Cornerstone Fund Rolls Out Creation Care Investment and Loan Program, Racial Equity Giving Bonus

In keeping its mission and values of helping meet the needs of local churches and other faith-based organizations in serving their communities, the UCC Cornerstone Fund has released two new projects: a Racial Equity Giving Bonus and a Creation Care Investment and Loan Program. The Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (CHHSM) is one of four founding investors in the Creation Care Program.

“Racial and environmental justice are two issues that have always been important to us and the United Church of Christ. That is why we are excited to announce the launch of two new transformative products: the Creation Care Investment and Loan Program, and the Racial Equity Giving Bonus,” said Maria C. Coyne, president & CEO of the UCC Cornerstone Fund. “These two new projects advance our longstanding values and also provide an opportunity to support environmentally conscious projects, and organizations addressing racial inequities.”

The Creation Care Investment and Loan Program is specifically dedicated to environmental justice efforts and allows Cornerstone to offer lower subsidized loan rates to UCC affiliates. In addition to CHHSM, founding investors include the UCC’s national setting, United Church Funds, and the UCC Wisconsin Conference. The ability to invest in this Creation Care Loan Program is available to everyone, including individuals looking for an environmentally conscious investment.

“CHHSM is pleased to support the Creation Care Investment and Loan Program as a lead investor because we share the UCC’s and Cornerstone’s environmental justice goal,” said Michael J. Readinger, CHHSM’s president and CEO. “Our investment in this fund is an expression of our love of creation and one way we are working toward creating a more equitable world and a more sustainable world for future generations. Climate change is a real crisis and we must all play a role in the effort to save our planet.”

The Creation Care program already is working to benefit the environment. Recently, Christ UCC in Dupo, Ill., received a $79,000 loan to install solar panels on its church and parsonage using the Illinois Solar For All Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) program. The Illinois program, especially as applied to nonprofits like churches, is very complex, with a series of timing requirements for payments, making it very onerous for most traditional lenders, said Coyne. Cornerstone worked with Christ UCC to create a loan structure where the church could comply with the Illinois requirements, pay for the solar installation, wait for the SRECs to be reimbursed, and come out with a very manageable permanent loan of less than $20,000.

The advantage of the Illinois program is designed to produce systems that zero out electric usage, so Christ UCC will completely eliminate its $5,000 annual electric bill. The savings will offset debt service until the loan is paid off, and then the church will use the annual savings to increase ministry.

The Racial Equity Giving Bonus provides an opportunity for investors to support either a pre-identified and vetted national organization working for racial equity or a self-identified local/regional nonprofit organization doing this work by naming them the recipient of a 10 percent gift. This investment will also support the mission of the Cornerstone Fund, by allowing it to provide even more low-cost loans to churches and nonprofit organizations with an eye toward racial justice.

“The Racial Equity Giving Bonus program is an outstanding way to make a donation to an organization like CHHSM, the UCC and the many others across the United States that are committed to anti-racism work, ending white supremacy and creating a more just world for all,” said Readinger. “The benefit of a slight premium in the interest rate you receive on the term note coupled with the tax benefit of your 10 percent donation makes the program a win-win for investors. You can provide a benefit to a worthy nonprofit, feel good about your contribution to justice, and potentially receive a tax benefit.”

The program is similar to Cornerstone’s “CHHSM Builder Bonus” program, where 10 percent of an investment benefits CHHSM’s Legacy Fund. The Legacy Fund helps carry on the UCC’s health and human service heritage of diakonic witness to the church by training individuals, governance boards, partner ministries, and member ministries in leadership formation strategies and techniques that will last a lifetime. As an act of stewardship, CHHSM prepares excellent leadership for the future.

To learn more about the Creation Care Investment and Loan Program, The Racial Equity Giving Bonus, or the CHHSM Builder Bonus, visit the Cornerstone Fund website or call 888.UCC.FUND.

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