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August 17, 2009

Faith-based Investors Get Handbook to Help Increase Community Investing
    by Robert Kropp

The Social Investment Forum has published a handbook to help facilitate the increase in community investing by faith-based individual and institutional investors. --
According to the Community Investing Center, community investing is defined as "capital from investors that is directed to communities underserved by traditional financial services." In her introduction to a recently published handbook, entitled Community Investing: Toolkit for the Faith Community, Lisa Woll, CEO of the Social Investment Forum (SIF), wrote, "Community investing is the fastest growing component of socially responsible investing (SRI)," increasing from $4 billion invested in 1995 to almost $26 billion in 2007.

Noting that the "faith-based sector has long been committed to SRI," the handbook documents the success of such initiatives as the 1% or More in Community Investing Campaign, which encourages individual and institutional investors to devote at least 1% of their managed assets to community investing. Such faith-based coalitions as the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) has, according to the handbook, "functioned as a clearinghouse for its members to facilitate their individual community investment activities."

Investments by faith-based investors and institutions currently total more than $100 billion, according to ICCR. If 1% of these assets were to be devoted to community investing, the handbook points out, then "$1 billion dollars would be available to help marginalized communities create jobs and homes, fund education, and empower human beings in body and spirit."

To facilitate such a level of investment by the faith-based investment community, SIF convened a roundtable in 2007, which concluded that "community investing can unite investment goals with philanthropic and theological principles." Needs exist for improved research into financial and fiduciary issues, as well as the implementation of strategies and coalitions.

The handbook concludes with several recommendations for increasing faith-based community investing. Organizations should create investment plans in line with their missions. They should explore the diverse products available for community investing, and link the rate of return on their investments with the social impact. Faith-based organizations would also benefit by joining such coalitions as ICCR, while developing new strategic partnerships to address specific community investment issues.

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