Calvert Impact Capital Community Investment Note (Review)

Invest in community development with as little as $20.

SustainFi May 5, 2021

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Rating: Excellent (4.6 / 5)

Calvert Impact Capital

  • Investment Type: fixed income (note)
  • Certification: 501(c)(3) nonprofit
  • Minimum Investment: $20
  • Advertised Returns: 0.4%-2.5%
  • Maturity: 1-10 years
  • Liquidity: none until maturity
  • Open to non-accredited investors
  • Fees and expenses: none
  • Account types: taxable investment accounts and IRAs
  • Impact: measured annually and reported through annual Impact Report and quarterly updates

Pros

  • Supports an impact investing nonprofit
  • No fees
  • Not correlated with the broader market
  • You can target a specific impact sector
  • Investments in CDFIs are generally safe (though they are not FDIC-insured)
  • 100% repayment of principal and interest since 1995
  • Diversification (your money is invested in many CDFIs)

Cons

  • You can’t get your money back until the note matures
  • No secondary market
  • Notes are unsecured

What is the Calvert Impact Capital Community Investment Note?

Calvert Impact Capital is a nonprofit that lends to community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and impact partners worldwide. The fund started in 1995 and has invested over $2 billion over its 25-year history, repaying 100% with interest to investors. 

Today Calvert Impact Capital has half a billion invested around the globe in over 100 institutions. About a third of fund assets are invested internationally.

The Calvert Impact Capital Community Investment Note allows you to invest with as little as $20. The fund will lend your money to intermediaries like CDFIs and microfinance institutions. They will then lend it to small businesses, agriculture programs, or affordable housing projects. 

Note that Calvert Impact Capital is not affiliated with Calvert Research & Management, an ESG mutual fund provider.

What are CDFIs?

CDFIs are financial institutions that provide loans and other assistance to low-income communities. 

The CDFI movement emerged in the 1970s among growing concerns about discrimination and the social consequences of investment decisions. The government addressed these concerns through the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act. 

There are over 1,100 CDFIs in the U.S, holding $136 billion in assets as of 2019. They are certified by the U.S. Department of Treasury and rely on federal funding and capital from banks, foundations, and individuals. CDFIs include credit unions, banks, loan funds, and venture funds. You can find the complete list of CDFIs on the CDFI Fund website

CDFIs are more than lenders to underserved populations. They also have a mission to provide services like financial counseling to small businesses. Because CDFIs know their communities well, they can offer better loan terms than traditional banks. In addition, loan officers at CDFIs are better at finding high-quality borrowers other lenders may overlook.

Although CDFIs do not seek to maximize profits, they must preserve capital and are generally profitable. As a result, their financial performance is comparable to that of traditional financial institutions. You can learn more about CDFIs here.

How does Calvert Impact Capital select its investments?

Calvert Impact Capital lends money to roughly 100 CDFIs and mission-focused partners around the world. Most of the lending is through loans and structured debt funds. The loans start at $1 million.

The organizations Calvert Impact Capital invests in are listed on their site. This is the breakdown by impact sector and geography:

calvert-impact-portfolio

Calvert Impact Capital does diligence on its partners, looking for a track record of strong management, financial performance, and social and environmental impact. All borrowers are presented to an internal committee before the decision to lend is made. Borrowers are also required to submit impact data annually. After the loan is granted, Calvert Impact Capital’s investment team continues to monitor the health of the borrowers.

What are the terms of the Calvert Impact Capital Community Investment Note?

The Note is available to non-accredited investors, and you can start investing with as little as $20.

You can select for how long you want to invest – the Note currently offers a 0.4%-2.5% return for a term of one to ten years:

  • 1 Year: 0.40%
  • 3 Year: 1.00%
  • 5 Year: 1.50%
  • 10 Year: 2.50%

There are no charges or hidden fees though you can’t get your money back until the Note matures, so you should select the term you are comfortable with. There is no secondary market for the Note, so you won’t be able to sell it to someone else if you want to get your money back early.

The Note targets nine impact sectors like affordable housing and environmental sustainability. You are allowed to designate a specific sector online in the Impact Preferences section of your account or on an application. (This helps Calvert Impact Capital allocate portfolio dollars. The credit risk of your Note won’t change no matter what sector you choose.)

Calvert Impact Capital publishes an annual impact report. The businesses they support include eco.business Fund, an impact fund conserving biodiversity in Latin America, and the Forest Resilience Fund, which aims to restore forests in California to reduce wildfire risks. 

How do I invest?

You can buy the Note online, by mail, or through a brokerage account. IRA options are also available.

calvert-investing-dashboard

Who is the Calvert Impact Capital Community Investment Note suitable for? Is it safe?

The Note is a fixed income instrument that could replace some of your bond allocation. It is available to non-accredited investors.

Calvert Impact Capital is a highly reputable nonprofit with a long track record. It has been around since 1995, investing $2 billion in CDFIs and repaying 100% of principal and interest since inception. 

Its borrowers, mostly CDFIs, are also considered safe thanks to strict lending standards and close community relationships. During the last recession, CDFIs actually increased lending, and loan loss ratios have been low. You can learn more here.

💰 Takeaway

  • The Calvert Impact Capital Note could be a fixed income or alternative investment component of your portfolio, given its low correlation with regular way stocks
  • The fund has a very long track record, and CDFIs are generally considered safe
  • However, interest rates are low, so you won’t make a killing investing in the Note
  • Further, you should select the maturity you are comfortable with because you won’t get your money back early

🔔 Looking for other ways to invest with impact? Check our guide to investing in CDFIs, impact real estate, and small business lending here.

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