Sister Marie Lucy
Congregational Minister for Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.
Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Congregation
by Lynn Adler and Jim Mayer
Producers of Faith, Hope and Capital
Maybe we can start talking about how the Order first got involved with
1980 we had been engaged in corporate responsibility work, using our
shareholder influence with corporations. In the early 80s we became
aware of the alternative investment movement. We were looking for opportunities
where we might be able to create an intermediary ourselves, by which
we would be able to invest in community organizations. We realized that
we did not have the expertise to be able to do that ourselves. Then
in 1985 we learned about Delaware Valley Community Reinvestment Fund
(now known as The Reinvestment Fund) which was just beginning its initiative.
The goals were very compatible between DVCRF and our congregation in
how we wanted to be able to use our resources to provide finances for
community organizations that were doing very good things but could not
obtain loans from banks.
there a pretty unanimous feeling among your folks? Was this a great
idea, or there was some resistance?
really did try to educate the members to what was happening. There was
some concern at first about whether we were jeopardizing and putting
our resources at risk, especially from sisters concerned about retirement.
But, I really believe, especially after our initial investment, there
were no repercussions and we began to invest more monies, sisters really
became very happy and proud of the fact that we were able to use our
resources in this manner.
congregation had determined that we would use a percentage of the revenues
from our investment portfolio--these are the monies that subsidize the
retirement of our sisters and also sisters who are ill or disabled.
So, this was a very tricky sort of a circumstance in terms of realizing
that we were dependent on that money. But, we also, in 1986, in our
mission statement, stated very clearly that we were going to direct
our personal and corporate resources in direct care of the poor and
the oppressed. Our founder, Mother Frances, is quoted widely as saying:
"As long as God keeps giving to us we will continue to give to the poor."
curious how your example has impacted other areas of the religious community.
were the first religious congregation to invest in Delaware Valley Community
Reinvestment Fund. And, because we became the first investors, that
established some degree of security for other religious congregations.
So, it was not long before other congregations of men and women began
to also make investments in The Reinvestment Fund. So that, to the present
day, almost every religious congregation in this area is invested in
DVCRF. I think that people begin to realize that this type of investment
is very compatible with their values, with their mission--whether that's
religious congregations or churches, synagogues, wherever that might
be. When they begin to see the effects of the investment, when you actually
go out and visit a site, and you see homes being built, you see a laundromat
functioning in a poor area, you see concretely the evidence of what
your money is doing. Then people become very excited about it, and usually
they want to roll their investment over. They might want to make another
investment, and they want to attract other investors into the project.
DG: I think
this is true of individual investors as well as institutional investors.
I know with Delaware Valley--when they had their tenth anniversary last
year-- many of the individual investors, said, "Oh, my little one-thousand
or five-thousand dollars can't mean anything." But, indeed, with
so many individual investors just pledging that amount of money principal,
usually at zero or below market interest rate, it really does add up.
I believe the foundation of the entire fund is the individual investors,
and that just gives you a good feeling of being connected to a larger
community and your immediate family, friends, and professional associates.
initial investors in The Reinvestment Fund were individuals and religious
groups, church groups. Then after others, such as banks--who initially
cast a rather skeptical eye on the whole venture--when they began to
see the success of the venture, began to see that indeed community organizations
were credible and would repay their loans, the banks became involved.
That has become a major part of the investor pool for Delaware Valley.
LA: I know,
in earlier years there was a lot of money invested by church organizations
and others into community projects, so this was pre-loan fund era, and
a lot of money was lost. I was wondering if you could talk about the
difference between what is happening now with Delaware Valley.
As Doris has said, it was that intermediary that has the expertise that
was missing in that piece. I know, quite a few years ago, before we
ever became engaged in this type of investing, we did make an investment
in a credit union. We did not have the smarts that we should have had
at that time and didn't know what to ask. So it was a learning experience
for us. We really lost that money that we had invested. Several years
later, when we began to explore this, we knew the questions to ask,
we were smarter about it, and we knew that we were not able to do it
ourselves. But the Delaware Valley Community Reinvestment Fund had the
expertise and the resources to be able to manage our money and do it
smartly as well as to use it for a very good purpose.
commercial banks would give anything to have the default rate of the
community development loan funds. In fact, I think it's rather ironic
that many of the loan funds that we are invested in, the commercial
banks meet their CRA requirement by making substantial investments in
the loan funds in those communities. Everybody's winning in that situation.
with The Reinvestment Fund the collaborative bank initiative now is
a very important part of the whole investor pool. It was the churches
and the individuals that initially became involved, but now many of
the banks in the area are doing their share.
think they've been infected with a sense of mission?
often use the expression, you can do good and do well at the same time.
And, I think this would apply to the banks also. Certainly it's to the
advantage of banks, which want to do business in neighborhoods, even
in low income neighborhoods, to be able to contribute to the building
up of that neighborhood through housing, through micro-business enterprise.
It's an advantage to the banks, so I think once they learn that they
can do that and not suffer losses from that, they also can do good and
do well at the same time.