Oikocredit US to Wind Down
Offers Support to Impact Investing Peer
June 6, 2023 - Seattle, WA
Oikocredit US (OUS), a US nonprofit organization, announced today the wind down of its US operations. This decision by its board of directors marks the end of 38 years of successful operations in the United States, effective June 30th. OUS has played an active role in the impact investing space as a Support Association of Oikocredit International, a pioneering social impact investor and worldwide cooperative. As OUS prepares to wrap up its work, it will make an unrestricted grant of approximately $300,000 to support the work of one of its peers, Working Capital for Community Needs (WCCN). WCCN improves the livelihoods of low-income people in Latin America through microfinance.
“Since inception, OUS has actively sought to advance the impact investing space, particularly for people in the US looking to make a difference in the Global South," said OUS board chair Antoinette Kenmuir-Evans. “We are proud of the research we have conducted which has highlighted unique findings and of the community of engaged stakeholders we have built. While winding down is bittersweet, we are delighted to support WCCN as a like-minded, impact investing peer nonprofit that operates with very similar values to our own.”
For nearly four decades, OUS has worked with individual investors, faith groups and donors. OUS, like other Support Associations of Oikocredit International, is also a shareholder and member of the cooperative. Support Associations mobilize volunteers to promote Oikocredit’s mission, build communities and encourage global learning about how to combat poverty. Oikocredit International’s operations are unaffected by OUS’ decision to wind down and will continue to meet the needs of local institutions serving low-income people in the Global South.
Oikocredit USA, which was a separate legal entity to Oikocredit International and had its own board, had raised more than $35 million from US individuals and faith-based organizations before dissolving in 2017 and returning funds to investors. OUS emerged at that same time through a merger of two Oikocredit Support Associations, Oikocredit Northwest USA and Oikocredit Western Pennsylvania Support Association (WPSA). WPSA, the older of the two Support Associations, was founded in 1985. OUS’ goal was to maintain Oikocredit’s presence and see if it could develop a new way for people in the US to invest in impact in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished in the past four years,” noted OUS Chief Executive Officer Matt Eldridge. “We built a world-class team and board, launched an innovative educational webinar series together with Oikocredit Canada, and published rigorous market research. Demand for impact investing is growing exponentially, with extraordinary potential to channel capital from the world’s largest capital market to make a difference in low-income countries.”
Like OUS, the Madison, Wisconsin-based WCCN started nearly four decades ago. It has moved more than $160 million through partnerships with microfinance organizations and agricultural cooperatives in Latin America with philanthropic and investment capital from US individuals, faith-based organizations and foundations.
“We’re thrilled to receive such substantial support from OUS,” commented WCCN board chair Megan Vander Wyst. “We already co-invest with Oikocredit International in certain Latin American partners, and it’s clear that our stakeholders share a desire to make a positive impact in the world.”
“We recognize that OUS supporters care deeply about improving living conditions in low-income countries through impact investing,” said WCCN Executive Director Will Harris. “We couldn’t be more happy to offer them a new way to do so through WCCN.”
During the month of June, OUS will wrap up its activities and encourage stakeholders to learn more about and connect with WCCN.
“We have valued our work with the team at OUS,” noted Oikocredit International Director of Inflow and Business Enablers Patrick Stutvoet. “The passion and commitment of Oikocredit supporters in the US and the market potential are clear. We wish our friends at WCCN well, and look forward to returning to the US market at the right time in the future.”
Founded in 1984, Working Capital for Community Needs (WCCN) is a social impact investing fund and community development organization whose mission is to create opportunities for access to microfinance, services and markets to improve the lives and communities of the working poor in Latin America. WCCN facilitates economic and social change opportunities by strengthening local community partner organizations, reducing inequality through financial inclusion and empowering individuals to work their way out of poverty.
Oikocredit US (OUS) is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the US Support Association of Oikocredit International. OUS seeks to reduce global poverty by supporting the work of Oikocredit International, providing educational programs on global economic development, and advocating for impact investing as a way to sustainably improve living conditions for people in low-income countries. OUS will wrap up its operations by June 30, 2023.
Social impact investor and worldwide cooperative Oikocredit has five decades of experience funding organizations active in financial inclusion, agriculture and renewable energy. Oikocredit’s loans, equity investments and capacity building aim to enable people on low incomes in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean to improve their living standards sustainably. Oikocredit finances over 500 partners, with total outstanding capital of € 1,007.2 million as of December 31, 2022.
What does Oikocredit do?Oikocredit International provides loans to more than 600 local partner organizations with a social objective, in about 60 countries worldwide. Through these partner organizations, we provide individuals and groups (clients) in low-wage countries, who normally do not have access to loans, access to appropriate financial resources. Oikocredit 's partners consist of microfinance institutions, small and medium-sized companies, fair trade cooperatives and sustainable energy companies. Oikocredit US is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports Oikocredit International’s impact through investment and capacity building grants for its partners that benefit clients.
What is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Oikocredit's work?Oikocredit is continuing its work. We are focusing on the most important processes. Where possible, our employees work from home, in accordance with government measures. We are continuously monitoring developments, and we have contingency plans to deal with high impact operational situations. Internal specialists and Oikocredit's Board of Directors are monitoring the status of our investments in and loans to our partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and other liquid assets. We are also tracking general developments related to the pandemic, including the impact on the wellbeing and effectiveness of Oikocredit employees working all over the world. Oikocredit staff globally work closely with our partner organizations to assess the situation of each individual partner and support them where possible, for example with business continuity and liquidity planning. Oikocredit is also in talks with other impact investing fund managers to exchange and coordinate how we can deal with this challenging situation together. With these measures, we are continuing to fulfill our mission to support our partners and their customers, at a time when their need for support is greater than ever. At the same time, Oikocredit is assessing the potential impact on the value of our financing portfolio to protect the money of members and investors. Due to the nature of Oikocredit's portfolio (loans and equity investments) and the number of partners we work with (over 600 partners in more than 60 countries), assessing the financial impact will take time. The rapidly changing nature of the coronavirus crisis means that we need to update this assessment as the situation develops.
What is microcredit?Microcredit is the provision of small-scale loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries to help them build economic independence.
How is Oikocredit a leader in microcredit?There are three reasons why Oikocredit is a leader in the microcredit field: 1. Oikocredit is focused particularly on improving living conditions for low-income people and communities in the Global South through our partners. We work to improve financial inclusion, so that people in these areas have more opportunities to access loans. 2. Oikocredit offers capacity building grants. Some of these grants help partners to improve their readiness for investment. Other grants help to augment the investments we make, by enabling a partner to refine its operations or manage the risk of price fluctuations in the market. 3. Oikocredit collaborates with other social investors to help bolster the effectiveness of the microcredit sector and improve collective impact. Our response to the Covid-19 pandemic along with peer organizations exemplifies our commitment to working with others to make a difference.
Does Oikocredit only invest in microcrofinance institutions?No, Oikocredit also provides capital to other partners, which are typically small and medium-sized enterprises working in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and financial inclusion.