Investing in Your Community
If you want a way to improve your own part of the world and have a positive impact close to home (where you can see the results!), you should consider investing in your community. There are lots of options out there, for all life stages and bank account levels, that can result in more than just monetary returns—like healthier food options, improved housing, and diversified jobs in your hometown.
Angel investing is a great option for those who already have a sufficient rainy-day savings fund and still have capital (i.e. cash) they’d like to invest in causes and businesses they care about. These investors usually also offer industry expertise from their own careers. Because angel investors work with their own funds, offer insight, and choose which ventures and entrepreneurs to support, they can often have a higher impact on who and what they support than a traditional venture capitalist.
Banking locally at a credit union
By banking with your local credit union, you ensure your money is put to work in your own town or state. Because credit unions focus on relationship-based banking and reinvesting in their community, much of their business is lending to local families, small-business owners, farms, affordable housing initiatives, and nonprofits. So, your deposits—of all amounts!—will support your local economy rather than funding speculative bubbles or destructive industries as they likely might with a mega-bank.
Being a credit union member in your town can also be a part of socially responsible investing, especially considering most credit unions have community-specific programs where they invest time and funds supporting local sports teams, organizing park clean-ups, etc.
Community development loan funds
Community development loan funds are an option for people with a wide range of investment means. These funds are revolving loans made to entrepreneurs and business owners in a specific geographic area who might not qualify for other loans. Investors receive a modest fixed rate of return, but the risks of these investments are low and have a good track record for returning lenders’ money.
Community-supported enterprises (CSE)
You may have heard of community-supported agriculture (or CSA)—it’s where you “subscribe” to a local farm before the growing season (prepaying for your subscription) and then receive a box of fresh, in-season veggies every week or two for several months (depending on the variety of veggies grown and their respective growing seasons). This pre-selling model of the CSA program gives farmers the cash they need in the lean months before harvest. CSA customers (who can also think of themselves as local investors) benefit by enjoying delicious local food at the peak of flavor season!
The CSA model has now spread to other businesses. There are community-supported breweries, bookstores, fisheries, bakeries, art studios, and more. Consider joining one of these programs to support local workers and industries.
Join a cooperative
Often called “co-ops” for short, cooperatives are similar to the CSA/CSE model of investing locally: a group produces a product—everything from beer to groceries to energy—and you buy a membership to access the goods.
Your time, talents, and knowledge can be just as valuable as money. Consider volunteering or serving in a leadership capacity for a local non-profit. This can be anything from building affordable homes, to caring for rescue animals, to cleaning up your local watershed area. You could also run for city council or the local planning commission.
Building brighter, healthier communities takes investments of all kinds. These are just a few of the ways you can create meaningful change in your own neighborhood.