A perfect example of impact investing is the Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation (CDC), started in Detroit over twenty years ago. In the 1970s and 1980s, Detroit was a city notorious for crime, and in 1994 CDC began as an effort to lower crime rates. They led parenting classes, youth sports and other events, doing whatever they could to help the city.
In its early years, the nonprofit lived from grant to grant, struggling to survive. “You always hope that the next grant is the one that takes you to the promised land, but it never does,” said founder Lisa Johanon. In 2002, in an effort to generate new sources of income, they started something new: impact investing. Their first seedling business was a Tastee Freez franchise. It did well, and from there CDC grew more businesses, continuing to open businesses even during the recession years. Since 2002, they’ve started nine different businesses, ranging from a self-sustaining farm and fishery to a laundromat fitness center. Between 2008 and 2014, CDC more than tripled its revenue from businesses. However, these businesses don’t exist just as side projects to create revenue for CDC. They play a key role in the heart of CDC’s work.
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