The loan funds that make up the SRLF network make loans to cooperatively owned businesses, housing coops, projects that are anchored in the most marginalized Southern communities. We especially focus our lending toward start-ups and expansions of democratically-governed enterprises that meet the needs and elevate the quality of life of African Americans, immigrants, and poor whites.

Our goal is to nurture the development of businesses that maximize community benefit, rather than the narrow concept of maximizing profit.

As part of of our commitment to the most marginalized communities, our member loan funds target their lending to projects that other lenders might consider “un-bankable,” because they are too small, not adequately collateralized, or, though profitable, not “profitable enough.” Operating from a principle of “radical inclusivity,” SRLF’s loan funds are interested in projects that are based on sound business ideas that meet real community needs, businesses built by people who know how to work together to get good things accomplished—regardless of their individual “credit-worthiness.” If SRLF and its member loan funds do their jobs according to their missions, the vast majority of our loans will go to poor people who have a direct personal and community-wide stake in building an inclusive economy that is democratic, just, and sustainable.

What is a cooperatively-owned business?

While there is a broad range of types of cooperatively-owned businesses, we define one as a business that is democratically owned, controlled, and dedicated to the benefit of its members. Its members can be the workers, producers, consumers, or the community at large. We also make loans to others kinds of community-based businesses that can demonstrate that they are deeply anchored in and acceptable to their communities.

How do I know if my business “maximizes community benefit”?

Community benefit is different from case to case, but can include the creation of jobs, filling a community need, or a broader environmental/social impact.

Our Lending Process

If you might be interested in applying for a loan, that will happen in partnership with one of our networked loan fund members. Email us to see if there is a loan fund in our network that serves your community. At the most recent update of this website, our network includes loan funds in these locations:

  • Clarksdale, Mississippi (Higher Purpose Co)
  • Asheville, NC (Emma Community Power, serving the immigrant community of West Asheville)
  • Lexington, Kentucky (Patchwork Cooperative Loan Fund)
  • West Virginia (Cooperation Central Appalachia, serving Charleston and the Coalfields area)

We are also supporting the development of loan funds in other Southern locations, so it’s worth contacting us to see if there is an emerging loan fund that can work with you and your project.

NOTE: For a project to be considered for lending, it has to be supported by one of SRLF’s member loan funds. We are not able to make loans to projects in locations where we don’t have a loan fund in place to provide the close-at-hand technical support.

What documents or materials will we need to submit to be considered for a loan?

Like any lender, our member loan funds like to look at business plans, revenue projections, project budgets, and historical financials (if applicable). Unlike many other loan funds, if you don’t have these documents, we still want to talk to you! If you meet our other eligibility criteria, we can help you put these together. Don’t hesitate to contact us.

How do you decide to accept or deny my application?

As long as your project meets our basic criteria of geography, target communities, business structure, and community impact, it’s unlikely that the application will be denied. However, many projects may successfully achieve all these criteria and still not be considered “loan-ready”. This means that we will work with the project on steps to achieve loan-readiness before a loan is agreed upon. This process takes time, and our partner loan funds like to be in communication with you as soon as they can to get a plan in place.

Technical Assistance

We view a loan to your project as an investment: we succeed if you succeed. The loan funds in the SRLF network mitigate the risk associated with lending to non-traditional borrowers by partnering businesses with technical support provided by proven co-op business developers, who work side-by-side with owners to provide help in such areas as market analysis, feasibility studies, financial projections, and business planning. In many cases, lending will occur in stages, between cycles of technical support designed to help projects move to the next step of readiness to make productive use of loan funds. All projects are assessed and connected to appropriate partners to ensure “loan readiness” and eventual business solvency.