All Posts By

Stephanie Pinnington

Windshare community owned wind project

Celebrating our Renewable Energy Roots 

By | News, Success Story

At Tapestry, we are so excited about community bonds and the future of social finance that we often forget to take a moment to step back, reflect, and share our history. Today, on Global Wind Day, we thought it an apt occasion to celebrate our roots in renewable energy, and the amazing organizations working alongside us to build a more sustainable future. 

Tapestry is not a standalone organization; we are actually building on years of experience of our parent organization, the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative (TREC). TREC was founded almost 25 years ago with the mission to address climate change through collective carbon reduction. Being founded with co-operative values, TREC sought to find community-led solutions, and took inspiration from the renewable energy co-operative model that was thriving in Germany.

If you have ever driven in downtown Toronto along the lakeshore, you will have seen North America’s first urban wind turbine. Ever wonder how it was built? That was TREC’s inaugural incubated project: WindShare, a community-run renewable energy co-operative. This iconic wind turbine is jointly owned by 600 environmentally-minded community investors, a few of whom are pictured below, and Toronto Hydro. 

Windshare community owned wind project

Having seen the possibilities of community power, TREC was eager to replicate the WindShare model with other renewable energy technologies, and allow widespread involvement through community investment. TREC has helped to incubate, and continues to support, some of Canada’s most successful community-led renewable energy initiatives, including SolarShare, WindShare and ZooShare. Combined, these organizations have a portfolio of 54 community-owned renewable energy projects across the province of Ontario.

By allowing people to invest as little as $1000 to help bring these projects to life, these organizations have made participation in the renewable energy industry much more accessible to Canadians. “Often people want to find a way to make a difference, but they don’t have the means to do so. Not everyone can install solar panels on their roof, or even has a roof for an installation. Buying a wind, biogas or solar bond allows people to play a meaningful role in the clean energy transition.” says Mary Warner, Co-Executive Director of TREC. “What’s really exciting is that when these investors become involved, they suddenly want to learn more about renewables, carbon reduction, and even energy efficiency.”

Zooshare Community Bonds

This idea of raising community investment to enable community ownership has transpired into the work we do at Tapestry today. Building on what we learned in community-owned renewable energy, we now support organizations to tap into their community of supporters, raise impact investments, and use these funds to purchase or develop community assets – such as community hubs, sports & recreation spaces, affordable housing, and so much more.

As TREC incubated and saw the success of renewable energy projects, they also noticed a gap in public awareness around the possibilities of these technologies.  They began to focus on children as the solution – to plant the seed of a sustainable future early on and inspire kids to see not only the environmental benefits of renewable energy but also the economic opportunities, like green collar jobs.

This advocacy work led to the formation of what is now Canada’s leading renewable energy education charity, Relay Education. In a normal year, Relay works with upwards of 10,000 kids to help them gain hands-on experience with renewable energy, learn about the connection between energy and the environment, and explore career opportunities in the field.

In addition to their elementary and secondary school programing, Relay is working in partnership with Indigenous communities to support sustainable, long-term energy solutions that are democratic, clean and inclusive. Read more about this work in the recent article in T. about Relay Education’s Indigenous Youth program.

As Tapestry continues to build a thriving community investment market, TREC will remain focused on advocating and finding solutions for a more sustainable future. The TREC team is actively working to define where that mission will take them next.

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A day in the life of our Investment Management Team

By | News

Meet Erica Glueck, our Senior Manager of Investments.

Erica joined the Tapestry team in 2018 to help us manage our client’s growing base of community bond investors. In the 3 years since she joined, Erica has seen that number of investors under management nearly double to 4000, and now manages around $80 million in impact investment.
Erica Glueck, Senior Manager of Investments at Tapestry Community Capital

As we continue to grow and take on new clients, Erica’s role has also evolved to include a stronger focus on supporting new issuers in structuring their impact investment offerings, and preparing all the necessary infrastructure to enable investments. Alongside our new leadership team, she is also supporting organizational strategy.

This is why Erica is looking to grow her team with the addition of a new Impact Investment Associate. The Impact Investment Associate will oversee our portfolio of clients and their respective investors, ensuring that the entire investment process is a streamlined and pleasant one.

Are you interested in learning more or know a friend who might? We’ve asked Erica what a day in the life of our Investment Management Team looks like.

What does the investment management team at Tapestry do?

In a nutshell, we oversee all transactions – and by that I mean all the money going in and out through bond purchases, interest accruals, disbursements, and maturity events – and all the reporting and due diligence that goes along with those transactions.

A huge part of what we do is also client facing work. We work very closely with our portfolio of issuers, really helping them to manage their investors well. We want investors to feel confident in their community bond investments, feel that they are managed professionally, and ultimately, be champions for the organizations they have chosen to invest in. We know that when investors are treated well, they choose to re-invest, and this just means more money for greater impact!

What does a typical day look like for you?

It really depends! Some weeks I spend more time on our overall process and operations, working to improve efficiency, and others I really get into nuts and bolts and need to focus on detailed transactions…like for example, when we are moving $6 million dollars in interest and principal in a few short weeks!

But generally, I’d say that I like to have a lot of structure to my days. I spend about 30 percent of my time overseeing investment operations. About 40 percent of my time is spent on new and existing clients, helping them to move forward in structuring their investment deals, looking out for project risks, looking at financial statements and writing offering statements. The remainder of my time is usually focused on overall Tapestry strategy, building new systems (like our investment management platform), working with our Futures Committee and thinking about what’s next for our organization.

What motivates you to do this work?

When I first applied for the role I started in, I was really drawn to the organization because of the renewable energy work we had done. I actually came from a policy background, and I was really interested in the interaction between policy and sustainability, and how we could create a more energy efficient economy.

What’s really cool is that I get to do that, but I also get to see the direct impacts of how community financing puts any socially or environmentally oriented organization on a stronger financial trajectory. The growth we have witnessed in our clients has been remarkable – for example, seeing an operating budget grow from $400,000 to $9 million over the course of a few years.

I also love being able to see the physical projects that transpire as a result of these impact investments we are managing. It’s incredible to see an old historic building transformed into a new hub and meeting place for the community, or seeing an established organization finally take ownership of the space they have been in for so long.

I find it really powerful to see that transition from subsistence to a really sustainable and growth-oriented mindset. So many non-profits get stuck spending time on getting that next big grant that they actually don’t have the time and energy to think big and plan big. Community bonds really give them that power to be in control, set their own terms and move forward.

On a more personal level, I am a total word and data nerd, so investment management is really fun for me. I’m also a problem solver, and love the diversity of challenges we face working with such a broad group of clients, that are all financing very different projects.

How would you describe tapestry as an employer?

Tapestry has really grown and matured over the last few years, but even since the beginning, the ethos has been community ownership and community power. That word community is just really ingrained in the organization, and collaboration is really intrinsic and embedded in everything we do.

We rarely make big decisions unilaterally, and take the time to come to agreement together. There is also very little, if any, ego in the organization. We are all equally invested in our growth and passionate about what we do.

Sometimes working collaboratively like this is harder, because it means we have to talk things out and contemplate them a little bit deeper, but ultimately we end up with a better service, product and organization.

What is the team looking for in the Impact Investment Associate?

We would really love to see a bright systems thinker – someone who can appreciate how things work internally, externally, and together. I want to see someone who isn’t afraid to challenge processes, just because that’s the way it’s been done in the past, and someone who is keen to find weak spots in efficiency.

I hope that the new Impact Investment Associate will have the willingness and humility to really learn those problem areas before jumping to make changes. I think the better we can learn the problem, the more sustainable the solution will be long-term.

On a more personal level, I hope they will have a collaborative work ethic that will mesh well with our team. I want them to feel comfortable to ask questions, talk it out, and take ownership of their work.

Lastly, it’s really important to me that they are committed to our overall mission. Community bonds are an investment vehicle that should be accessible to everyone – not just accredited investors – but to everyday investors that just want to invest in a good cause.

We want someone who will be passionate about making the investor and issuer experience as pleasant as possible, and someone who will design processes in a way that makes what we do sustainable and scalable. Ultimately, we want to help as many organizations as possible to create these amazing impact investment opportunities for their communities of supporters, and this will only be possible by becoming more efficient and better at what we do.

Are you interested in supporting social change with innovative financing?

We are hiring for an Impact Investment Associate. Applications are due by June 14th, 2021. Click HERE to see the full job description.

 

Crafting your bond terms: How to find the right rate of return

By | Education

Finding the right rate of return for your community bonds will be critical to both your campaign success, and ultimately, your project success. Of course, it will be to your benefit to keep your cost of capital as low as possible. But at the same time, you will need to position an attractive investment to engage your community and ensure that you raise the capital you need. 
Headshot of Mary Warner

Finding this balance is our specialty. Through a combination of financial modelling and community consultations, we help the organizations that we support to design bond terms that work for their balance sheet and their community. 

Today we sat down with Mary Warner, the Co-Executive Director of Tapestry, to give you more insight into the process of crafting community bond terms. Below, she answers a few questions that recently came up during one of our Community Bond Workshops that we offer to non-profits, charities and co-operatives.

What is the typical rate of return offered on a community bond? 

“Bond rates that we’ve seen typically range at the low end from 3%, to about 7% at the high end.

We’ve seen bond interest decrease slightly with the pandemic and current economic situation, but issuers do want to provide their investors with a decent rate of return for the risk they are taking on. So, we haven’t seen rates drop as significantly as commercial interest rates. Current rates for community bonds are averaging at about 3.5-5%.

Typically, the longer the bond term, the higher the interest rate. Another important note, is that when we are referring to interest here, we are speaking of simple interest – where the interest is paid out and does not become part of the principal. Compounding interest (where interest does become part of the principal) is possible in community bonds, but more complex and expensive to issuers. So, for the most part, we see simple interest with community bonds.”

How can we figure out how much we can afford to pay out?

“This is when our financial modelling comes in. The first step is putting together a business model with projections of the next 5-10 years, incorporating your new project.

Then we piece in different options for community bond rates and terms, based on your needs and early assessments of your community. It’s sort of a trial and error process of testing the community bond interest expense and principal repayment. Ultimately, we want to land on a few options that income and cash flow statements can bear.”

Can greater impact mean lower returns?

“That’s a really good question. We have seen in the past that investors may be willing to take a lower return if they feel a strong connection to the project and are passionate about the impact. 

It’s really about finding a balance between the social and environmental return, and the financial return. If the impact is significant and important to the issuer’s community of supporters, you may find that investors are willing to take a slightly lower rate of return. 

If you are a charity, you might also be interested in looking at the ‘giving bond’ model. This is  where investors invest an amount of principal, but instead of receiving interest back as a payment to them every year, the interest is donated back to the charity. The investor does take on the income tax implications of having investment income but they get the benefit of a charitable receipt for the amount of money they donate.

So essentially, it’s equivalent to baking in an annual donation to the charity, and on the flip side, offering the charity an interest free loan. At the end, investors get their full principal investment back.”

We are afraid that we might need a few years to get up and running and generate a profit. Will that be a problem for us in issuing bonds?

“Not necessarily. When we are doing financial models, we want to see that there is the potential to pay back bonds at the end of their term. If your project will take a few years to generate the income necessary, we might want to look at a longer period bond. On the short end, there are 3 year bonds, on the longer side you could be looking at 7-15 years. 

There are also different ways of paying out interest. You might choose to withhold interest payout until year four for example, or to simply pay out all the interest upon maturity. Those are just some of the options we have to manage your cash flow. 

It’s completely normal that in the first year or two you might not generate consistent income until you are steadily up and running. What we want to see in the financial model is that in the longer term, these bonds can be repaid.” 

We would like to have a 10 year bond, but we are worried that investors won’t want to keep their money tied up that long. Any suggestions?

What we’ve seen in the past with other issuers, is that it’s good to offer investors a mix of bond options. So, if we are offering a longer term bond, we might also want to offer a shorter term option. Some investors are able and willing to invest in a 10 year + bond and others will look for a shorter investment.

Having at least two series of bonds with different terms and rates can help with marketing efforts and give options to investors with different motivations. The added benefit of having multiple options is that it can allow you to stagger your principal repayments.

When it comes to a shorter term bond, there is also the option to refinance bonds at maturity. Often, our issuers who issue shorter bonds will choose to issue a new offering statement once their bonds have matured and ask investors to reinvest their funds. We see issuers having very high reinvestment rates. For example, our client SolarShare has found that when bonds reach maturity, about 60-70% of investors choose to reinvest their funds.”

Is there a possibility to repay the principal before the end of the bond term?

“Yes, typically in the offering statement there is a clause that will allow organizations to pay out the principal early. But there is a lot to consider in making this decision. It can sometimes be to the benefit of organization, allowing them to save on interest costs. But it’s also important to consider the relationship you have with your investors. 

It may sour the relationship if investors expected this investment for a period of time and they no longer receive interest payments because you decided to repay the principal early. So yes, there is the possibility but the consideration should not so much be ‘can we?’ but ‘should we?’.

In the case of investor need, the offering statement or the Board can set out the terms of how an “early redemption” takes place.  In some cases it may not be possible, in others you might consider allowing an early redemption if the investor provides a letter stating financial hardship and requesting a redemption prior to maturity.”

We work in a low income neighbourhood and it is important to us that we include our community in this campaign. How can we do that?

“Economic inclusion is a really important topic, and for most of our issuers it’s very important that bonds are accessible to a wide range of their community. We have seen bond minimums set as low as $500 to make this possible.  

We have also had discussions with issuers where they want to maximize community participation by limiting larger size investments.  While the logistics of managing 5 $100,000 bonds may be simpler than managing 500 $1,000 bonds, many issuers we work with have consistently chosen to make community bonds as accessible as they can, setting low minimums for investment and carefully considering larger investments. Community bonds are always about more than financial returns, both for the issuer and the investor.“

How do community consultations help in finding the right rate of return?

“Community consultations give you the opportunity to go to your stakeholders and see what they think of your bond terms and find out what is most attractive. This can help us decide on the options to include in your offering statement. Sometimes you will find that one bond series might resonate better than others. 

You are never going to be able to speak to everyone, but we can help you select a representative group of your community and gain crucial feedback early on to see what is going to be attractive once you start selling.  This also allows you to bring stakeholders together early and start to build enthusiasm and excitement about the project you are working towards.”

Have another question for us to answer? Get in touch at info@tapestrycapital.ca

How do I know if Community Bonds will work for my project?

By | Education

At Tapestry, this is one of the most common questions we are asked. Organizations are often first introduced to the concept of community bonds by seeing them in action, coming to learn about them as an investor, or because they have been searching for alternative forms of financing. When they approach us, they are curious to learn how bonds can work for their unique set of circumstances. 

While every organization and project is unique, there are five main criteria that typically apply across the board. We always begin by walking organizations through a simple checklist to see if their team and board should invest the time to explore this opportunity in greater detail. In this article, we will walk you through the checklist below, step by step.

The organization is a non-profit, charity or co-operative

Community Bonds are a social finance tool that allow organizations to raise capital from their community of supporters. Just like a regular bond you might purchase – say a Canada Savings Bond – these bonds are repayable, and have a fixed term and a set interest rate. 

There are two main features that differentiate community bonds and traditional bonds. The first is that in addition to a financial return, community bonds generate an environmental and/or social return. The second, is that community bonds can only be issued by non-profits, charities and co-operatives (both for-profit and non-profit).

In Canada, the sale of bonds is regulated at the provincial level by the provincial securities commissions, and at the federal level by the Canada Revenue Agency. These agencies have strict requirements for private companies that want to sell securities to the public, and the process is complex and expensive. 

Charities and non-profits, however, are exempt from these requirements under National Instrument 45-106 s. 2.38, and are able to issue community bonds so long as they can guarantee:

  • They are a non-profit organized exclusively for education, benevolent, fraternal, charitable, religious and recreational purposes
  • No commission or other remuneration will paid in connection with the sale of the security

Co-operatives go through a slightly modified process under the Co-operative Corporation Act, and their regulations vary among provinces. The process, however, remains straightforward and much less onerous than that of a private company.

In order to safeguard the interests of community bond investors, our documentation and process for issuing community bonds always meets the requirements set for co-operatives, regardless of whether we are working with a charity or non-profit. 

The organization is seeking to raise financing for the purchase or renovation of an asset

Technically speaking, there is no legal document stating that community bonds must be used towards the purchase of an asset. However, in our experience of managing over $70 million in community bonds, we have found that having these securities backed by an asset increases investor confidence, and hence the success of the campaign. This is particularly true for organizations that are issuing bonds for the first time and have not built a reputation and rapport with their investor base. 

Asset backed projects are also typically easier to build an inspirational story around. We’ve come to understand that investors like having a brick and mortar outcome – a tangible and physical project that resulted from their investment. While operational expenses are critical, they are rarely inspirational, and do not excite investors in the same way.

In some circumstances, if an organization has run several asset backed campaigns, and proved their ability to meet repayment schedules, they have gone on to raise capital for operational expenses.

CSI Community Bond Campaign History

The organization has a revenue model that allows them to repay their investors over time

While community bonds offer a social and/or environmental outcome, they are also a financial product, and issuers must have the capacity to repay the principal investment and pay out interest on schedule. 

For some organizations, income is generated through the operation of a social enterprise, for example by selling tickets, renting spaces or operating a shop. Others, and particularly those who are purchasing an asset to be used for office and administrative purposes, are able to redirect capital previously earmarked for rent payments. 

In almost all cases, community bonds will be only one piece of a larger financing puzzle. They are often used in tandem with donations, grants, interest free loans and traditional bank financing.

One appealing aspect of community bonds is that the issuer has the ability to set their bond terms in a way that will match their cash flow situation. For example, some organizations may prefer to have a longer term in order to pay off the principal investment or may decide to delay interest payments for a year or two while they get their project off the ground. 

We always work with our clients to find terms that work for their investors and their balance sheet.

The organization has a champion

What is a community champion? They are the natural leader of the project, pushing at every stage to make it come to fruition.

Tonya Surman

Tonya Surman, Founder and CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI)

In some cases there will be two champions, an internal lead who drives the project management, and a public face of the campaign, who will engage the media and publicly represent the organization.

In either case, a champion is critical to campaign success. Investors want to see a responsible and charismatic face behind their investments. They want to see someone who is passionate about the potential of the project and determined to see it come to life. This excitement is what inspires people to take the next step in learning about the project and investing their money.

The project is meaningful to your community of supporters

Of course, this probably goes without saying. If you want your community to invest, they will need to feel one of two things, or both. 

1) They are doing something positive and productive with their money. They are making a meaningful contribution to society while also making a fair financial return. 

2) They will personally benefit from seeing the project come to life. For example, they will benefit from improved access to services and spaces that meet their needs.  

In order to target the first group, the project needs to have a strong social impact and/or a positive impact on the environment. In order to target the second group, there must be a sizable group of people that stand to see their community (be it geographical or values based) benefit from the project’s development. 

This last criteria is the one that organizations tend to struggle to answer. That’s why we always help organizations interested in this model to dig deeper on this topic and begin to assess who their community truly is and understand what their appetite for investment might be. 

Once an organization has been through this checklist and feels comfortable that they fit within these criteria, the next step in assessing a community bond campaign is to participate in a community bond workshop hosted by Tapestry. 

During the 3-hour, online workshop, you will have the chance to bring together your team and board to learn more about community bonds, see how community bonds have worked for other organizations, understand how investors make decisions, and understand what a campaign budget and resource plan might look like. Upon completion of the workshop, Tapestry provides a readiness assessment to help your team and board make a decision about whether or not community bonds are an appropriate financing tool for your project. 

If you think your organization might have a project that fits these criteria, get in touch with us at info@tapestry.captial.ca

Community Bonds as a pathway to Community Ownership

By | Education, Policy and Advocacy

Our community spaces are vital – whether they are sports facilities, schools or community centres, these places sit at the heart of our neighbourhoods. They provide physical space for services and are places that unite us.

We know that across the country, community spaces are being lost, and with the impact of the pandemic, this trend is only likely to worsen. We see places that were once vibrant hubs of community activity ending up in the hands of private developers, being pushed out of gentrifying neighbourhoods, or worse, left derelict.

“Too often, outside corporate interests come in and change a neighbourhood and it doesn’t reflect the needs of the community,” says Ryan Collins-Swartz, Co-Executive Director of Tapestry, “the story is all too familiar – the place of worship with low attendance sold to a developer, storefronts in rural communities left empty, a beloved historic theatre being demolished – the list could go on.”

“The amazing thing is that this problem actually presents a huge opportunity,” shares Ryan. “We have the potential to empower communities, redefine public services and reinvigorate local economies through community ownership.”

What is community ownership?

There are many accepted definitions of what community ownership means, but for us at Tapestry, it means a community organization (a co-operative, charity or non-profit) taking legal possession of an asset. These community assets are diverse and represent a wide range of uses from community solar farms to land trusts. The asset may be held for the benefit of the organization itself (ex. Office and program space) or for the wider community (ex. Affordable housing).

We know that community ownership can be a powerful catalyst for social action. Taking control of an asset means that a community organizations can:

  • Protect key services and facilities from being pushed out of neighbourhoods
  • Make major alterations to assets to fit their needs
  • Reverse economic decline of an area and attract investment
  • Instil a renewed sense of pride and confidence in the community
  • Increase future participation through membership, volunteering, attendance, etc.
  • Build credibility with funders, and leverage future financing to grow
  • Encourage, through their success, further innovation within the community

At Tapestry, we have seen the power of community ownership firsthand. The very first project we were involved in began back in 2002, when a group of community members came together with the vision to build a community owned wind project in downtown Toronto. 

Windshare community owned wind project

It was to be the first urban wind turbine in all of North America. “At the time, this was no small feat,” shares Ryan, “our lawyer often jokes that it would have been easier to build a nuclear power station in the city than that turbine.”

But the community was focused and determined, and the sense of pride and ownership was immense. By bringing together almost 600 members, WindShare became a model not only for sustainable energy but for community ownership across Canada.

In the years since, we have seen amazing historic buildings rescued and repurposed for community needs, expanded and revitalized sport facilities, community arts spaces anchored within gentrifying neighbourhoods, and communities shaping their own needs for education. The common thread? The purchases of these assets were all made possible, in part, by engaging community members as investors.

“Community finance is a natural fit for community ownership,” explains Ryan, “when a community member invests, they feel they are taking a meaningful stake in the future development of the place in which they live and/or work.”

Community investment not only mobilizes financial capital, but also social capital within a community. “Once a community member is an investor, they really feel they are part of the project. We see them wanting to volunteer, participate and talk about the work of the organization they have invested in. They get really excited!” says Ryan. 

What’s more, there is a significant public appetite for making these types of impact investments. 

What are Community Bonds?

All too often, communities have a great idea but they don’t have the money they need to bring their visions to life. Community bonds can help complete the financing puzzle for these projects, alongside other important types of financing such as grants, mortgages, and donations. 

Community bonds are a social finance tool, similar in many ways to a traditional bond. They are an interest bearing loan from an investor, which has a set rate of return and a fixed term. The major difference is that in addition to offering a financial return, they also offer a social or environmental return.

What are community bonds

What makes community bonds so unique is that they allow capital to flow back into the local economy, rather than to a bank. Investors get a double benefit – the financial return and a stake in shaping their own community. 

“We believe that communities should control their own destiny. And community bonds are a financial tool that give communities the agency to decide what develops and how their community transforms,” says Ryan. 

Economic Inclusion

Community organizations issuing bonds have the ability to customize the terms of their investment offering so that they fit the needs of their project and their community. “We have seen community bonds priced for as low as $250 to be as inclusive as possible,” says Ryan, “still, in disadvantaged communities, organizations often have to extend their notion of community beyond the physical boundaries of their neighbourhood.” 

Community bonds have been very popular among community foundations who have earmarked funds for impact investing and local businesses looking to make a social impact, and there is a growing community of impact investors across Canada that want to make a return while also doing good. 

The future of Community Investment and Community Ownership Community Investment Kingston

We need to be learning from past successes and supporting innovative financing in order for this model to flourish.  Local governments can play a huge role in helping communities to regenerate their areas by supporting community ownership.

We are encouraged by the steps that some municipalities have been taking to this end, particularly with covid recovery at the top of the agenda. The City of Kingston, for example, recently launched an initiative to explore how community investment might contribute to initiatives that support vital community needs

We invite local governments, community leaders and community organizations to engage with us on community ownership as a model for post-COVID recovery. If you are interested in learning more or have a project in mind, please get in touch at info@tapestrycapital.ca

covid volunteers

Raising Community Bonds amid Pandemic Restrictions

By | Education

To say this past year has been tough would be a massive understatement. We’ve all been stretched to our limits balancing childcare, social isolation and economic challenges, just to name a few. 

But we are a resilient bunch. Across Canada, communities and social purpose organizations have been rallying together to provide critical social services. Non-profits and charities, in particular, have worked tirelessly to fill the void by providing food, mental health support, housing, and so much more. 

covid volunteers

At Tapestry, we are always on the hunt for good news, and now that we’re a full year into the pandemic, we feel we are all well overdue for some.

So what’s been the silver lining of the pandemic?

The pandemic, as difficult as it has been, has undeniably prompted a dramatic shift towards collectivism. Movements to support local and community initiatives have triggered the attention of the masses. We’ve all seen the hashtags to #supportlocal, had an old friend ring up out of the blue, or offered to collect groceries for a neighbour. These are all signs that despite social distancing, social cohesion appears stronger than it has in recent years. 

The same has been true in the world of finance. Now, more than ever, we are seeing that investors aren’t just interested in a financial return. They also want a tangible social outcome, and a positive impact that’s visible in their own community.  

Even amid lockdowns and widespread restrictions, the past year was a great success in community financing. In 2020 alone, Tapestry supported raising $18.3 million in community investment for Canadian non-profits, co-ops, and charities. This investment is creating spaces for marginalized youth, producing clean energy, and supporting the growth of social purpose organizations.

Now that’s not to say that COVID hasn’t created new hurdles for Tapestry and our clients. It has. But like everyone, we are learning to adapt, and in the process becoming more productive and efficient. 

We thought we would take this opportunity, on the anniversary of the pandemic, to share some of the lessons we’ve learned from a year of lockdowns and restrictions.

A chance to redefine community

As a result of the pandemic, we’ve all been forced online like never before. Our clients, in particular, have had to double-down on their digital tactics. Where in-person events used to be the modus operandi for meeting potential investors and selling community bonds, Zoom calls are the new norm. 

We are lucky to be working in a sector that is nimble and flexible. Our clients were quick to adapt, and made the move online seamlessly. And in doing so, they found some unexpected benefits. 

Going digital, has meant much greater reach. Events no longer have geographic restrictions and can be accessed by potential investors all across Canada. This has hugely increased the pool of impact investors for our clients. 

Online events are also more accessible. There is no longer the need to arrange transportation or child-care. Anyone can join in so long as they have an internet connection and a few minutes to listen. The other plus? Putting together an online event is much more time efficient, and there is the added benefit that content can be recorded and repurposed.

SKETCH Working Arts just completed their bond sales campaign, raising $1.4 million – all during the pandemic. “Interestingly, 80% of their investors were new to the organization,” shares Satyameet (Sattu) Singh, one of Tapestry’s Campaign Managers. “Pushing digital strategies can really help non-profits expand their presence to new supporters.”

This has made us, and our clients, think more deeply about who our communities truly are. Are they a group of individuals living in the same region? Or is it a much broader community of beliefs? With digital connectivity tools abound, the opportunity exists to bring online and offline communities together as never before.

Take advantage of the amazing tools at hand

We have had to pivot in the way we work with our clients, and the ways in which our clients interact with their potential bond investors. One major change has been an even greater shift to making use of online tools. And there are so many great ones! 

With team members working from home, team management platforms have become ever more important. We are big fans of Trello, which allows our clients’ teams to follow along on their campaign progress, interact, and respond to other teammates all on one interface. “It’s highly interactive and keeps everyone on that same page. It also reduces the need for a lot of back and forth on email – saving all of us time,” says Sattu

With investor leads coming in from a multitude of digital streams, the importance of tracking incoming traffic is also critical. We train our clients to use a great customer relationship management (CRM) tool called Pipedrive. “We help our clients to integrate Pipedrive with as many entry points as possible, so that no potential investor lead is lost,” says Sattu. “Once a lead is in Pipedrive, we work with our clients to make sure that they are providing the necessary content and touch points to move that lead along to becoming an investor in their project.”

Our clients are also all set up to sell community bonds directly to investors online. We provide our clients with a clean and streamlined campaign website, which gives investors access to a simple investment platform to make their purchase quick and easy. 

“All of these tools mean that campaigns can be optimized quickly, and can reduce resource requirements significantly,” says Sattu. “Nowadays we can have a campaign up and running in about 2 months, and we are working really hard to reduce costs and make community financing available to a wider array of organizations.”

We can’t meet in person but we can still make meaningful connections

It’s true that we live in an age where we can easily connect online, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the connections we make over the internet are the same as in-person meetings. “We need to be very aware of this,” say Sattu “being online, we need to take extra care to read the room, gauge interest and build trust.” 

“This may mean adding in additional touch points for potential investors, to ensure that they feel informed” shares Sattu. “We encourage our clients not to just rely on email but to pick up the phone.”

“We also suggest that our clients ask their potential investors what form of communication they prefer,” says Sattu, “we want potential investors to feel comfortable.”

Let’s rebuild this post-pandemic economy to be more sustainable

We know that Covid-19 is changing society in complex ways. We also know that there will be winners and losers in this pandemic, and that those who are most adversely impacted are also those with the fewest resources to cope. 

As we focus on the post-pandemic recovery, we should all be thinking hard about the economy we want to see on the other side. Is it the old norm that concentrates wealth in the hands of a few? Or are we interested in creating a more inclusive and sustainable system?

If you are interested in the greater conversation on this ‘Next Economy’, check out our friends at the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), who are doing amazing work on intentionally building a more equitable system. CSI Next Economy

We know that innovative forms of financing will be integral to building the next economy. We envision financing that 1) involves and rewards communities, 2) funds meaningful and quantifiable impact, and 3) creates financial sustainability and power for non-profits and charities that provide such critical services to society. 

“We promote this idea at both the government level but also on a grassroots level,” says Sattu thoughtfully, “we encourage non-profits where appropriate and possible, to consider seeking investment from their own community, to feed wealth back into that community, and to change the cycle of grant dependence.”

If you are a non-profit, charity or co-operative interested in financing a project with the support of your community, reach out to us at info@tapestrycapital.ca.

Satyameet Singh joins the Tapestry Team

By | News

We are pleased to introduce Satyameet (Sattu) Singh as the newest member of our Tapestry Team. Sattu will be joining our campaign team as a Campaign Manager, where he will be working with our Senior Campaign Manager, Jennifer Bryan. In his new role, Sattu will support our clients in building campaign excitement, media attention and demand for their investment opportunities, and more broadly, increase awareness of community bonds as a viable financing mechanism for non-profits, charities and co-ops all across Canada.

Satyameet Singh TapestrySattu brings to our team a wealth of experience in both social enterprise, and marketing and sales. He is a graduate of the MBA program at the Schulich School of Business, and a self professed pragmatic altruist and idealist.

It was Sattu’s education at Schulich that first brought him to Toronto from Delhi, India in 2011, and opened his eyes to the world of social enterprise. Post-MBA, he began his career with WE (Free the Children), where he led the India operations for the charity’s ‘Adopt a Village’ development model. He moved back to Toronto in 2014, to join a social enterprise called Eva’s Initiative for Homeless Youth, where he was a Program Lead. In 2015, he was recruited by Schulich School of Business to lead marketing and administration at their India campus.

“This was actually a great first experience in selling investments, because education really is an investment – and not a cheap one,” says Sattu with a smile. “We needed to demonstrate to prospective students that their time on campus would be transformative and open doors in the future.”

“During my time at the Schulich campus in Hyderabad, I was exposed to all sorts of amazing thinkers and leaders,” he explains. “What really resonated with me was that the world is rapidly shifting to a solutions oriented mindset, and I knew I wanted to be part of the solutions based economy. It was during this time that I made the conscious decision to move back into the social enterprise space.”

He returned to Canada to lead to the marketing and sales initiatives at Good Foot Delivery, a social enterprise that provides meaningful employment to the neuro-diverse community through a professional courier service.

“What excites me most about joining the Tapestry team is the chance to help scale a proven solution. Tapestry has seen the success and impact of community bonds. The method is tried and tested. I am excited to help even more organizations all across Canada to take advantage of this model.”

In his free time, Sattu is an avid violinist and loves to listen to stand up comedy.

We hope you will have the pleasure of getting to know Sattu and working with him on a community bond campaign. “I am always free to have a coffee and a chat,” says Sattu. If you’d like to connect with him, you can email him at satyameet@tapestrycapital.ca.

Kingsway College School (KCS) Senior School

Kingsway College School launches $4M Community Bond Campaign

By | Client Stories, News

We are excited to announce that Kingsway College School (KCS) has officially opened their community bond campaign to the public. KCS is raising $4 million in community bonds, called KCS Bonds, to help build a senior school for their community. 

From their beginnings as a small community school, KCS has grown to a student population of over 500 children. There’s no disputing that KCS’s JK to 8 programme produces great students. The Senior School will meet the same high standards of the Junior School, which was established in 1989, and will be aligned with the KCS vision of developing lifelong learners. 

The new senior school will give students access to open spaces for performing and community-building, science labs for chemistry, biology and physics, and a fitness room to support healthy activity. Most importantly, the Senior School will give KCS students the opportunity to continue their high school education with a school that feels like home, and provide a new independent schooling option to families in Toronto’s West End. 

What is a KCS Bond?

A KCS Bond is a community bond = an interest bearing loan that a non-profit or charity can issue to support a project that they are undertaking. Any individual or institution can purchase a KCS Bond and earn a fixed interest rate each year. Interest is paid out yearly, and the principal is paid out at the end of the term. KCS Bonds are eligible to be held in tax-advantaged accounts, including Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA’s) and Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP’s).

This financing model makes sense for KCS as they were able to set their own terms based on their financial situation, and allows them to involve their community and give back to their supporters simultaneously. Tapestry Community Capital is KCS’s community bond partner for this campaign, and will manage the investments for the length of the terms. 

KCS Community Bond Investments“We’ve intentionally launched a series of bonds to suit a wide array of people in our community, while offering them a competitive return at the end of each year,” says Bronwen Evens, Chair, KCS Board of Governors. “A Major pull is that our bonds are backed and secured by our real estate and are not correlated to financial markets.”

How can you invest?

With over $1.2 million in bonds pledged to be purchased to date, KCS is now inviting the greater community to join the journey. Visit kcsbonds.ca to invest. Register for the KCS Investor Information Session today to learn more. 

Resources for Raising Community Bonds

By | News

Sometimes organizations want to do a bit of their own homework on Community Bonds before they reach out to us. This is why we have launched our new resources page, to give you and your team the tools you need to explore and evaluate the option of community financing at your own speed.

“We want organizations to be able to self-select whether this is a good fit for them or not,” says Ryan Collins-Swartz, Co-Executive Director of Tapestry. “Through our experience helping to raise and manage over $70 million in community bonds, we have come to realize what works and what doesn’t. We want organizations to use these tools to say either, ‘yes, this is a great fit for my project’ or ‘no, we aren’t quite there yet.’

Community bonds are still a very new concept to most. This means there is often a good deal of educating that needs to take place at the Senior and Board level before organizations feel comfortable exploring this idea in greater detail.

“Once they dig into these resources and see how others have done it and succeeded, they walk away confident that they too can realize their visions with the help of community finance,” says Ryan. 

On our new resources page you will find two case studies that can be downloaded free of charge. These walk you through the amazing stories of how the Argonaut Rowing Club and The Mount Community Centre raised community bonds to transform community real estate. 

There is also an in-depth guide written by the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), who have now raised over $8 million in community bonds, that tells their story and shares their wealth of experience.

“We are very happy to have all these tools easily available online now, and hope that this will improve the accessibility, and general awareness, of community bonds across Canada,” says Ryan. 

For those that have explored these resources and wish to move further in their research, we offer a 3-hour workshop designed to bring your team together to further evaluate how community bonds can work for your project. 

Abbey Dawn SolarShare Project

What comes after the Raise? Investor Stewardship and why it’s Important

By | Education

Community bonds can help you scale-up your non-profit, charity or co-op, and take ownership of important assets that you need to achieve your mission. They can also help you to strengthen and deepen meaningful ties to your community.

When a community member invests in your project, they are becoming part of your dream and vision. They are also putting trust in you to carry out your project efficiently and run your operations in a manner that will ensure that investors are repaid.  

You might think that a community bond campaign ends when all the funds are raised. But at Tapestry, we have seen that our most successful clients are those that steward their investors from their first interaction with the organization all the way through to when their bonds mature, and beyond.

So, what does Investor Stewardship mean?

Effective investor stewardship means managing your investors and caring for their needs. You can look after your investors by staying in regular contact with them, giving them news and information about your organization and the project they are supporting, and providing reassurance that your bond campaign and project are running according to plan. In our opinion, the key elements of investor stewardship are:

Investor onboarding: First impressions are everything. This may be an investor’s first transaction with the organization and if you want to instill trust, this is the most important starting point. Information about the investment and organization should be presented clearly and provided on time, someone should always be available to field questions via email or phone, and there should be immediate follow-up once the investment is received.

E-newsletter: A monthly e-newsletter is one the most effective ways to keep in touch with your investors. In your newsletter you can share details about your investment campaign, project updates and highlights, and even industry news.

Social media: Social media provides a more informal channel to give your investors updates about what is happening within your community. Social media also allows investors and influencers to engage with your news and content, and share within their own network.

Seek input: Community bond investors often want to go beyond putting their money in an organization. Occasionally seeking their guidance or input via surveys or at events can help strengthen your relationship by making them feel that they are a meaningful part of your mission.

Professional Investment Management: Ensuring that investors are paid interest or dividends on time and in a professional manner is critical. You will also want to ensure that they receive the necessary tax forms at the appropriate time of the year, and that you can give statements and updates on their investment whenever they request them.

CSI Founder Bricks

The Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) created Founders Bricks for their investors.

There are also many creative ways that you can acknowledge and thank your investors. Some organizations may choose to give investors naming rights of spaces which they are building, as is often done in a capital fundraising campaign, while others might choose to send a small gift.

SKETCH Working Arts recently completed a $1.4 million community bond raise, to purchase their admin and studio space. Over the holiday season, in order to thank investors, SKETCH distributed coffee and brownies to everyone that made an investment.

Small gestures like this don’t have to be costly. In the case of SKETCH, they had the coffee donated and the brownies were baked by volunteers in their community kitchen. This was a low cost but memorable acknowledgement of the role that their investors are playing in bringing their vision to life.

Why is investor stewardship so important?

Your investors will be powerful spokespeople for your project, your investment opportunity, and your mission. If they have a positive investment experience, are able to trust in you, and have access to investment and project details, they will share this opportunity with others in their network.

“Word of mouth is actually the single most important source of new investment,” shares Jennifer Bryan, our Senior Campaign Manager at Tapestry. “In addition to generating new investment, stewarding investors throughout the life of their bond can mean that when their bond matures, they choose to reinvest in any new investment opportunities the organization has.”

Abbey Dawn SolarShare Project

Investors touring SolarShare’s Abbey Dawn installation (pre-covid). This is their 37th project.

SolarShare is a community power co-operative that sells bonds to finance community-owned solar projects. “They have over a 70% reinvestment rate, meaning that when bonds mature, 70% of investors will choose to put their money back in,” says Jennifer. “This pool of dedicated investors meant that SolarShare could scale extremely rapidly.”

To give you an idea of just how quickly they scaled, from 2011 to 2015 they raised $10 million total in investment. Last year, in 2020 alone, they raised $16 million in 9 months. SolarShare started with just one solar project and now has 49 solar projects across Ontario.

The Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) also has a fantastic growth story,” says Jen. Their first bond campaign in 2010 raised $2 million to help them purchase their first building in downtown Toronto. Four years later, in 2014, they were able to turn around and re-approach investors to raise another $4.3 million to purchase a second building.

“What is truly incredible,” shares Jen, “is that in 2020, amidst a global pandemic, CSI was able to raise another $1.9 million in community bonds in just 41 days.” The speed at which their bonds sold out is a testament to the trust that investors have in CSI.

CSI Growth

How can Tapestry help?

Building a community bond campaign means forging lasting relationships with your investors. Building these relationships takes time. “We often find that organizations don’t have the bandwidth to dedicate resources and time to stewarding investors, and this is why we are here to help,” says Jen.

“We see ourselves as a temporary part of your team, providing the additional resources to make sure that your investors receive the attention they need. We can provide advice, tools and templates to help you on your way. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here,” says Jennifer, “we have done this so many times now that our process and methods are well formulated.”

Are you interested in using community bonds for your project? Get in touch.

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