What is social finance? Why should charities and nonprofits pay attention to it?
Social finance is an investment that delivers a measurable social, cultural, and/or environmental impact as well as a financial return for the investor(s).
The funding landscape for the sector is becoming more precarious while demand for the services of these organizations grow. In the context of an increasingly precarious funding environment, social finance emerges as a source of capital that could allow charities to diversify their revenue and become more resilient.
Given this potential, an important question remains – are charities ready for social finance?
Read the report to find out about:
- Charities' level of awareness of social finance and opinions about social finance;
- Charities' likelihood to take a social finance loan;
- How they would use a social finance loan and what barriers they might face if seeking a social finance loan;
- Organizational capacity in key social finance-related domains; and,
- Current financing needs
Why it matters
There is increasing interest in social finance as a means for scaling socially innovative solutions to complex and persistent social, cultural, and environmental challenges. This is reflected in the Government of Canada’s $755 million investment into the establishment of a Social Finance Fund, which would aim to provide affordable, repayable capital to charities and other social purpose organizations. The results presented in this report indicate areas that government policymakers and social finance intermediaries can target to build charities’ readiness for social finance, and provides information that can help these actors to better adapt social finance to charities’ needs.
About this report
This report presents the results of a national survey of 1,018 registered charities undertaken to better understand the current state of social finance and its potential and challenges for charities.
"In order to democratize our economy, we must give new economic actors the means to develop. In order to do so, we need financial tools adapted to the priorities and borrowing capacities of organisations working on community development, including charities. Imagine Canada's study clarifies the means and characteristics of these organisations throughout Canada, an important step in order to develop and reinforce social finance solutions that are adapted to their needs."
Directrice générale, Chantier de l’économie sociale
“The survey of over 1,000 Canadian charities substantially advances our understanding of the barriers to engagement with social finance tools. It provides fresh insights for identifying those parts of the charitable sector that are likely to be ready participants, those that will need assistance to engage, and those for which social finance is not a good fit.”
Professor, Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership Program, School of Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University
“This report is a must read for anyone wanting to advance social finance in Canada.”
-Dr. Tessa Hebb
Distinguished Research Fellow, Carleton Centre for Community Innovation, Carleton University, Canada
“Social finance can play a critical role in scaling the impact of the charitable sector by fueling growth in effective programs and solutions. Raising awareness and building capacity in smaller charities appears to be a huge opportunity to increase the number of charities seeking social finance solutions.”
Associate Director, SVX
This project was made possible thanks to funding from the Government of Canada’s Investment Readiness Program.
The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.