The Loan Fund started was conceived as a tool for poverty reduction in 1996. It has grown from a micro lending organization to one that uses training, savings, and real estate development to help people and organizations achieve their goals of self reliance.
Chronology of growth
1998 Development Phase
1999 First business loan
2001 Charitable Status
2004 Shelter Loan Added
Financial Literacy Training Added
Business Plan Training at YMCA (ended in 2006)
2005 First audited statements produced
2007 Purchase of Building
2008 Purchase of Adjacent land
Power Up Training Added
2009 Building completed, move in of Loan Fund, and tenants
NPO loan developed with Loan Fund first to use for building
2009 Youth Entrepreneurship first delivered in summer
Matched savings program (A$$ets)
2010 Enterprising Women Program begins in January
First training outside Greater Saint John – MM$ in Sussex
2011 Loan Fund joins the Facebook and Twitter universe
2012 Money Coaching and eW coaching
2016 Building completed bringing together 5 non-profits, 3 social enterprises and micro enterprises
2003-2006 Regional Co-ordinator for the Canadian CED Network
2006-2010 Co-Director for the Social Economy Research Network
2009-2010 Executive Director of Can. Community Investment Network
2011-2012 Co-Chair Social Enterprise and Community Investment Fund Committee
More Detail for the History Buffs
The Idea 1996
The Saint John Community Loan Fund began as an idea in 1996 at a meeting of the Urban Core Support Network. The individuals around the table spoke of the need for community credit. Credit that helped people living on low income start a business or get back to work. The idea stuck, and within months the Human Development Council conducted a feasibility study and wrote a business plan that showed there was a market and an opportunity to establish a community loan fund in Saint John.
Saint John had a poverty rate of 27% at the time, the highest in New Brunswick. With this knowledge and the will to make a difference, volunteers began to recruit investments to build the loan pool. Presentations were given at galleries and in office boardrooms, and within three months the loan pool was ready. Dorothy Dawson was the first individual investor at the Loan Fund. Her reason for investing, "I've been fortunate, so it makes sense to put something back." She represents the classic Loan Fund investor - compassionate and practical.
First Loan 1999
The Saint John Community Loan Fund made its first loan in September 1999. The first loan was a nail biter, with the volunteer loan committee deliberating over two separate meetings to tie-up their first "risky" loan. It was for $5,000, and it was to a company, a one-man show, that salvaged sunken logs from the bottom of the Saint John River. The loan was a success, with the loan being paid back and the borrower going on to develop another business that continues to contribute to Saint John.
The Saint John Community Loan Fund was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in April 2000 and received its charitable tax status from Revenue Canada in April 2003. It continues to be an innovator, being the first and only community loan fund in Atlantic Canada, joining approximately forty other micro-credit organizations across the country. All risk capital (loan and reserve) comes from community investors and donors, with a diversity of funding sources meeting operational needs.
In 2003, the Loan Fund confirmed its Vision, 'to be an innovative community lender, responding to local needs, with sufficient resources to help individuals build self-reliance through a variety of financial tools, and to provide an effective vehicle for Saint John citizens to invest directly in their community.' The Loan Fund started with back to work loans and business loans in 1999. In 2003, the damage deposit loan was added in response to a priority stated in the 2000 Community Plan. Training in financial literacy and business plan training were added in 2003 as well.
Regional and National Involvement
In 2004, the Loan Fund served as the Atlantic Regional Coordinator for the Canadian Community Economic Development Network and led the attempt at developing the Canadian Community Investment Network. In 2006, Seth was co-director of the Atlantic Social Economy Research Project. And in 2013, he co-chaired the Social Enterprise Committee as part of the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation's Poverty Reduction Plan.