CFL Impact Capital: Affecting Change & Improving Lives, One Loan at a Time

BY SARAH KELLEY/PHOTOGRAPHY BY WILLIAM DESHAZER

What if you could contribute to a worthwhile cause — then recoup your funds to reinvest in future charitable endeavors? It’s possible through impact investing, and the Community Foundation of Louisville is a leader among peer organizations in utilizing this philanthropic tool. Through its CFL Impact Capital program, the Community Foundation of Louisville facilitates investments that result in positive social change. But unlike a grant, an impact investment is a loan, meaning the capital can be redeployed once the loan has been repaid.

“Impact investments are a powerful complement to grant funding.  When a grant is given, the investment is complete,” explains Trisha Finnegan, Vice President of Mission & Impact for the Community Foundation. “While the good it creates will live on, there is no opportunity to do more with those funds.” The other main difference is that impact investing can support both nonprofit and for-profit partners — as long as the organization and project positively impacts the community. The Community Foundation has distributed more than $780 million in grants since 1984; impact investing is simply “a way to make even more possible” when it comes to community investment, Finnegan says.

Here’s how it works: A potential investment undergoes a social review to ensure it meets at least one of the program’s social objectives, such as neighborhood revitalization, creating jobs, or leveraging funding from other investors. If the social review committee determines the project offers significant social benefit, a financial review committee performs a credit risk review, similar in many ways to that of a traditional lender. Once that hurdle is cleared, a committee that considers both social and credit risk elements votes to approve or decline the loan.

Donors can participate in the loan with a minimum of $10,000 either contributed directly to the Foundation or withdrawn from the donor’s existing fund at the Foundation. Over the term of the loan, these donor “co-investors” receive quarterly updates on the social impact of the loan. Once a loan is repaid, a donor can choose to participate in another impact investment or use the returned proceeds to make grants in the community. “Importantly, donors get to be part of a high-impact project that might otherwise be out of their reach,” Finnegan says. “In the end, their contribution can be recycled and used for another charitable purpose, which is particularly appealing.”

There are nearly 800 community foundations nationwide, according to the Council on Foundations, and the Community Foundation of Louisville is one of only around three dozen utilizing impact investments. “We have created tremendous impact with the amount of money we’ve invested,” Finnegan says, “and there’s still much more on the horizon.”

Amanda Zilka

‘It just felt right’

Amanda Zilka was 18 years old when she took her first drink. By age 20, her drinking was unmanageable. “It just escalated from there,” she says.

Zilka began moving around a lot — from Kentucky, to New York, to North Carolina — but her alcoholism only worsened. “I started trying to change my life and started going to church and trying to do the next right thing, but I was still drinking.” Soon she was drinking alone every day. Her alcoholism came to a head when she tried to pick up her son, Jaxon, from day care while blacked out. “The next day, I checked myself into rehab, because I didn’t want to lose my kid,” Zilka says. “If I lost him, then I was going to lose everything, and I needed to stop.” After going through an eight-month rehabilitation program at The Healing Place, Zilka is now 18 months sober and beyond grateful. She has an apartment, and her son is enrolled in preschool at the St. Benedict Center for Early Childhood Education.

Located in west Louisville’s California neighborhood, St. Benedict — in partnership with New Directions Housing Corp. — recently expanded thanks to a $100,000 impact loan from the Community Foundation. “When I took the tour at St. Benedict, I almost cried. It just felt right,” says Zilka.

A typical day for 4-year-old Jaxon entails tracing letters and numbers, learning to spell, singing songs, and even doing homework, which he loves. But perhaps more important than academics is that Jaxon feels at home after a tumultuous period. “His relationship with everyone at St. Benedict is amazing. It’s kind of like family.”

Zilka also counts her one-bedroom apartment as a blessing that’s changed her life. When she left rehab, Zilka assumed a halfway house was her next stop. But the nonprofit New Directions set her up with an affordable apartment — without which she would not have regained custody of her son. Zilka is searching for a part-time job, and soon she will start a class to learn computer coding through the grant-funded Code Louisville program. “I am so, so blessed right now,” she says. “To have Jaxon back, have him in an amazing school, have a roof over my head — it’s really incredible.”

Brandy White

‘A blessing and an achievement’

The ranch-style, red brick house had sat vacant since going into foreclosure in August 2016. It was a solid structure but in need of extensive rehab. Those renovations became a reality thanks to River City Housing, and now Brandy White, 31, is preparing to move her family into the home — just in time for the holidays.

“It’s gonna be the best Christmas gift,” says White, whose Realtor connected her with River City Housing, a nonprofit that acquires and renovates vacant or foreclosed houses to be purchased by low-income families.

For the past seven years, White has worked full-time at a hotel near the airport. She started as a front desk clerk and worked her way up to assistant general manager. “Hopefully in the next six months to a year, I’ll be working as a general manager at a hotel,” says the first-time homebuyer and mother of three. The family has scrimped to make purchasing a home possible, meaning fewer restaurant meals and vacations. Earlier this year, White moved out of an apartment and into her mother’s home to save even more money.

Buying a house is “a blessing and an achievement,” says White, who beams when describing her newly renovated home. It features a bedroom for each child, a finished basement “for movie nights and games,” and the highlight: an open-concept kitchen and living room, which will enable White to spend time with her kids while cooking.

“I’m a very hands-on mom, and my kids are my world,” she says. As for her children — daughter Shayla, 13, and sons Darius and Matthew, 10 and 2 — they are most looking forward to picking paint colors for their bedrooms. River City began remodeling the home after White made an offer and was approved for the program. The nonprofit makes both aesthetic and structural improvements, and ensures energy efficiency so its homes are affordable long term. The Community Foundation extended a $200,000 loan to River City to acquire and rehab seven southwest Louisville homes — including the one White will move into off Rockford Lane. “River City has been totally awesome during this process,” she says. “I’m just so grateful.”

Sarah Allgeier

‘A dream come true’

Sarah Allgeier had spent nearly a decade working in the health insurance industry when she decided to go back to college and finish her degree. “I originally was going to get a degree in hospital administration,” she says. ”I went for maybe a semester and thought, this is crazy. I was just doing it because I had always been in the health insurance industry. Then it struck me: I’m going to do what I want to do.”

In 2013, Allgeier graduated from Jefferson Community and Technical College with a culinary degree. Allgeier was considering launching her own food truck when she met Johnetta Roberts, vice president of Community Ventures Corp., a nonprofit focused on neighborhood revitalization and community development. The organization had plans to open a commissary kitchen and small-business incubator in the Russell neighborhood, and Robertson encouraged Allgeier to stay in touch as plans progressed.

When Chef Space opened in 2015, Allgeier became one of its first members, launching a baked goods business called DelectaBites. Chef Space provided all the necessary equipment in a licensed kitchen, along with training opportunities and camaraderie among fellow entrepreneurs. By October 2016, Allgeier had generated enough business that she moved out of the kitchen and into her own shop in Okolona. “Before this I just had a job. I didn’t hate it, but it was just something I did to make money,” she says. “This is something I really enjoy. It’s my passion.”

It’s a passion that blossomed during childhood, when she would spend summers with her grandmother, an avid baker. During the school year, Allgeier and her sister were tasked with preparing dinner because their mom worked late; cookies were often on the menu. At DelectaBites, Allgeier bakes an array of breads and sweet treats in small batches. The most popular items, she says, are her carrot cake and “cake bites.”“It’s a true neighborhood bakery. I know my customers, and they know me,” she says. “It really is a dream come true, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am today without Chef Space.”

Lopa Mehrotra – A Donor’s Perspective

‘A head-meets-heart investment’

In the world of finance, the success of an investment is assessed primarily by the monetary gains it generates for the investor. Not so in the world of impact investing, explains Lopa Mehrotra, a seasoned nonprofit executive, philanthropist and social entrepreneur. “Impact investing is an incredible new tool in the toolbox for philanthropists who want to see capital make a significant difference in their community,” says Mehrotra.

With the help of investors like Mehrotra and her husband, Rishabh, the Community Foundation loaned $200,000 to the nonprofit Community Ventures, which used the money to renovate and repurpose a shuttered cafeteria in West Louisville. The result: Chef Space, a commercial kitchen shared by budding food industry entrepreneurs. “For us, it’s sort of a head-meets-heart investment opportunity.”

The Community Foundation reached out to the Mehrotras to gauge their interest in funding Chef Space given their past experience in entrepreneurship and impact investment. Their passion for food was an added bonus. Mehrotra’s impressive career includes founding TestToob, a video network for science education, and leading the nonprofit Grameen Australia, which provides microloans to entrepreneurs living in extreme poverty. After a five-year stint in Australia, Mehrotra recently returned to Louisville with her husband — a health and technology entrepreneur — and their two daughters.

Mehrotra applauds the Community Foundation for embracing this innovative way to deploy charitable capital, and as a donor participant, she especially values the due diligence the organization performs. “When this opportunity is completed and the loan is paid back, we’ll definitely be looking for another opportunity like this to invest in the community,” she says. “For us as a funder, it allows us to recycle the principal into more and more social change.”

CFL Impact Capital has an additional $1 million to add to the current portfolio, further extending support for job creation, community revitalization and much more. Interested in learning how you can join us as we grow our investment in community?

Visit cflimpactcapital.org.