In September, William W. Towns joined members of the  Rotary Club of Milwaukee to discuss impact investing -- investing in companies, organizations and funds with the intention to generate economic, social and environmental impact. 

To listen to the podcast, click here.