Retail

 
Retail investors are the majority of individual investors. Also known as non-accredited investors, they are individuals who have less than one million dollars in net assets. Because they are less tolerant to financial losses, the government places limits on investors who manage or accept capital from non-accredited individuals. However, a retail investor can, independently of any advisor or financial planner, place capital directly with a local community development bank, credit union or loan fund, affordable housing developer or through a microfinance institution. To find a US SIF member community development financial institution, visit our Financial Services Directory and search by name, category or location.
 
Many advisors and planners may be able to assist retail investors with choosing community investment options; however, not many will be able to manage the money directly through their firm. The Expanding the Market for Community Investment in the United States report provides valuable information on ways to attract new accredited and institutional investments, as well as to develop products that are accessible enough to retail investors.

The section on Advisors to Retail Investors in the Options and Innovations in Community Investing report also has more information on this subject.
 
Cash 
 
Some private US banks and credit unions have a commitment to financing small businesses, microenterprises, non-profits, commercial real estate and affordable housing in low-and-middle income communities. These institutions offer checking and saving accounts, as well as certificates of deposit (CD) at comparable returns to conventional banks.  A number of these banks and credit unions have received certification from the US Treasury as community development financial institutions (CDFIs).
 
More information on community development banks can be found in Doing Business with Community Development Banking Institutions: A Deposits Initiative, by the Initiative for Responsible Investment in collaboration with the National Community Investment Fund.
 
To find a community development bank or credit union, please visit
 
Fixed Income
 
Fixed income generally refers to an investment that has a set rate of return on a set schedule. Bonds are the most common type of fixed-income security, though there are others such as loans, notes and fixed income funds. 
 
Calvert Foundation Notes
The Calvert Foundation is a CDFI that offers a securitized note that pools investor funds and lends them to a diversified group of CDFIs, affordable housing developers and international microfinance organizations.  The notes are processed electronically and are widely distributed through conventional investment platforms, making them extremely popular as a community investment vehicle in all investor classes. For more information, please visit Calvert Foundation Notes.
 
Bond funds (with Community Reinvestment Act focus) or mutual funds with a strong community investment component
A community development bond fund can be structured as a mutual fund, by bundling government-backed affordable housing, business financing and municipal bonds. The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 not only prohibits discrimination by denying or increasing the cost of banking to residents of racially or economically-defined neighborhoods, it also requires all banks to invest a portion of their assets in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Community development bond funds have grown in popularity with investors who like the combination of impact, return and security these bonds offer and are frequently referred to as “CRA bonds” or “social bonds.”  There are also other mutual funds that are not strictly in fixed income, but include community development investments into their portfolio mix. For more information, visit the 2016 Report on US Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends.
 
To find a bond fund or mutual fund, visit our SRI Mutual Fund Performance Chart
 
Microfinance
Microfinance organizations make small loans to help very small businesses, especially in the poorest parts of the world. These international or internationally focused organizations provide loans, debt guarantees and technical assistance to businesses, affordable housing providers, smallholder farmers and agricultural cooperatives. A growing number of microfinance organizations exist in the United States. Organized as both for-profit and non-profit entities, there are also a number of intermediaries that pool investor funds and re-lend them to microfinance organizations.