Don't Just Give...Invest

A simple guide for engaged citizens who are looking to make a lasting impact through social investing.

By Cristina Roman

April 28, 2010


If you are a person who likes to "give back", but are seeking a more high-impact and lasting means of contributing to social change, social investing may be for you. By providing financing for individuals or organizations with a social mission who are in need of start-up capital, you can become an active participant in this evolving global phenomenon. 

Social investing is also referred to as social capital, impact investing, double bottom line investing, triple bottom line investing, ethical investing, sustainable investing, mission investing, and philanthropic capital. The diversity of terms utilized is indicative of how new the movement is. Social investing can take many forms, including equity investing, peer-to-peer lending, socially responsible investing, and socially responsible banking.


Thrust Fund is a new platform that allows individuals to support budding social entrepreneurs by investing in specific ventures. According to the website, "Thrust Fund Entrepreneurs are looking for support to put their current ventures on paths to sustainability." Individuals "who are looking for meaningful opportunities that pay both social and financial dividends" can choose which entrepreneur to invest in; the entrepreneur and funder then negotiate the terms of an equity contract. Saul Garlick is one example of an entrepreneur featured on Thrust Fund; he is seeking financial support for his international non-profit organization, ThinkImpact


Microfinance is a simple but revolutionary concept made famous by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus. Microloans are provided to poor individuals, who use the capital to start or expand their businesses. Organizations like MicroPlace allow individuals to provide unprecedented financial support to those who generally do not have access to it. If you invest $100 in an aspiring entrepreneur, you will be repaid $103 within a year (based on a 3% interest rate) and have the opportunity to reinvest in another entrepreneur. In contrast, donating through traditional means garners no financial returns and does not provide the option to reinvest. is another peer-to-peer lending site that allows individuals to invest in a specific micro-entrepreneur; the site allows searches by gender, region, and sector. In contrast to Microplace, investors of Kiva do not receive any interest of their initial loan amount. However, Kiva is generally regarded as a more well-established microfinance organization. One microfinance success story is of Marcelino Lopez from Colombia, whose family was forced to flee from their country after guerilla violence broke out. In their new settlement, they lived in a plastic tent. With a small loan of $95, Marcelino was able to establish a small sundries store. In just one year, it became the most successful store in town, and his family now lives in a house made of concrete.



Socially responsible investing, often referred to as SRI, is another means of using financial capital for social good. suggests making a small, albeit powerful, investment in a business in order to effect beneficial changes through shareholder activism. You can participate in SRI by becoming involved in community investing in order to create jobs, provide better housing alternatives, and aid social services. According to the website for Community Investing Center, "These...funds balance their high impact with sound financial management to produce social and financial returns attractive to many individuals." 

Another form of socially responsible investing is available through socially responsible banking. One example of such an organization is Permaculture Credit Union, which allows individuals to "invest in sustainability." Social Enterprise Associates' Drew Tulchin serves on the board of this socially responsible organization. 

A database of community development loan funds can be found at the Community Investing Center Database


These three forms of social investing offer distinct outcomes but provide many similar benefits. Social investing is an alternative to both standard charity and conventional investing because it utilizes business acumen to offer transparency, a beneficial outlet for financial power, and lasting and effective change. We at Social Enterprise Associates hope to see the field expand as the widespread benefits of social investing become evident. 

MORE RESOURCES Financial innovation that is necessary- impact investing

Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN)

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