Buy this forest! The Nature Conservancy puts idle capital to work for the planet

Buy this forest! The Nature Conservancy puts idle capital to work for the planet

The "Conservation Note" should protect large parcels of land from commercialization <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkercleaveland/1190467586/">Flickr, Adam Walker Cleaveland</a>
The "Conservation Note" should protect large parcels of land from commercialization Flickr, Adam Walker Cleaveland

With its new "Conservation Note" initiative, the Nature Conservancy is giving back to those who give—with a guaranteed return on investment.

For many, the rise of impact investing has allowed them to gain financial returns while funding socially minded businesses. The Nature Conservancy offers a new path: financial benefits through investment in a charity.

The Conservation Note is not for those willing to dabble, however. The program requires a $25,000 investment over increments of 1, 3, or 5 years. After the loan period expires investors will receive their principal investment back plus some minimal interest (0-2 percent).

The investment provides Nature Conservancy with a cash influx, making it easier to obtain land and transfer the title to owners willing maintain the property in a natural state. For investors and foundations, it's a new avenue to support a worthwhile cause without forfeiting capital in the long run.

"For instance," writes the Chronicle of Philanthropy, "the Nature Conservancy recently purchased a Colorado ranch on sensitive land and obtained a conservation easement that prohibits the land from being developed, thereby lowering its value. The lower price made it possible for five families with adjacent ranches each to buy a portion of the property back from the Nature Conservancy. The buyers all agreed not to develop the land."

If this model proves itself in the coming months--and it's raised $16 million since April, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports--it would be no surprise to see other agencies attempt to modify the approach. If nothing else, this is one more unique solution to creating more long term, sustainable models of finance in the charitable sector.

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