Where to begin?
There are as many types of local investor clubs and networks as there are community investors. Some accept only accredited investors, others are open to all members of the community; certain ones focus on a particular theme—food and agriculture, for example, while others have a broader mandate; and the size of investments and return expectations are all over the place! But what all local investor clubs and networks have in common is members who are committed to supporting small businesses in their communities.
Here are just a couple examples:
Local Investing Opportunity Networks (LIONs) are gaining in popularity nationally, but the first LION was launched in Port Townsend, Washington. LIONs are educational and networking hubs for community members interested in investing in the local economy. To be considered for investment, businesses submit a simple application. LION members are encouraged to contact a business directly if they find the opportunity attractive, or a group of members may meet with a business together. Investment diligence and decisions are the responsibility of individual members, LIONs take no responsibility. James Fraser, the founder of LION, has built a robust website to support local investing and provides a starter kit for anyone interested in establishing their own LION chapter.
Lending circles typically provide microloans to support personal financial goals, like buying a car or paying off credit card debt, rather than starting a business. Lending circles can exist outside the realm of technology: a small group of community members may come together and decide on a monthly payment amount (typically $50 to $200) and the frequency with which they will meet. When they gather, each member contributes the agreed upon amount and one member of the group takes home the total sum collected – it is considered a loan. The circle continues at least until each member has had the opportunity to receive a loan. Lending circles may also be facilitated by a technology platform (think Mission Asset Fund) or community partner (think El Centro de la Raza) that is aligned with a financial institution and offers members the opportunity to raise their credit scores as well.
These tools might be for you if…
- Your personal or professional network includes a member of a local investment club (direct ties help!)
- You require a small sum of money—creating a lending circle is a great way for friends to support friends