The Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative has been active since 1983, providing loans to shelters, food banks, daycares, and even other loan funds. Now its members are raising their sights; they aim to extend $2 million in loans to social enterprises and nonprofit organizations by the end of 2008. To make this happen, CAIC faces a major obstacle: the sector's failure to appreciate how practical a tool debt can be if an organization is ready for it.
A lender needs to know that a prospective borrower has the financial and managerial capacity to repay a loan. Has the applicant a good track record? A supportive community and committed partners? Is the business plan sound? CAIC can assist with self-assessment of debt readiness.
As the experiences the Redwood Shelter and Planet Bean Co-operative show, CAIC does not work within the lending restrictions of a bank or credit union. When assessing an application, CAIC can take into account volunteer support, donations, and other less measurable assets. It's a lender custom-made for innovators and dreamers determined to change the social landscape.