By EarthShare member charity Green America
The United States can feel like a country divided, especially in this election year when the rhetoric is bombastic and there doesn’t seem to be much common ground. At the same time, we turn on the news and often see another community impacted by tragedy – natural or manmade.
Many Americans are looking for ways to create and heal communities. If you want to help people in need, and you have a savings or checking account, you can place your money where your heart is and take action with community investing.
Community investing is a way for all Americans to use their savings to support communities near them, across the United States, or even around the world. You can help a farmer plant their next crop, provide housing for low-income people, make sure kids are receiving high quality daycare – all with your savings or checking account. Even if you are just looking for a new credit card, you can find one issued by a community bank that often supports a deserving non-profit as well.
You can become a community investor simply by banking with a community development bank or credit union.
Community development banks and credit unions operate very much like their traditional counterparts, and your accounts are insured, but these institutions focus on funding economic development in low- and moderate-income areas. These are the communities that are often underserved by major banks, and at the same time targeted by predatory lenders – payday lenders, used car lenders, rent to own businesses -- that take the wealth out of these communities.
By contrast, community development banks and credit unions are dedicated to helping these communities help themselves with small business loans, mortgages, and deposit accounts that help people build equity.
For example, Beneficial State Bank has supported a diverse range of businesses and nonprofits on the West Coast from Mercy Housing, which provides educational programs and affordable housing; to Full Circle Farms, which provides local produce to homes and businesses; to Civicorps, which provides young adults who have previously dropped out of high school with a hands-on, enriching, and career-focused environment.
To find a community development bank or credit union near you, check out Green America’s searchable database. To find a great credit card that supports communities and nonprofits, check out Green America’s resource, Take Charge of Your Card.
Once you’ve started banking with a community development bank or credit union in your area, you can take the next step and support people across the United States or around the world through community development loan funds or investment notes.
Calvert Foundation offers a unique online platform, Vested.org, where for an investment as low as $20 anyone can support the likes of fair trade coffee farmers, clean cookstoves in Kenya, and increased access to healthy foods in Philadelphia. For the price of dinner at a restaurant, you can make an investment that helps change the world. The interest rates range from 1-4%, and while your investment is not FDIC insured, Calvert Foundation has had a 100% repayment rate to investors since it began in 1995.
As we all look for ways to create a better future, remember how you save and invest your money has as much an effect on the world as how you spend your money. Whether you need a bank for depositing a weekly paycheck, a credit card, or are looking to make an impact on communities worldwide, there’s a community investing option for you.