Brian Toller, Chair, and Barbara McInness, CEO, of the Community Foundation of Ottawa, have been pioneers of impact investing in Canada. In the video below, they share their thinking on its advantages and its future. The Community Foundation of Ottawa is one of the premiere partners in the Community Forward Fund’s Impact Investing Fund.


The Community Forward Fund makes loans and arranges financing for Canadian nonprofits and charities. CFF is designed to address a gap in access to patient, working capital and bridge loans for the sector for small- and medium-sized organizations. Another important part of CFFAC’s management role is to provide financial advisory services and assessment tools and to improve financial skills within the borrower-organizations. Our research indicates that there is a market for one-year bridge loans, and 3 and 5 year term loans.  Loan interest will be dependent on the type of loan or guarantee plus other fees. JP Morgan and the Global Impact Investing Network researched and co-authored Impact Investments: An emerging asset class in which they estimate that there is “an investment opportunity of between $400 billion and $1 trillion and profit opportunity of between $183 billion and $667 billion over the next decade in five sectors — housing, water, health, education, and financial services — serving global populations earning less than $3,000 annually.”

Fund Participants

Community and Private Foundations across Canada have a proud tradition of providing grants to social service organizations in their communities. We are currently working in partnership with Foundations in several Canadian cities, combining our fiscal knowledge with their understanding of local needs to provide loans to organizations that meet our stringent criteria and that have the vision and entrepreneurial spirit to do well while doing good. Other potential investor partnerships with the private sector are under consideration. These potential partners have indicated that a fund providing loans to charities and nonprofits will be a good way to achieve social impact while financial return commensurate with the low end of their portfolio would provide acceptable returns.

The Market: Charities and nonprofits

While grants will always be important for charities and nonprofits, there are many gaps that traditional sources of financing for the sector can’t fulfill, particularly for growth and working capital. Longer lead times for grants, the requirement to pay for a project prior to receiving government funding, and the lack of funding for core operations, growth and diversification, have led to organizations to seek new forms of financing.

In Canada, few traditional lenders feel comfortable evaluating the ability of nonprofits and charities to accept loans. Some lenders are willing to make loans to larger charities; however, even larger organizations have experienced difficulty in accessing the financing they need.

The model

For over 30 years in the United States and the UK, charities and nonprofits have used loans successfully as part of their financing strategy and have benefited from the availability of this option. The Nonprofit Finance Fund alone (one of dozens of community development financial institutions in the US) has provided over $200 million in loans to charities and nonprofits, using private sector and Foundation funds. Of the 161,000 nonprofits in Canada, we conservatively estimate that at least 37,000 organizations would be of a size and scope to be able to use loans as part of their financing strategies.

With Imagine Canada and our community partners, CFFAC has been involved in a series of workshops with charities and nonprofits across Canada to discuss their financing issues and how they might use a loan. Through these workshops, our website and word of mouth, the organization has developed a client base for the fund and collected case studies from potential loan candidates indicating interest in several million dollars of loans prior to any publicity about CFF. This number continues to grow as we follow up on leads generated from our database of over 100 interested organizations from our workshops, 300 groups in our database, and the organizations who are in our loan pipeline. Additional loan candidates will be found through regional partners, surveys, planned workshops and publicity.

Measuring return

As a pooled fund that makes loans, the CFF will set interest rates for each loan, and pay for the cost of its operating expenses from loan repayments.

The Fund has established, and will continue to refine, loan-returns, projections and budgets that allow it to establish reasonable goals for its rate of net return to investors. It will use a series of evaluations for both the financial and social impact reporting on the fund.

Management and Board

Our Management and Board are senior, experienced financial and non-profit management experts, with considerable loan and loan portfolio management experience. Detailed biographies can be found here.

For additional information and a copy of our fund documents, please contact us.