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Stephanie Pinnington

Meet our new Board Members

By News

As we approach the end of an exciting year, we are pleased to share that three new individuals have joined Tapestry’s Board of Directors. Their voices will support our evolution as we navigate the future; engage in new dynamic ways with non-profits, charities and co-ops across Canada; and continue to deepen and integrate our efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in our organization and beyond.

As leaders in their respective fields, we are thrilled to have the unique expertise of Homaira Siddiqui, James Chan and Mritunjay Sinha to help guide our growing organization. Each of them brings a wealth of experience to strengthen our organization, with vast skills in finance, technology, social enterprise, and policy. Their addition to the Board will help to further position Tapestry as a critical leader in social finance in Canada. 

Our new board members have shared some of their motivations and hopes for their time with Tapestry below – we look forward to growing with them in the time to come.

Mritunjay (MJ) Sinha

A social entrepreneur-operator and an investor, MJ helped build a multi-million-dollar micro-loan portfolio in rural India and a co-operative that served over 200 women entrepreneurs. Through his advisory firm, he has helped deploy over C$150M through private-market impact investing, and another C$250M through responsible investment strategies for family offices and foundations, including the Hamilton Community Foundation, the Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation, and the Upper Canada Equity Fund. MJ is Treasurer for Computers for Success Canada, a Board Director for The Helderleigh Foundation and Philanthropic Foundations Canada, and sits on the Impact Investment Committee for the Laidlaw Foundation and the Investment Advisory Committee for the Foundation for Black Communities. MJ’s passion for social change is complemented by his experience in capital markets, corporate strategy, and global health, and his degrees in Computer Engineering and M.B.A.

“I  have been deeply passionate about the intersection of positive social change and financial returns for more than a decade now, even before I knew what impact investing was. I’ve admired the work that Tapestry Community Capital has done for the last many years helping structure impact investment products (such as community bonds), making them market ready, and assisting both investors and investees in looking at capitalism differently. So, it isn’t surprising that I am very excited to have been appointed to their Board. I look forward to working together with an amazing Board and team, and helping make capitalism a little more fair, just, and equitable.”

Homaira Siddiqui

Homaira seeks to find more sustainable and equitable ways in which energy can be generated, distributed, stored, and conserved. She is particularly interested in the intersection between energy and equity, and the ways in which distributed and aggregated energy projects can bolster community resilience. Homaira began her career in a technical role re-engineering the very first plastic known as the Bakelite resin by repurposing biomass from a pulping waste stream. Her engineering career has since traversed advocacy and policy, holding roles with Engineers Without Borders and the International Renewable Energy Agency. Her experience in the energy sector spans over five years covering markets across North America, where she has supported diverse clients to navigate pathways towards a distributed, low-carbon, and resilient energy future. Homaira is also an Advisory Committee member of Women In Renewable Energy (WiRE), where she serves to offer passionate women in the energy sector a meeting point and a catalyst for forming highly engaging and supportive relationships. 

“I first came across the concept of a cooperative many years back with news of some of the earliest renewable cooperative pilots in Germany and Denmark. I remember being intrigued by this alternative – and what seemed ‘novel’ to me at the time –  an investment model of pooling resources to meet an essential communal need. As an energy geek, I am fascinated by the parallels that can be drawn between decentralization of the grid and localization of economies. I am particularly interested in identifying and countering barriers to participation in alternative models that continue to favour elements of traditional top-down structures and do not recognize the diversity of local potential and needs. I am thrilled to have been appointed to the Board of TREC/Tapestry, a powerhouse of social innovation that has 20+ years of experience in raising community investment. It is an honour to have a chance to work with some of the most brilliant and passionate folks at TREC/Tapestry to facilitate and support resilient and inclusive investment models for community-led, socio-economic driven projects.”

James Chan

James works with people, places, and partnerships to foster civic participation, promote equitable urbanism, and grow the social economy. He is currently the Manager of VERGE Capital at Pillar Nonprofit Network, and serves on the Board of Directors for Inspirit Foundation. James is a past member of London Community Foundation’s social finance committee, was a co-founder of Ottawa Civic Tech, and served on the Board of Directors at Code for Canada, Park People, and The Centre for Active Transportation.

 

“TREC has been at the forefront of social innovation and social finance long before those terms were popularized. The idea that led to its creation over two decades ago is more relevant and important than ever –  bringing communities together to address big challenges like climate change through shared risk-taking, financing, and ownership. Through TREC’s latest social enterprise Tapestry Community Capital, that same innovative and cooperative spirit is making it possible for communities to build and invest in a wide range of local initiatives such as affordable housing, arts & culture spaces, and community hubs. I am proud to join the Board of TREC and support its mission of bringing these projects to life through the power of community capital.”

 

Our new Board Members will provide diverse views and expertise that will further our collective work at Tapestry. Please join us in welcoming our newly elected Members!

Trillium Waldorf School launches Bond Campaign

By Client Stories

In 1996, a group of parents based in Guelph, Ontario came together with a vision for a different type of school. One which would nurture their children, teach to their developmental needs, and inspire a lifelong love of learning through the Waldorf Education philosophy. 

And so the first Waldorf school in the Tri-cities area was born. Initially opening their doors to 21 children in a local church building, the school has since grown to over 20 faculty and staff, and 175 students from grade one to eight. 

In 2005, the school relocated for its third time to a beautiful 3 acre property next to the Guelph Lake Conservation Area. It was everything they needed, with nature abound and space to grow. 

In early 2021, an opportunity arose to purchase the property from longtime supporters, Christine Golec and Mark Carragher. For Trillium, this meant the opportunity to avoid future rent increases, save on property taxes, and therefore become more financially sustainable and stable. Owning the property also means that they will be able to expand their programming and facilities to better meet the needs of their students and families.

The Waldorf School’s philosophy centers around community, so the choice to fund the project through the use of community bonds was a natural one. “I’ve always been interested in bonds as a way for community members to make a fair return while also keeping their money local,” says Ian Digby, former Trillium Parent and Chair of the Trillium Rising campaign. “Community bonds will give our supporters the opportunity to make a solid investment, while also allowing them to support our amazing school.”

The Trillium Rising campaign will raise $2 million in community bond investments and $1 million in donations, over $830,0000 of which has already been secured. With investment minimums as low as $1,000 and interest rates as high as 4%, Trillium Bonds have been designed to attract a wide range of bond purchasers from everyday Canadians, to corporations, foundations and Waldorf Education supporters.

“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 Mike Craig, Chair of the  Board of Directors. “Our bonds will appeal to investors as they are backed and secured by our real estate and allow funds to stay within the community.”

Trillium Waldorf students, families, alumni and community see this campaign as a critical step for the maturing school, helping to expand enrollment, facilities and programming. “Buying the school right now will give us a foothold for the future. We want to be able to grow, and one day even have a Waldorf high school in Guelph,” Ian says with a proud smile. 

Driven by a strong belief that Waldorf education should be accessible to all families, Trillium Waldorf has also committed to a Tuition Adjustment Program for students. “We have a sliding scale to ensure that the acceptance of a child doesn’t depend on their economic status,” explains Ian.  “We hope to be able to grow this program further in the future.”

It is clear from the way Ian speaks about the school that he, like all Trillium Waldorf parents and students, has a strong bond to the school and community. “I believe that Waldorf education is very special. It’s hands-on and allows children to learn in a beautiful way at their own developmental rate. It has had a profound impact on my own children and supported them to become the free-thinking individuals that they are today.” 

This campaign will allow Trillium Waldorf to continue providing the extraordinary Waldorf Education that develops bold, courageous, loving and giving citizens well into the future.

 “We want to build the foundation for the next 25 years of Waldorf education in Guelph,” says Ian smiling again, “I am looking forward to that time in another 25 years when we can gather and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Trillium and know that we laid those foundations through this campaign today.”

Learn more about Trillium Waldorf School and how you can invest by visiting their website here, and register for their upcoming information session

COP26: Community energy key to climate action

By Policy and Advocacy

Thousands of government officials, researchers and environmentalists have descended on Glasgow, Scotland for the United Nations climate summit, COP26. The goal: to get countries to commit to more ambitious plans to cut their emissions and collectively slow climate change. 

The climate policies that have emerged from previous COPs have focused primarily on big-business and big-budget solutions. The lack of attention to collective action at the community level, many argue, has been a fatal flaw. This year’s COP has seen more community focused groups stepping up to the plate to make their voices heard. 

What are they saying? 

Community energy has an essential role to play in achieving net-zero by engaging communities in designing, adopting, and financing local climate solutions. 

For those not familiar with the term, community energy refers to the delivery of community-led renewable energy and energy demand reductions, owned and/or controlled by communities.

Community energy benefits local economies

Beyond the important role of communities in project design, most community energy projects also involve an element of community financing. Whether this is in the form of a debt or equity stake, communities stand to benefit significantly. In fact, a Scotland based study that was launched in the lead up to COP26 illustrated that community wind projects deliver 34 times the community benefit of commercial installations. 

In Canada, there are 65 renewable energy generation co-ops incorporated, with approximately 30 of them active. Aside from co-operatives, community energy projects may also be initiated by non-profits; charities; First Nations, Metis and Inuit; educational or health institutions; municipalities; and other community-based groups.

Community investment for community energy 

Tapestry has long been involved in community energy, supporting renewable energy cooperatives to leverage community support and tap into private capital. To learn more about our parent organization, the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative (TREC) and our 25 year history, read our story here

We have supported in raising and managing investment for 53 community energy projects in Canada. Our work dates back to supporting Canada’s very first renewable energy co-operative, WindShare. Their wind turbine project at the CNE is collectively owned by over 600 community members and Toronto Hydro, and has become a beacon for community-led climate action.

Today, we continue to work closely with Canada’s renewable energy co-ops, many of whom were initially inspired by the perseverance and success of WindShare. SolarShare, for example, is Canada’s largest and most successful renewable energy co-op with over 2,000 members, who have collectively invested more than $70 million in solar PV and earned over $9 million in returns. Their projects annually generate over 17 million KWh of electricity, resulting in annual greenhouse gas emissions reductions of more than 500 tonnes of CO2e. 

So what do we hope to see as a result of COP26?

This year, among Canada’s delegates to the conference, are several representatives from Indigenous Clean Energy (ICE), a non-profit group emphasizing the social, economic and environmental benefits that can result when First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities are full or part-owners of energy projects.

“Indigenous-led renewable energy in remote areas on Turtle Island (Canada) is making lasting and positive impacts to energy systems, environmental protection, social programs and circular economies,” said Chris Henderson, Executive Director of ICE in a recent press release. “The power of community-led initiatives go beyond measure and need to be at the forefront of climate action.”

We echo the recommendations that have been made by Chris, Mihskakwan James Harper and other delegates from ICE – we urge governments to think big but to also think small. Specifically, about how projects financed and owned by communities can help power a lower-carbon world.

What can the Canadian Government do to support Community Energy?

  1. Implement a social investment tax relief program, which would offer tax relief to investors to support investment into social purpose organizations that experience difficulty accessing financing and that deliver social/environmental benefits.
  2. Provide federal loan guarantees for co‑op projects. Federal loan guarantees could quickly reduce the cost of raising funds for co‑op projects while adding little risk for the federal budget.
  3. Support community energy and co-op investment funds that can provide traditional sources of financing and also complement co-operative members’ investments with quasi-equity (subordinated debt).
  4. Finally, the Canadian government could also create a Community Power Production Incentive directly targeted to projects that improve community energy self‑sufficiency and climate resilience. This could help close the gap faced by community power developers (co‑ops, First Nations, schools, etc.) for higher deployment costs they incur compared to commercial developers that do not have the overhead involved in attracting and administering individual community investments.

For more recommendations, read the TREC report Accelerating Renewable Energy Co-operatives in Canada

“I cannot emphasize enough that people need to be engaged in a societal effort to reach net-zero emissions,” says Mary Warner, Co-executive Director of Tapestry Community Capital and TREC. “We need energy production that is owned by local people for the benefit of local people. For this to happen, people and communities must be at the heart of climate policy.”

Kingsway College School enters last phase of their Community Bond campaign

By Client Stories, News

The kids are back to school and those at KCS couldn’t be more thrilled! For students and families who have entered the newly launched Senior School program, this is a particularly exciting time because construction of their new facility is well underway. 

For the past 7 months, KCS has been on a journey to raise $4 million in community bonds and $1 million in donations for the construction of a new campus at 2183 Lake Shore Boulevard West in Toronto, which will allow them to expand to grade 9-12. 

Set to open its doors in September 2022, 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. 

Since March, community investors have purchased and pledged $3 million in KCS community bonds. With just shy of two months until the close of their campaign on November 30th, KCS are getting ever closer to achieving their investment goal and Senior School vision! 

Learn more about their story here, and watch the video below.

We’re listening, learning and taking action

By News

If you take a look at our brand, you can learn a lot about our organization and what we stand for. You will see a red thread connecting people, capital and solutions to society’s greatest challenges. That thread illustrates our ethos – that solutions must be designed, financed and implemented collectively, equitably, and inclusively by and for communities. That thread is the foundation of our Tapestry. 

While we have lived these values since our inception three years ago, we have now gone a step further to put these principles into a policy to guide how we operate internally and externally to ensure that we contribute to a more just, equitable, diverse, inclusive, and dignified society for all. 

“That may sound like a mouthful,” says Karen Scottie, who leads Tapestry’s Human Resources, “but each of these pieces is critical in making sure that everyone we engage with feels welcome and safe at all times.”

“This is not just a policy for our Staff and Board,” they explain, “we really see it as a foundation for the way we operate as an organization, and want this to transcend through to our work with the organizations that we serve as well.”

At the policy’s core are several main themes, explains Karen. “The first is that we simply aren’t ok with the status quo. We don’t want to just say that we are welcoming of all groups, whether it be in a job application or in supporting a new project, but actually want to be more conscious about actively engaging with people and groups comprised of and led by indiginous, racialized, women, people with disabilities, members of sexual minority groups, or any others with non-binary or non-privelged backgrounds.” 

“This can be a challenge”, says Karen, “and we are learning as we go”. Tapestry has made a recent change in its recruitment policy to make it clear that priority will be given to the groups addressed above, because we acknowledge the importance of a diverse workplace and know that to achieve this, we need to be deliberate about it. 

We are also strategically seeking out more diverse organizations that could benefit from the use of community bonds and thinking critically about how we can improve the accessibility, both physical and financial, of our services. 

“We have established a Committee to create a Tapestry Fund.” shares Mary Warner, Co-Executive Director of Tapestry. “We hope that through this fund that we can make our services available to a wider array of organizations that might not otherwise have the funds available to make it to the point of raising community bonds.”

The second core theme of the policy is that Tapestry is committed to continuous learning about anti-racism, justice, equity, inclusion, diversity (JEDI) and accessibility, and to integrating these learnings into every aspect of what we do.

“We have come a long way as a team simply by having open conversations about these difficult topics,” says Karen. The team recently completed the Feminuity Diversity, Equity and Inclusion course and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation Anti-Racism Workshop, and has initiated a bi-weekly JEDI book club. 

The final core element of the new policy is collective accountability. “What we mean by this,” shares Karen, “is that we are all responsible for each other’s actions by tolerating, ignoring or harbouring them. We hope that through education, training and open discussions, we can build the confidence of our team to always stand up for what is right, and speak out against injustice.”

Acknowledging that these topics are ever changing, Tapestry has committed to maintaining this policy as a living document. “This isn’t just a policy for the bookshelf,” says Karen, “we have developed an implementation strategy to help us make sure that these commitments come through in everything that we do and want to make sure that it can evolve as the needs of our communities change.”

Do you have any suggestions on how our organization can become more diverse and inclusive? We would love to hear from you. Please write to us at info@tapestrycapital.ca.

Meet our new Impact Investment Manager

By News

We are pleased to welcome Theodora Mladenova as our new Impact Investment Manager at Tapestry Community Capital.

Theodora brings to our team a diverse background in banking, having worked for the past 10 years across Client and Brokerage Services at Invesco and BMO Nesbitt Burns, as well as Capital Markets, Derivatives Services and Treasury at RBC and Scotiabank.

“I’ve always had an interest in Finance, but I also have a strong desire to contribute to building a more fair economic system,” says Theodora. Born in Bulgaria, and having lived in many countries when she was young, she was always interested in politics and the ways in which political and economic systems impact individual’s livelihoods.  

She moved to Canada as a teengager and pursued her degree in Economics and Political Science at the University of Toronto, where she also led a research team at the Munk School, monitoring G20 compliance. 

“I’ve been looking to transition into a sector that aligns with my values for some time now,” shares Theodora. “Impact investing provides an avenue for me to make that change in an effective way, while using the skills and knowledge I already have.” She hopes that her credentials, including her CFA and FRM designations, as well as her banking experience will add value to the growing Tapestry team. 

“Community investment is a sound and sustainable way to finance capital projects. Not only do community bonds unlock private capital that would otherwise be out of reach to non-profits, but they also encourage deep community involvement,” says Theodora. “This aspect of community building is a remarkable by-product.” 

At Tapestry, Theodora will lead our process and infrastructure to manage 4000+ community investors and $80 million in impact investments. Together with Tapestry’s Investment Management team, she will focus on building and implementing systems that make community bonds an efficient and user friendly experience for issuers and investors alike. 

In her spare time, Theodora enjoys getting outside. She is an avid camper, hiker, climber and cyclist. She loves to travel, meet new people, and learn about new cultures and customs. Lately, she has been trying to revive her piano skills.

She also loves to spend time with her adorable rescue pup, Mitko.

We hope that you will get the chance to meet and work with Theodora in the near future. Interested in arranging a chat? You can reach her at Theodora@tapestrycapital.ca

Timing your Community Bond Campaign: what to expect

By Education

Typically, a community bond campaign takes about one year from start to finish. While every project is different, and may vary slightly depending on the total sum being raised and unique project milestones, we find that the vast majority of organizations are able to achieve their funding goal within this timeframe.

In this article, we will walk you through our community bond process so that you can understand how your funding timelines can fit with your project needs.

Getting Started

Each community bond campaign begins with an introductory workshop as the first step. This 3-hour session will be a chance to bring your entire organization together (Volunteers, Staff, Board Members, Advisors, etc.) to learn more about community bonds and how they could potentially be used to fund your project. After the workshop, you’ll receive a readiness assessment from Tapestry with a recommendation on whether community bonds will be a good fit for your project and organization.

If your assessment suggests that community bonds are a promising financing route, you will move into the Planning & Feasibility phase.

Planning & Feasibility

Clients come to us at all different stages. It is our job to get you to the point of being investment ready. In order to do this, we will model your finances to get a picture of how much debt your organization can comfortably carry.

Next, we will map your community stakeholders to understand their needs and appetite for investment. Together, these two critical steps will take approximately 2 months.

If it is clear after Planning & Feasibility that 1) your organization is in a financial position to carry debt and repay investors, and 2) there is a sizable community to support your project, you will move into the Structuring phase.

Structuring

During the 3 months in Structuring, we will be helping you to set your bond terms. This will be done through a combination of financial modelling and community consultations to test the bond terms.

We will also be preparing all the necessary documents to bring your investment offering to the public. These will include a:

  • 5-10 year business plan
  • Offering statement
  • Term sheet
  • Trust agreement

Your Tapestry Campaign Manager will work with you to create your marketing and communications strategy, and set you up on our sales platform so that investors can easily invest online. We will train you to use these tools, and to communicate effectively with potential investors.

By the end of the structuring phase, you will have:

  • Your investor package ready to go
  • A campaign website that links to your organization’s homepage
  • A marketing and communications plan that will include a detailed budget and timeline for key messages through social media, e-newsletters, investor information sessions and press
  • A sales process set-up on our customer relationship management (CRM) system and on Tapestry’s investor management platform, Atticus

Raise

At this point, you will be ready to go live and bring your campaign to the public! Once your campaign is launched, it will take 6 months to raise your target investment. Though this timeframe can vary slightly, we find that a period of 6 months gives your organization enough time to tell your story and demonstrate your impact, and gives investors ample time to do their research and make an investment decision.

We generally don’t recommend extending beyond the 6-month timeframe as there needs to be a sense of urgency in order to engage investors.

Your Tapestry Campaign Manager will meet with you regularly throughout your raise and make sure your campaign is on track. As bonds are being purchased, our Investment Management Team will work in the background to onboard investors and process their transactions.

 

Management

Once you have reached your target investment, Tapestry will continue to support you with professional investor management services for the duration of your bonds.

Our Investment Management Team will look after interest disbursements, issue tax forms and provide customer service to investors as needed. At year end, we will also support you with financial reporting on your bonds.

An accelerated timeline is sometimes possible

We are often approached by organizations that are on a tight timeline and interested in pursuing an accelerated plan. In some cases, this may be possible but will depend on the readiness of your organization.

In certain cases, organizations may have already taken the time to build detailed financial models on their own. In such a situation, we would work together to assess whether it is possible to by-pass the Planning & Feasibility phase.

If your project will require tighter timelines, it will be important to share this with the Tapestry team early on so that we can adjust your schedule accordingly.

Don’t raise before you can spend

Another important question is when to raise your funds. We always advise organizations not to begin raising funds until they have a defined use for the capital, and there is a planned transaction date within sight.

Of course, if you are searching to purchase a property, finding the right property may take time and you will need the funds in hand to do so. However, once your raise is complete, we recommend deploying the funds as soon as possible as you will be beginning to accrue interest.

Under certain circumstances, it may make sense to stage your raise to match project milestones. For example, if you are constructing a building rather than buying one, you may wish to issue multiple offering statements in order to secure the funds only when you need them.

 

Tapestry will always work with your team to understand the important milestones of your project, and do our best to match the timing of your funding.

Where to start?

Are you interested in raising community bonds for a project? The first step is our Introductory Community Bond Workshop. Learn more about it here, and get in touch with a member of our team at info@tapestrycapital.ca.

What is the right financing mix for our project?

By Education

One of the most common questions we receive from groups interested in raising community investment is “What is the right amount to be raising in bonds and how will this financing fit with our other sources of funding?”

The long and short of it is, there is no correct financing mix. Every organization that we work with is unique, and therefore, there is no magic one size fits all answer to this question.

However, in this blog we will attempt to give you some high-level ideas and thresholds for project financing. Once we begin to work with your organization and better understand your project and financial situation, we will be able to provide your team with some guidance on how much your organization can raise in community bonds.

We always recommend that this work is done in close cooperation with your finance/accounting team and Board Members, as they will have important insight on the risk tolerance of your organization and its capacity to carry debt.

Types of financing available to nonprofits, charities and co-operatives

When we speak of an organization’s project financing, we will often refer to their capital stack. In simple terms, the capital stack represents the underlying financial structure of an asset or real estate deal. Often, the capital stack is presented as a graphic that shows the different types of capital in a deal stacked above each other, like a cake with many layers.

Types of financing that may appear in a capital stack:

In the case of co-operatives, it’s also possible to issue preferred equity in the form of preferred shares. This cannot be done for charities or non-profits because they cannot be owned.

Finding the right mix for your organization will mean balancing your appetite for risk and your cash flow situation. Ultimately, the goal of your organization should be to align your sources of financing with your project timelines and key cash output milestones, and balance this with finding the lowest cost of capital through a combination of the tools above.

Percentage of total financing

There is no correct percentage of bonds within an organization’s capital stack. It could be as little 5% for a large project or as much as 100%. In the past, most of our clients have raised 10-40% of their total financing in community bonds.

For certain organizations, it may make sense for the bond total to be a larger piece of the puzzle. This is common when an organization needs to access a large sum of capital quickly, and don’t have the time to fundraise, or when traditional lenders are only willing to finance a smaller piece of the project.

“Bonds are such a great tool for community organizations to use when considering a capital raise,” says Mary Warner, Co-Executive Director at Tapestry. “Community bonds allow the organization to set the terms of the financing in a way that works best for them and allows them to reach out to their community in a new way, offering a chance for their supporters to invest in the future of their project, and to directly benefit from a financial return on that investment”.

Total dollar figure

“There are a lot of factors that go into determining how much an organization wants to raise but we have seen many partners accomplish their goals in raising between half a million and five million in their first raise,” says Mary.

Setting an initial goal within this range can help set your organization up for success. This is simply because the concept of bonds will be new to your community, there will be no existing marketing and messaging around your project, and you won’t have had the opportunity to test your community’s appetite for investment yet.

Due to certain fixed costs (ex. Legal, marketing etc) raising less than $500,000 in bonds isn’t generally a cost effective way to raise capital. Typically, the more you raise, the less it will cost per dollar of financing.

Once an organization has successfully completed an initial raise, they will have the opportunity to tap into their existing investor base and issue reinvestment campaigns. They can also build on the message of a successful bond raise and consider raising bonds for different projects in the future.

“We’ve seen this type of sequential bond raise with several partners, including SolarShare and ZooShare,” says Mary. “Building on the success of their initial raises, and foundation of proven ability to raise and manage community investments, has allowed these organizations to expand their projects and further their missions.”

We often see reinvestment campaigns that are much larger than first time raises. This is because, with time, issuers become more comfortable with their investor base, gain a better understanding of their community’s appetite for investment, and have built a solid marketing narrative around the organization, project and offering.

For example, our largest single raise to date has been $16 million, and this was a reinvestment campaign for an organization that has done repeated raises.

If a first-time raise over $5 million dollars is being contemplated, there are many things the organization will have to consider to ensure the raise is successful, including having sufficient staff and marketing support to maintain momentum.

Some organizations may have an easier time with a larger first campaign if they have:

  • Experience running a substantial capital fundraising campaign
  • A large and engaged pool of donors, members or supporters
  • A large project that will gain significant community and/or media attention early on

Deciding which types of financing should be used for different expenditures

Ideally the duration of the liability should match the duration of the asset, to the extent possible. In simple terms, this is why a mortgage would have a 25 year maturity, while a car loan would have a 3-5 year maturity.

In the context of your project, you should be thinking of the underlying asset of your project, and its associated projected cash flow.

Generally, community bonds will work well for funding long-term assets. A line of credit would be better suited to funding a short-term project or addressing a short-term funding need.

Relationship to other funding sources

Typically, if there is a mortgage in place for a project, community bonds will be subordinate to the mortgage. In other words, in the case of a default, the financial institution holding the mortgage will have the first right claim on the asset, followed by the community bond holders.

These details will be negotiated as part of your mortgage deal, and you should inform your financial institution of your intent to raise community bonds. In our experience, traditional financial institutions welcome community bonds as part of the financing mix as they view them as standing in the place of equity, and as an additional capital buffer.

“When considering community bonds as part of your capital stack, if it will be in tandem with a mortgage, it is important to engage the mortgage lender with the idea early on,” says Mary. “We have seen many organizations use both community bonds and a traditional mortgage so it is a possibility but it is important to be clear with the lender or potential lender about your intentions so that you can have firm expectations about how much will be raised and what the timelines for financing are.”

Where do we start?

Figuring out your project financing can be complex, and at Tapestry we understand this very well. We are always happy to speak to your finance/accounting team about how community bonds could fit into your own unique mix.

If your team is interested in pursuing community bonds as a source of financing, we encourage you to reach out to our team and register for our Intro to Community Bonds Workshop.

 

 

Community Bonds supercharge the electric vehicle transition

By Client Stories, News

Earth Day Canada is building the infrastructure of the future, and using community bonds as a way to engage all Canadians in the electric vehicle transition.

Seven in 10 Canadians who plan to buy a new vehicle within the next five years are likely to buy an electric vehicle (EV). “The change is coming,” says Pierre Lussier, President of Earth Day Canada, “The Canadian Government has pledged to ban the sale of gas cars by 2035, and major car manufacturers like Volkswagen and Honda have made similar commitments to phase out sales of combustion engines.”

While the electric car industry is evolving rapidly, charge points aren’t always easy to find. This unmet need is why Earth Day Canada is building a network of 100 fast-charging stations that will stretch across New Brunswick and Quebec.

For the past 25 years, Earth Day Canada has been supporting Canadians to lower their impact on the environment. In recent years, the organization has had a strong focus on mobility. They developed a ride-sharing application used across Quebec, and partnered in creating the first zero-emissions refrigerated lightweight truck in Canada.

“We are actively working to develop new ways for mobility because we acknowledge that at the centre of the climate change issue is the way our society moves. We want to be part of getting EVs to the masses and democratizing the needed infrastructure,” says Pierre.

The EcoCharge network will extend to areas where there is currently a lack of fast charging equipment; not only in the metropolitan areas of Montreal, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières and Sherbrooke, but also in less populated areas, including Victoriaville, Gaspé, Rouyn-Noranda, Chelsea, Saint-Félicien. The locations of the EcoCharge stations, which will be installed by the end of 2021, can be viewed here.

To bring this project to life, Earth Day Canada has brought together a network of dedicated partners, including IGA (Sobeys), the Quebec Association of Electric Vehicles (AVEQ), Natural Resources Canada, Investment Quebec, Fondaction, as well as our team at Tapestry Community Capital. Jointly, these partners will support in financing the $14.75 million project.

The Community Bond campaign

Together, Earth Day Canada and Tapestry, have developed a $2 million investment campaign that will mobilize private capital through the use of community bonds. “They are the perfect tool for our vision,” explains Pierre, “because this isn’t just about financing, it’s also about building a community around these service centres.”

The investment campaign will be open to all Canadians interested in investing with impact. In addition to the environmental return of the project, community bonds will offer investors 4% interest per year for a period of 7 years or 3.5% per year for a period of 5 years. Investors will also receive free recharging time at EcoCharge stations.

“We are so excited about this campaign,” says Ryan Collins-Swartz, Co-Executive Director of Tapestry. “Not only will this be the largest community bond campaign in Quebec to date, but it will also be the first of its nature across Canada,” he shares. “There is something very powerful about allowing the average citizen to participate, not just emotionally but also financially, in a cause that they believe in. We hope this investment opportunity will give those interested in making a difference the agency to be a part of the positive change.”

A convenient charging experience

Earth Day has partnered with IGA to install the chargers across 50 IGA sites so that customers can charge their vehicles while they shop for groceries. With a speed of 62.5 kW, the charging stations will be the fastest network of charging stations in Canada and will be able to fully charge a vehicle in just 20 minutes. Built for the future, these stations will always be installed in pairs and can be combined to provide 125 kW of electricity to meet the needs of the next generation of electric vehicles.

“Access to charging stations on private property multiplies charging options for citizens, complements public initiatives and reduces pressure on public property” says Montréal City Councillor, Sophie Mauzerolle. The EcoCharge network is a much needed complement to the existing 225 public fast-charging stations already in operation across Quebec.

Building a more sustainable Canada

With more charging infrastructure available, the decision to buy an EV should become an easier one for those looking to make a car purchase. Even at current rates of EV penetrations, within 10 years of operation, EcoCharge will have saved 33,000 tons in GHG emissions.

“We all have a role to play in fighting climate change,” says Pierre, “and we don’t have any more time to wait for solutions.”

“We know that EVs are the way of the future and a part of the answer,” says Pierre, “so, together we are going to build the infrastructure that this country needs to expedite the transition.”

What’s Next?

To learn more about how you can participate and invest, visit the EcoCharge website and register for their upcoming Investor Information Session.

Community Bonds that turned Waste into Power

By Client Stories, Success Story

The project that charmed Ontario

“Everyone is just so excited to talk about poop,” laughs Daniel Bida, Founder of the ZooShare Biogas Co-operative. I’ve just connected with him over Zoom to hear about the recent completion of their biogas project at the Toronto Zoo. “The joke never seems to get old and that’s an advantage we’ve always had,” he says, “it’s part of what drew people to our story and mission.”

With a background in finance and a passion for the environment, Daniel has always been fascinated by the potential to turn waste into something useful. Ten years ago, that curiosity turned into a bold vision to build Canada’s first zoo-based biogas plant.

The plan was simple – take zoo waste (yes, poop!) and commercial food waste collected from the Greater Toronto Area, use an anaerobic digester to produce biogas, and burn that gas to produce clean power. His plan also revolved around financing the project through community investors, like you or I, who could invest as little as $500.

“We’ve been really lucky that the media loved to tell our story. I think that’s partly because the conversation on food waste and its impact on greenhouse gas emissions has really picked up in recent years, and partly because of the ‘cuteness’ of our project,” says Daniel, “these two elements really helped us to raise the financing that we needed.”

To date, the organization has raised over $7 million from over 700 investors, to invest in the project and to refinance earlier investments that are now maturing. The co-op also joined forces with Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation, who made an investment in the project in exchange for 49% of the equity, and the Federal government, which granted $2.7 million from the Low Carbon Economy Fund.

What started as a mere idea, now stands fully constructed across from the Toronto Zoo processing zoo poop and commercial food waste, producing biogas, and running a combined heat and power generator to produce clean power for Ontario’s electricity grid.

Now that the project is operational, it will divert 15,000 tons of food waste from landfills each year, reduce CO2 emissions by up to 20,000 tons, generate 500kW of renewable energy each year, and produce a nutrient rich fertilizer as a by-product.

The Investors made all the difference

“I don’t think I realized at the time how proud people were to become investors in ZooShare,” says Daniel, “that’s something I only came to understand with time.”

While Daniel’s plan for the biogas digester may have appeared simple on paper, the execution was far from it. He was working in what is still an emerging industry and using a technology that was not widely understood in Ontario at that time.

ZooShare faced several hurdles along the way, including finding long-term suppliers of waste and dealing with organic waste that was not free of plastics, just to name a couple.

In 2017, ZooShare held what Daniel describes as their most difficult Annual General Meeting. They had come up against so many hurdles that they were faced with a major decision. “Essentially, we were at the point where we either just had to pull the plug and return investor’s money, or as a Board and co-op, make the decision to deploy the capital we had even though all the financing to complete the project was not yet in place ,” shares Daniel.

The co-op was quickly approaching the cut off date of their feed-in-tariff contract – a key element of their business model to ensure that their renewable power would be purchased by the Ontario power grid. They needed to begin generating power to maintain the contract, and to do that they needed to finance the combined heat and power generator.

They put the decision to the investors. “I was fully expecting for people to ask for their money back,” shares Daniel, “I really thought there was a limit to the patience the members would have after the previous delays we had faced.”

“But I was wrong, this wasn’t a traditional boardroom,” says Daniel, “the investors just said ‘you just keep fighting, you get back in there!’ It was really powerful to have that type of support.”

With their community bond investors behind them, they met the deadline to generate electricity. There were still hurdles ahead to be met, but it was clear at this point that the investors were in it for the long haul.

ZooShare investors gather for the groundbreaking.

Impact First, Returns Second

“The patient investors we have are the reason we were able to do what we did,” says Daniel. “These are people that were motivated to make an impact. They weren’t people who wanted to make a return and the impact was ‘a nice to have’. They wanted to make an impact and the return was ‘a nice to have.’”

With a background in finance, it was very interesting for Daniel to see the ways in which different people perceive risk. “When we got started we priced our offering based on the pricing of securities with a similar risk profile,” he says.

“I’m not sure that the people who ultimately invested in ZooShare would have been swayed by a 0.5% or 1% difference in interest.” says Daniel. “That’s not to say that they didn’t care about the return, they did, but they cared about the impact first.”

Daniel believes that if you are doing something environmentally or socially positive and you offer at least an average return, then it really comes down to telling a compelling story.

Some advice to those looking to raise financing

The ZooShare Biogas Co-operative was one of the first non-profits in Canada to issue community bonds. As pioneers in the space, they have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with fellow organizations looking to build a project and finance it through community investment.

Reflecting on his experience, Daniel shared three pieces of wisdom for those looking to follow in the co-op’s footsteps.

1. Assume things are going to go slower and cost more than you think.

Pad your assumptions so that you don’t have to go back to the drawing board and find more funding. Be frugal and diligent with the money you have in pocket. Having some wiggle room will give you the flexibility to make good decisions.

2. Even if things don’t go as planned, it’s important to keep investors informed.

My approach was always to be hopeful and optimistic, but also as forthcoming and transparent as possible. I think investors appreciate and respect that.

3. Don’t issue bonds to build something until you are ready to build.

When we got started, I really felt that we needed to have the money in hand to prove that we were serious to the other stakeholders we were negotiating with. The problem was that once it was in the bank, we were paying interest on it and as the delays piled up, so did the interest costs. You don’t want to be paying for capital that you aren’t using.

What’s next for Zooshare?

From the very start, one of the main drivers behind this project was to leverage it as an educational asset. It is one of the reasons that Daniel selected the Toronto Zoo as the site for the digester. “Our hope with this project is not just to process waste and generate power, but also to introduce people to biogas,” says Daniel. The co-op is actively working with the Zoo, Parks Canada and a renewable energy education charity called Relay Education to make this a reality.

Expansion could be a likely next step for ZooShare. In bioenergy, Daniel explains, economies of scale are very much at play. The co-op could conceivably build another digester tank, take more waste and generate more gas. “There is strong demand for renewable natural gas (or RNG), to be sold as gas, rather than used to generate electricity. We are actively exploring this market,” says Daniel.

Daniel stands next to the completed biogas digester. Photo Credit: Dan Pearce.

A time to celebrate the accomplishments of Zooshare

While Covid-19 may have thrown a wrench in their plans, ZooShare still intends to find a way to celebrate the launch of the facility. They will be releasing a video about the project next month, and hope to host an open house in the fall so that the public can tour the facility.

Stay tuned to the ZooShare’s newsletter and social media to stay up to date on what they have planned!

 

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