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MacArthur, Chicago Community Trust create low-interest loan program for nonprofits

By Lisa Bertagnoli, reporter, Crain’s

Chicago Community Trust and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation earlier this year introduced what they say is a win-win for Chicago’s philanthropic community: A way for charitably minded investors to participate in a local social-impact fund and a way for area nonprofits and social-enterprise companies to access $100 million in long-term, low-interest loans.

The program, called Benefit Chicago, is unique in the country and is the city’s most ambitious social-impact investing tool to date, said Julia Stasch, president of MacArthur Foundation. “It is the first-of-its-kind collaboration among a community foundation and global private foundation with a deep commitment to its hometown,” Stasch said.

It is designed to meet what research has shown to be a $100 million need for capital over the next five years among area nonprofits and social-enterprise companies. It will also satisfy investors’ desire to make investments with “meaningful social, economic and environmental impact,” the release announcing Benefit Chicago said.

The program is set up for an initial 15-year run. If successful, it could be emulated in other cities, Stasch said. The fund could also increase beyond $100 million. “It would be good to not see the unmet gap that we’re seeing today,” Stasch said.

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