Benefit Chicago, a collaboration of the Chicago Community Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Calvert Foundation, has announced a first round of impact investments totaling $12 million.
Created in 2016 with the goal of mobilizing $100 million for investments in local nonprofit organizations and social enterprises facing barriers in accessing capital from commercial sources, the funding collaborative awarded loans to six organizations. Recipients include social enterprise AutonomyWorks, which was awarded a $600,000 loan to expand its efforts to provide meaningful employment to adults with autism; CNI, a community development corporation and community development financial institution, which was awarded a $2 million loan to complete the 111th Street Retail Gateway in Chicago's Pullman neighborhood; and the Garfield Produce Company, which was awarded a $500,000 loan to expand production and hire additional employees at its vertical hydroponic vegetable farm.
In addition, mission-driven lender and developer IFF received a $5 million loan to finance a range of community-based projects; LISC Chicago was awarded a $3.5 million loan to support the Southwest Corridor Collaborative, a new community partnership; and Sweet Beginnings, a for-profit subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network, was awarded a $500,000 loan to expand production and sales of its honey-based products, which are produced by formerly incarcerated and other residents of the city who have struggled to find gainful employment.
"Through the investment fund created by the MacArthur Foundation, we benefit from individuals with significant experience investing in Chicago's rich and diverse community of nonprofits," said Benefit Chicago executive director William Towns. "Through the trust, we tap into deep concern for the vitality of the Chicago region and Chicago's generous philanthropic community. And Calvert Foundation's Community Investment Note makes it easy for investors — large and small — to put their money to work for the benefit of the city that they love."