The Community Bond in Action

Lisa Amerongen

Lisa Amerongen

Director of Communications

In 2018, when SKETCH Executive Director Rudy Ruttimann saw that commercial rent was projected to rise 4.5% annually in Toronto, she knew it was time to act. If the rent increases continued SKETCH could no longer afford to stay in Toronto by 2023. That wasn’t an option: relocating would mean disrupting programs, uprooting from SKETCH’s central, accessible Artscape Youngplace creative hub location, and shifting far into the GTA. Pausing programs for the move would damage the solid, trusting relationships they’d formed with young people in the community over the past six years.

If you don’t know SKETCH, you should: it’s a community-arts nonprofit engaging diverse young people, ages 16-29, from across Canada, who live on the margins and navigate poverty. The organization operates out of a 7,500 sq. ft. multi-discipline art studio and a 1,500 sq. ft. administrative space at the Artscape Youngplace on Shaw Street. Their free programs are hosted in studios dedicated to visual arts, music and recording, culinary arts, ceramics, textiles, movement and theatre, digital arts, and industrial arts. There are few spaces available with the resources and support SKETCH provides in the downtown area: over 19,000 young people have come to SKETCH since it opened!

This November will be SKETCH’s 25th anniversary. With this milestone on the horizon and rent increases looming, Rudy began to look for other options. And when she came across the Community Bond, she knew it would be a perfect fit.

ABOUT THE COMMUNITY BOND

What is a Community Bond? You’re asking the right org! CSI invented the Community Bond in 2010 as a means to turn a nonprofit’s social capital into financial capital. We used the first Community Bond to raise $2M to purchase our first building, CSI Annex, in 2010. We used the bond a second time in 2014 to raise $4.3M from 227 community investors to buy CSI Spadina. In 2020, we used the Community Bond to invite our community of members and supporters to invest in programs that put people and planet first. Other organizations have used the Community Bond model for their own fundraising: our friends at Innovation Works in London, Ontario reached their $1,000,000 goal in October and have recently launched their 2021 campaign.

The Community Bond is an innovation in social finance that allows a nonprofit or charity to leverage its community of supporters to pursue its mission, build its resiliency, and create more vibrant communities. As, Rudy put it: “How can individuals support or invest in a community initiative and be a part of the impact for social change?” The answer is the Community Bond!

Quote from Marie Moliner: "I hope others are as happy to invest as I am. Your Series A Bond made it seamless to be an investor and a donor."

PROJECT HOME

SKETCH began their exploration of the Community Bond in earnest in fall 2018. It began with engaging the expertise of CSI Member Tapestry Community Capital to conduct a Feasibility Study to determine if SKETCH had the tools and resources for a campaign.

They liked what they saw, and in 2020 they launched their capital campaign, PROJECT HOME, with a goal of raising $4.1M to purchase their spaces from Artscape Youngplace on Shaw Street.

SKETCH, in many ways, is still a grassroots operation and we don’t have the kind of donor base where someone will sign a huge cheque and purchase the studios for us. Instead of borrowing the full amount from a bank, we asked the question: ‘what is the least expensive form of capital generation?’ The answer was to issue community bonds to the public.

“Bonds also allow us to reach a new audience beyond our present donor base. We have found that people are connecting with us for the first time through this campaign. Making a solid financial return on an investment may be more top-of-mind to them than making an impact.”

SKETCH’s four bonds have investment levels starting at $500, $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000 successively. This allows people with a wide array of available savings and investment knowhow to participate. They also had the opportunity to create a Canadian first. Their “Bond A: The Giving Bond” allows investors to donate their interest back to SKETCH in exchange for a tax receipt. 

Historically, Rudy says, during their annual fundraising campaigns, the organization would attract donations from their donor base and a small number of new donors who came across their social media posts. 

“With the community bond campaign, we’ve been able to reach an eclectic array of people we’d otherwise possibly never connect with. We’ve attracted investors from Montreal to Yellowknife to Halifax, and we have years now to get to know them better. We also have several familiar faces investing in SKETCH: staff, board members, our families, and even a former SKETCH youth artist have invested in Project Home bonds.”

So, how’s it going? Organizations and the public have invested over $854,500 in SKETCH’s bonds so far. That’s 61% of their $1.4 million investment goal. As well, they’ve reached 60% of their capital campaign fundraising goal over the holidays. Congrats!

LEARN AND INVEST

If you want to learn more about SKETCH’s campaign, visit their campaign page where you can  review bond terms and download investment packages. 

SKETCH is also hosting a free online Info Session on Friday, February 5th for folks who’d like to do a bit of a deep dive into their bonds, the investment process, and the impact they’ll have on the lives of marginalized youth.

We’re so excited about SKETCH’s campaign, and can’t wait to celebrate their success. If you’re thinking of using Community Bonds for your organization, and you’re a nonprofit, charity or co-op, a good place to start is with CSI’s guidebook. If you want more of a concierge approach, you should connect with our friends and long term partners at Tapestry Community Capital.

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