coastal community foundation (copy)

The Coastal Community Foundation has set aside $3 million for "impact investing," or funding projects that will have both a social benefit and financial return.

The Coastal Community Foundation, a nonprofit group focused on charitable giving along the South Carolina coast, is starting a new program to fund projects with positive social impact.

The strategy, known as place-based impact investing, is not just aimed at advancing good causes. It also demands financial returns. 

"We’re looking for a balance in the portfolio of, obviously, projects and organizations that can give us a social return in the community, but also match our returns we get with our traditional investments in the foundation," CFF spokeswoman Karen Black said.

The foundation will set aside $3 million for its first round of loans, loan guarantees and equity investments. These investments likely wouldn't fund programs in a service organization, but more likely a capital project, such as a new building for affordable housing. 

"It would have to be something that can generate some kind of cash flow to repay us," said Christa Divis, the foundation's vice president of finance and chief financial officer.

The investments will be aimed at projects that improve education, access to economic opportunity and "affordable places and inclusive spaces." Those themes were chosen based on a listening tour along the rapidly growing coast, where access to cheap housing was a hot topic, Black said.

The program marks the first time that the foundation could fund a for-profit venture. Any financial return would be reinvested or returned to the foundation for its grant programs.

"We don't have a preference whether its a nonprofit or a for-profit," Divis said. "We’re looking at the project."

The foundation will consider applications for projects that are in development or that will launch within six months. It is offering investments between $50,000 and $600,000.

The foundation serves Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry and Jasper counties. 

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Reach Chloe Johnson at 843-735-9985. Follow her on Twitter @_ChloeAJ.

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