Got $20? You can be an impact investor.

Here's a list of impact investments that are open to anybody.  

Mark Lennihan/AP/File
Carpenters work on a 30-story condominium project in New York City that includes open market condominiums and subsidized housing. Community banks back affordable housing projects across the United States.

Long the preserve of wealthy investors, impact investing is opening up to ordinary people who want to align their portfolio with their values. That might mean funding coffee farmers in Nicaragua, small businesses in India, or affordable housing projects in their own home town. If you have $20, you can be an impact investor.

The handful of investments open to people of normal means are almost all lending funds of one type or another, which means that investors are more lenders than shareholders, receiving regular interest payments rather than dividends or capital appreciation. There are some stocks that also qualify. Bruce Campbell, chief happiness officer for Blue Dot Advocates, a Boulder, Colo., law firm that advises social impact firms, points to Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital (NYSE: HASI), which finances energy efficiency and renewable energy companies.

Also, investors can look at the few companies that don't sell their shares through Wall Street (known as direct public offerings and usually open only to people in states where the companies operate. For a list, click here.)

But in general, impact investments are useful for the fixed-income portion of a person’s portfolio. For the cash portion, you can put your money with banks whose deposits go to help specific low- and moderate-income communities. (Here's a list.) Impact investments that act like bonds are listed below, starting with those with the lowest required minimum investments. (This information is updated periodically as circumstances change and new information is acquired.)

1) Calvert Foundation

Type: Lending fund (pays like a CD, principal not guaranteed)
Social impact: Financed 5,287 housing units, created or maintained 5,154 jobs, supported 26,900 farmers in fair trade cooperatives in 2014
Social impact report: Yes
Minimum investment: $20
Financial return: 0.50 percent for 1 year up to 3 percent for 10 years

Calvert Foundation pioneered the idea of impact investing for ordinary investors. Investors can target funding to specific areas: from social enterprises in India to affordable housing and community care for older people in the US.

2) RSF Social Investment Fund

Type: Lending fund (pays like a CD; principal not guaranteed)
Social impact: More than $275 million loaned since 1984 to social enterprises in the US: from fair trade food to art-integrated schools to recycling advocates
Social impact report: Yes
Minimum investment: $1,000
Financial return: 0.25 percent/year
Investor qualifications: Available in 47 states, Puerto Rico, and some Canadian provinces

A longtime choice for ordinary impact investors, the fund provides mortgage, construction, and equipment loans, as well as working capital lines of credit to qualified for-profits and nonprofits dedicated to improving the well-being of society and/or the environment. In 2014, it loaned $13.8 million to 73 social enterprises in the US and abroad.

3) Equal Exchange

Type: Certificate of deposit
Social impact: Buys fair-trade coffee, chocolate, tea, and other agricultural goods from more than 40 farmer co-ops in Africa, Asia, and the Americas and resells to US consumers.
Social impact report: Yes
Minimum investment: $500
Minimum term: 3 years
Financial return target: 0.4 percent

The CDs act as collateral for a line of credit that Eastern Bank offers to Equal Exchange at below-market rates. The depositors get the same interest rate the bank pays on conventional CDs, and are guaranteed against bank failure, but they take on a small risk if Equal Exchange were to default on the loan. The fund has varied between $500,000 and $1 million in the past four years.

4) Cooperative Fund of New England

Type: Lending fund
Social impact: Provides funding and technical support for cooperative enterprises throughout New England
Social impact report: Yes
Minimum investment: $1,000
Minimum term: 1 year
Financial return target: 0-2 percent

Since 1975, CFNE has provided more than $37.4 million in affordable financing to nearly 730 cooperatives and nonprofits across New England and eastern New York, resulting in creating or retaining nearly 10,000 jobs and 5,400 housing units, often in underserved communities.


Type: Lending fund
Social impact: Lends to local partners in Nicaragua and five other Latin American nations who provided microfinance. services, and fair-trade markets for nearly 35,000 working poor entrepreneurs in 2014
Social impact report: Yes
Minimum investment: $1,000
Minimum term: 2 years
Financial return: Up to 2 percent for 2 years; up to 4 percent for 4 years
Investor qualifications: Available in 40 states (some of which have extra restrictions)

Invested $10.9 million in Latin America in 2014 ($107 million since 1991) to help the region’s working poor improve their lives through business loans, fair-trade agriculture, and better housing. Nearly two-thirds of the microborrowers are women; half are from rural areas; the average loan to a microborrower is $1,068.

6) CRA Fund (CRATX)

Type: Government bond fund
Social impact: Invested more than $5.7 billion in affordable housing, education, child welfare, neighborhood revitalization, and environmentally sustainable initiatives since its inception in 1999
Social impact report: Yes
Minimum investment: $2,000
Minimum term: None
Financial return: 1.66 percent in 2015

One of the few traditional mutual funds involved in impact investing. Invests in municipal bonds as well as FNMA and GNMA bonds that support affordable rental housing, community and economic development, and mortgages to low- and moderate-income families.  

7) TriLinc Global Impact Fund

Type: Lending fund to small and medium-size businesses in the developing world
Social impact: Borrower companies employ 11,930 workers
Social impact report: Yes
Minimum investment: $2,000
Minimum term: 5 years
Financial return target: 6.3 - 7.2 percent a year
Investor qualifications: Must have a net worth of at least $250,000 (not including home, car, etc.) or a net worth of $70,000 and $70,000 in annual income.

Makes trade financing and other loans available to small- and medium-size enterprises in high-growth developing countries that are too small for commercial loans and too big for microfinance. As of Oct. 31, it had loaned $106.4 million in 2015 for business expansion and socioeconomic development in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

8) Greenbacker Renewable Energy Co.

Type: Shares of a Limited Liability Corp.
Social impact: Invested $34.8 million in 91 renewable energy projects in the US and Canada
Social impact report: No
Minimum investment: $2,000
Minimum term: 5 years
Financial return: 6 percent YTD
Investor qualifications: Must have a net worth of at least $250,000 (not including home, car, etc.) or a net worth of $70,000 and $70,000 in annual income

Invests in installations with long-term contractual agreements to provide renewable energy and provides investors a monthly payment. In June 2015, the company generated 1.9 million kilowatt-hours, displacing the equivalent of CO2 emissions from 273 cars for a year.

9) ImpactAssets

Type: Impact investment notes
Social impact: Notes address social and environmental challenges through financial inclusion, poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability, and conservation. Total aggregate offering:  Minimum $5,000,000, Maximum: $100,000,000. 
Social impact report: Yes
Minimum investment: $25,000
Minimum term: 5 years
Financial return target: 2.75 - 3 percent
Investor qualifications: Available in 46 states

Officially launched on Dec. 3, 2015, the notes can be held in a brokerage account. Investors can choose between a microfinance note (to provide basic banking and financial services to the working poor in developing countries) and a sustainable agriculture note (to help small and midsize farmers use sustainable practices). Although the term is five years, there are potential options to exit after 18 months.

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