The year in review—and gratitude for YOU

Detail from Père Lachaise cemetery, Paris, Fr. where CSC team member Hilary was recently amused by this reminder. Her 2017 interpretation: “Make your charitable donations by the end of the year!”

It’s become cliché:  the “year in the review” (and ask*) that predictably comes from nearly every nonprofit in December. In CSC’s case, our past 12 months has been a veritable hero’s journey.  In December 2016, CSC was wandering alone, a little lost, and there was a big ogre…

Just kidding, there was no ogre. Just you amazing folks. And our determination. That’s the short story of CSC’s 2017. The longer version follows.

Early last spring, after much encouragement from our community, CSC dusted itself off and fired up our engines to again bring connected, ethical finance to businesses and citizen lenders. The journey has been a challenging one. We’ve worked diligently to reboot as mission-based operation in both deed and legal fact. From building a stellar volunteer board and advisors, to enacting our strategy, building new partnerships and attending and presenting at dozens of convenings, we’ve been busy! We reactivated over 20% of repaid dollars in CSC’s Squareholders accounts to go do more great work (yay!) and engaged the support of over 500 generous individuals in directly funding CSC’s restart.

And we’ve also had setbacks, specifically around the technology that was custom built for us several years ago. As we end 2017, we’re doing deferred maintenance and making unexpected critical repairs to the platform. While there are still unknowns, we know it will be at least $20,000 to ensure completion of the first and most pressing stepensuring the platform functions so we can launch new campaigns.

We’re grateful to be working with long experienced (and generous) developers. While the platform is “in the shop” we have businesses waiting to run campaigns as soon as all is well. It’s been tough for everyone to be patient, but fully functional technology is necessary to ensure we are creating a responsible path to connected capital for everyone!

It’s an understatement to say we look forward to 2018 (and a functional platform!) so we can truly rock our mission to to amplify, educate and connect people and and communities around healthy finance. After all, that’s why we’re here. And more importantly, it’s why you’re here. We couldn’t have done this without you. Thank you for being with us through this long journey and for supporting CSC’s work. We wish you a holiday season that is generous, reciprocal and connected!

*  We’ll keep this part short. We are hoping to raise the $20K to cover the first round of our technology updates before January 1. If you feel motivated to give, tax-deductible year end donations can be made to CSC through our fiscal sponsor Seattle Good Business Network.

Connecting with others—good for business as well as health

We were fascinated by this Harvard Business Review piece on the impacts of loneliness by former Surgeon General Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, which talks about recent evidence that social isolation shortens lifespans in a way similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  It is—perhaps unsurprisingly—also bad for business.

“At work, loneliness reduces task performance, limits creativity, and impairs other aspects of executive function such as reasoning and decision making. For our health and our work, it is imperative that we address the loneliness epidemic quickly.”

And the trend towards disconnection and isolation is getting worse—new models of working remotely and factors like the rise of the “gig economy” create flexibility for workers but reduce the structural community-making of a traditional workplace. Researchers for Gallup found that having strong social connections at work makes employees more likely to be engaged with their jobs and produce higher-quality work, and less likely to fall sick or be injured.

Dr. Murthy does not mince words, calling the problem an epidemic. “If we cannot rebuild strong, authentic social connections, we will continue to splinter apart — in the workplace and in society. Instead of coming together to take on the great challenges before us, we will retreat to our corners, angry, sick, and alone. We must take action now to build the connections that are the foundation of strong companies and strong communities — and that ensure greater health and well-being for all of us.”



Moving Money in the Direction of Life

One month ago, when we began to ask Squareholders to move the money in their CSC accounts, we didn’t know how many of the 5,200 folks with active balances would still be thinking about CSC. Or if they remembered who we were! And we certainly didn’t know what—if anything—they would do if we asked them to activate their balance.

To date, nearly 16% of Squareholders have withdrawn or donated their money, or told us they’re intentionally waiting until new campaigns come online to redeploy those funds.

You might think we’d prefer to get donations, and you are correct that they are helpful in this particular moment.  However, a larger truth is that inherent in CSC’s mission is our desire to help people’s money move.

If that means moving money out of our system and back into a community, we think this is a great outcome!  Because, as we like to say at CSC: money moves in the direction of life.

As we like to say at CSC: money moves in the direction of life.

Instead of representing objects or a balance in an account, we think money most elegantly represents the movement of energy; a dynamic expression of what we as individuals value.  This sounds pretty lofty, but there are concrete metrics that illustrate this idea. For example, multiple studies show that a single dollar spent with a local independent business generates two to four times as much wealth as expressed in jobs and income for the community than the same dollar spent with a national chain.

So we are really excited about the movement of ~$94,000 from static account balances back to where they are a dynamic expressions of values. The beauty of community finance is that money “spent” is just energy in motion, and that the act of moving it will always serve to multiply its power.

New buds and shoots coming up at CSC!

No matter how many years I’ve lived, every spring I have what feels like a personal revelation. As I notice the trees and bushes come into bud and the beginnings of plants start to poke up out of the ground, I marvel: “So, all that energy was just being stored all this time!” Despite having having an intellectual understanding of the earth’s tilt and rotation, I slowly forget over winter what the rest of the seasons are like, and by February have accepted the barren landscape as a permanent reality.  

As CSC embarks on our next adventure as a nonprofit, it’s easy for me to draw a parallel with my annual amazement at the fecundity of spring following winter’s dormancy.  When we stopped making loans in winter of 2016, the reaction from our community was remarkable. This show of true gratitude for the role CSC plays in the world certainly buoyed our spirits, but it also galvanized our resolve to chart a new path.  Here’s a little sample of sentiment sent to us from our borrowers:  

“Just the other day I saw a square holder at a conference in Los Angeles and he “checked in on his business,” after all, he felt that he was part of our story and he is… And that’s pretty gosh darn extraordinary.”

“I’ve always felt that CSC has led the way for a financial/borrowing revolution. Can’t we just start a CSC campaign for CSC???? Thank you for all of your and the team’s wonderful work in supporting small businesses like mine. I will be happy to be a part of the next iteration of CSC.”

“You’re such a vital part of getting us back to being sustainable, and you’re such a vital (already) part of the small business community.”

“You dared to imagine and you went for it big time.  I still believe in you and know that whatever you morph into next will be amazing!!”

As we reemerge from our time underground, we’re grateful for the community that has been with us through it all.  While we “wintered over” organizationally, none of the incredible momentum and excitement about community-based funding has diminished. It has been there all along; ready to be a part of the next chapter.

Your belief in us has been a profound message for us to continue on.  I know I’ve gone overboard with the season metaphors but bear with me for one more because it’s the truest of them all: the faith and support that our community has demonstrated for resilient, connected, community finance is the energy that ensures its next growing season.

We are so excited to be continuing this story with all of you.

Announcing a partnership with B Corp

Maybe you’ve noticed the logo in the footer of our website or the thousands of emails our website sends to Squareholders every month. There’s a logo of a little “B” with a circle around it, and it stands for B Corp.

Shortly after we launched Community Sourced Capital, we started pursuing an endorsement that we believed would signal to the world our absolute commitment to using business as a catalyst for change. B Corp is a private certification assessing social and environmental performance of for-profit companies around the world. After a rigorous application and interview process, we received our certification a little over a year ago.

Using business as a catalyst for change is no small feat, and we aren’t trying to do it alone. That’s one of the reasons we’ve surrounded ourselves with the B Corp community — which includes legions of strong, committed small businesses as well as large entities like Patagonia, Beneficial State Bank, Etsy, King Arthur Flour, and very recently, Kickstarter!
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Partnering with places

Place is important to us. We think it could be important to financial systems, too. There was a time when the flows of money related to the place people actually lived. In fact, people still living now remember a time when there were dozens of local stock exchanges across the country, each supporting their own region. Our friend Amy Cortese at the New York Times wrote about that in a recent article.

So where did the “place” part of finance go? As financial markets grew, the rules governing them made it harder for local stock markets to exist. Then, technology made it easier for a global system to emerge. Year after year, our financial system found itself continually detaching itself from anything to do with a physical place.
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Meet our newest team member: Hilary Wilson

I’m excited to be working with CSC and helping to build more purposeful and authentic connections within communities, and at the same time, spreading the word and values of abundance.

I recently returned to Seattle after three years in Salt Lake City. I’m re-acclimating to the privilege of a water view and good restaurants in any given direction as well as the community of mission-driven businesses which thrive here. While I’m thrilled to be back in my home town, I’m also coming to appreciate my time in a smaller city and the unique things I learned in that environment. SLC has tenaciously hung onto its emigrant/pioneer spirit which fuels a highly self-sufficient, entrepreneurial business environment. For a person with both right and left brained tendencies, it suited me well.

While in Utah, I worked with the state’s brand new Community Foundation, helping donors set up individualized funds which best matched their long-term philanthropic objectives. I also networked these donors together with the non-profits who were doing the coolest, most impactful work on the ground. I love connecting people and resources and watching beautiful things start to happen–because they always do.

While many people have a strong sense that mission driven work can be very fulfilling, they also may think that many nonprofits live hand-to-mouth existences–reliant on donors to keep their doors open. This perception persists because non-profits often speak a language of scarcity as a part of their institutional culture. My philosophy has always been to shine the light on the abundance within any institution, organization, or community, a world view which requires seeing paramount value in non-tangible assets such as goodwill and social networks.

Community Sourced Capital is a wonderful laboratory experiment about abundance. The proposal is simple and elegant: how do small businesses turn their existing social capital into financial capital? In aggregate, the story may appear to simply be about businesses getting loans. But if you zoom down to the micro level, it’s about authentic connections between people who have common goals. Each connection made through a Square beautifully illustrates the culture of abundance. A Square is money that does a job, creates a connection, and then returns to be deployed again.

I have an art degree and a business degree. This makes lots of sense if you meet me. I think business structures can be a beautifully expressed manifestation of creativity (with a much wider audience than any of the arts). I’m excited to be working with CSC and helping to build more purposeful and authentic connections within communities, and at the same time, spreading the word and values of abundance.