Author: Peter Cantelon, Executive Director
Jubilee Fund is Manitoba’s only non-profit charitable social finance impact investment fund. But what does that mean? What is social finance? Why do we care and how do we transform donations and investments into fuel for poverty reduction initiatives?
Put simply, social finance is the use of assets, typically money, but also property, stocks and bonds etc. as investments at or below market rates of return to drive positive social change. Jubilee Fund has been doing this for more than 23 years now thanks to regular and new supporters, which means it was at the leading edge of the social finance movement, which is only now, in past few years, starting to gain national and global traction.
What kind of positive social change are we talking about? Well, if you are familiar with the United Nations 17 sustainable development goals those are great examples of a drive for social change – things like no poverty (which is where Jubilee Fund’s focus exists), reduce and reverse the effects of climate change, no hunger, quality education, gender equality, clean water, affordable clean energy, and reduced inequality to name a few.
What I like about the UN’s sustainable development goals is the use of the word SUSTAINABLE and how well it meshes with social finance and the work Jubilee Fund does. Jubilee Fund leverages money donated and invested in it to support loans and loan guarantees to organizations and individuals working to reduce poverty. This means that the same dollar that helps support affordable housing eventually comes back and can be used again to support food security and then again to support affordable daycare. It is the essence of recycling only in a financial sense.
As I mentioned earlier Jubilee Fund’s focus is on poverty reduction but what does that mean? Poverty can be interpreted narrowly or abundantly – Jubilee Fund chooses to interpret it with abundance. Poverty and its contributors and causes are complex, and the solutions offered should reflect that.
As important as it is to put a roof over someone’s head and food in their bellies, reducing poverty with social finance requires a broader perspective that looks at root causes and seeks to not simply reduce but to even avoid. This is why Jubilee Fund supports access to education, mental and physical well-being initiatives, access to affordable transportation, and more.
Even things that seek to reduce climate change and improve the environment are important from a poverty perspective because those in poverty are often the most impacted by climate change and the environment. As summer temperatures rise not having access to air conditioning can mean the difference between life and death. Flood mitigation efforts are important because those in poverty do not have access to the resources required to mitigate damage and this can lead to deteriorating mental and physical well-being.
As I said, poverty is a complex set of interconnected issues and the solutions offered should reflect this.
Since I joined Jubilee Fund three years ago, I have had the privilege of leveraging assets to support amazing organizations and people throughout Manitoba and Winnipeg. Just this past year we have supported Huron Childcare in the heart of Winnipeg so that it could double its available spaces; we provided funds to assist Diversity Foods to allow it to continue operating through a difficult post-Covid period meaning they could continue to employ those with barriers to employment; finance assistance through Jubilee Fund in partnership with Assiniboine Credit Union allowed transitional housing provider Red Road Lodge to purchase their building lowering their costs, ensuring stability and long-term viability. Each of these things impacts real people in a powerful way.
Now as we come to the end of 2023 Jubilee Fund finds itself in a unique position – we are close to leveraging the maximum amount of our available funds – which is 90 percent. To my knowledge we have never been in this position before. This means that we are doing as much as we can through the tools of social finance and impact investment to help the people of Manitoba.
I thought I would feel much better about this than I do. This kind of success is thanks to the hard work of staff, volunteers, and board members as well as the investments and donations of so many people now and over the years past, but it comes with catch.
Jubilee Fund faces the very real probability of having to say no to the next worthy applicant that comes our way – not because they don’t qualify – but because the need is so great, we’ve run out of assets to leverage. If we doubled our asset base in 2024, I guarantee you, we would have projects available that would use those funds. This is the state of need in Manitoba and sometimes it feels like we are the proverbial child with their finger in the dike trying to hold back the flood but we’re happy to do what we can.
This is why we’re seeking increased and new support in the form of investments and donations. Any assistance offered means we can do a little more, help a few more people, and do our part as Manitoba’s only non-profit, social finance fund, to stem the flow of poverty and hopefully, even reverse it.