How Integrated Capital Creates Positive Impact with Deb Nelson

Jul 12

Honest conversations are necessary to align your values with your money. Social finance is effective because transparency is encouraged and people openly talk about money. You are likely a purpose-driven person who sees money as a tool that enables you to be a part of solutions. You are motivated by the satisfaction of contributing to endeavors that will create the more beautiful world your heart knows is possible.

“Money-Wise Women” guest Deb Nelson is a financial leader who knows the power of money with a purpose. She catalyzes change through her work at RSF Social Finance, running client engagement programs and strategic partnerships. This organization exemplifies what is possible in a more intimate economy.

RSF Social Finance is a non-profit, financial-services organization offering investing, lending, and philanthropic services to individuals and enterprises. RSF has over one thousand clients and over $200 million in consolidated assets.

Most of their largest investors and donors are women, which has had a signficiant impact on their integrated and collaborative approach. Deb says, “An integrated approach to dealing with money is the first step to transitioning from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy.”

Integrated capital refers to the variety of support received, including money, mentors, and relationships. RSF collaboratives use philanthropic funds to provide integrated capital to projects that support purpose-driven entrepreneurs who also value things like fair trade, soil health, women’s leadership, biodynamics, and local food. This collaborative creates significant relationships between participants in a unique way that includes providing integrated capital (it’s more than just money) to entrepreneurs working on these issues.

An innovative approach to setting the interest rates has originated from RSF. They host a community pricing meeting, where investors and entrepreneurs and RSF colleagues come together and facilitate a conversation about their values and impact. They then set their interest rates during these quarterly meetings. Deb describes how her work focuses on “creating financial relationships instead of conducting financial transactions.”

You can open a social investment fund with as little as $1,000. This provides loans to ground-breaking social enterprises. As Deb reminds listeners, “Women leaders are overlooked and underfunded. Only three to ten percent of venture capital goes to women-lead enterprises.”

RSF’s financial relationships are direct, transparent, and personal. Its current borrowers and grantees are a diverse group of entrepreneurs with one thing in common: a social mission that, at their core, drives what they do and how they do it. Organizations that borrow from RSF are working toward social, economic, and ecological benefit.

The “Shared Gifting Circles” of RSF provide participants the distribution and allocation authority over grant funds. Trust, accountability, reciprocity, and community are cultivated by moving the control of funds from donors to all participants.

RSF believes that conversations about financial relationships are one avenue into aligning action with values. They engage with pioneering organizations through board memberships, advisory positions, joint ventures, and event sponsorships.

“Money and power are not what make us happy. Love, relationships, and connection is what brings joy.”

Deb and the other pragmatic thinkers at RSF Social Finance are revolutionizing how people relate to money. They have formed a growing community of motivated, values-driven investors, donors, and entrepreneurs. Each dollar that circulates through the relationships created by RSF Social Finance multiplies to create true wealth that is meaningful because it affects positive change as it creates value.

Deb guides RSF Social Finance’s field-building activities, client-engagement programs and strategic partnerships. Prior to RSF, Deb was executive director of Social Venture Network (SVN), a community of mission-driven entrepreneurs and investors. Before leading SVN, Deb worked for Working Assets/CREDO Mobile and American Express. She also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon. Deb has a BA in English and an MBA from Northwestern University. When she’s not at RSF, she enjoys exploring the Bay Area with her sons and serving as mentor-in-residence at Presidio Graduate School.

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