WIN-WIN for Women: Calvert Foundation

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DC-Based Calvert Foundation announced a new initiative WIN-WIN, which will invest $20 million in organizations and individuals that support women, in the US and globally.  Dowser spoke with Lisa Hall, President and CEO of Calvert Foundation.

Given the recent Jobs Report, which shows that US economy is in a stagnant state, how do you feel that your organization is addressing the unemployment/underemployment problem?

Last Friday, just before I took the stage at CGI America with others working in sustainable finance, the Clinton Global Initiative announced a commitment to supporting small business. Start-ups used to add about 3 million jobs a year, but we’re now down to 2 million. And whilewomen are founding businesses at 1.5 times the national average, only 3-5% of all women-owned businesses receive venture capital funding.

Calvert Foundation contributes to this by making it possible for the public to invest in low-income communities, providing capital where there is none – capital that supports the financing of affordable housing, charter schools or health centers, we are supporting investment and job creation in lower income neighborhoods around the country.

There are countless MFI institutions in America (and especially globally).  How would you distinguish yourself?

We call this “impact investing” – it’s a way to invest for a financial and social return. We then use the money we raise to make flexible and affordable loans to nonprofits and social enterprises around the world, to help them provide affordable housing, small business loans, microfinance, education, and more. We are the only organization that offers a product with global diversity delivering social good to such a wide range of investors – those investing $20 online through Microplace to those purchasing $1,000 (or more) by investing through their brokerage accounts under the guidance of their financial advisor. We also advise large institutions like Citi, which is committing millions to impact investing.

While you do support women entrepreneurs in the developing world, your main focus is in America. What differences do you find in working with entrepreneurs here at home as opposed to abroad?  The biggest difference seems to be that the money goes much further in developing nations but there’s just as much need here in the US.

It’s true that in absolute terms, dollars go further in developing countries than they do in the USA. A $200 loan provided by one of our clients to poor women in Africa or Latin America is frequently enough to begin the journey out of poverty for these women and their families. Besides this, it is frequently much harder to serve the working poor in developing countries because their legal systems often do not favor business and their markets are small and fragmented. Our capital is that much more important to support the efforts of small entrepreneurs to seize the opportunities to grow their businesses and communities. Women entrepreneurs are each different but all the same around the world: they are dedicated to building businesses that serve their communities and provide more opportunity for their children, their families, and their communities.

Can you tell us a bit about the model of WIN-WIN?  The emphasis is on investment, not loans necessarily.  So, how does a typical investment work?

The Women Investing in Women Initiative (WIN-WIN) – is a new project of Calvert Foundation that carries a simple message: investing in women is smart economics. The goal of WIN-WIN is to raise capital to invest in products and services that empower women living and working in disadvantaged communities, such as access to credit, health care, and affordable housing. That capital will come from investments by other women – and people who care about women. Women control $20 trillion dollars of wealth globally. We want to get some of that money invested in women who need it – both here in the United States and internationally.

WIN-WIN was launched this year in partnership with Citi Foundation.  How did the partnership with Citi come about as they’ve put in $1 million into the initiative?  Do you feel that for non-profits it’s essential to have such a private sector partner?  What do you feel that they bring to WIN-WIN (aside from just the funds) that you’re truly grateful for?

They have been a terrific partner. Due to a $1 million grant from the Citi Foundation, Calvert Foundation was able to launch WinWin – the Women Investing in Women Initiative earlier this year on International Women’s Day at the United Nations in NY. This initiative is well on its way to raising $20MM in donations and investment from women and those who care about women to be invested in organizations that are women-led, empower women, and provide services and support to women. Earlier – in 2010, Citi also made a $200MM commitment to the Communities at Work Fund, which makes loans to Community Development Financial Institutions for investment in small businesses.

Speaking more broadly, the US has been struggling with underemployment and unemployment for almost 5 years now.   What do you feel that we’re doing wrong and where can we as a society make improvements (whether you’re in public, private, or third sector)?

Let’s face it – we need jobs. And we all need to play a part.

You can do so by investing as little as $20 in women’s economic empowerment on Microplace. You can serve as a mentor to an entrepreneur just starting out. You can give to a community organization providing job training. We’re not the 99% or the 1%. We’re the 100%. Economic recovery rests on ensuring sustainable access to capital, both to grow existing businesses and to finance new ventures. These models are also demonstrating new and sustainable ways to grow wealth and help communities adapt to a changing economy.

We believe in economic justice. This means allowing a family in Cambodia to send their children to school – the education they never received. This means being able to stay in your home after being a victim of predatory lending. Those left behind by traditional financial systems are growing. And our current financial systems are not enough to meet the challenges and needs in these turbulent times. Calvert Foundation offers a solution through our Community Investment Note. We encourage everyone to take part and be part of the solution to create economic opportunity for all.


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