What's On

Keeping you up to date

Start with a small but powerful idea

10 October 2014: This week, Professor and Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus was in Australia and Community 21’s Executive Director, Peter Quarmby was lucky enough to share a stage with him. Mr Quarmby saw parallels in the rise of the worldwide phenomenon of the Grameen Bank and not-for-profit consortium, Community 21, and their current Share Offer. Both of these have achieved big things from nothing more than a powerfully disruptive idea.

Our ED Peter Quarmby with  Muhammad Yunus in Canberra

Our ED Peter Quarmby with Professor Muhammad Yunus in Canberra

When Professor Yunus started the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in the 1970s, the main aim was to create a bank that could alleviate poverty. Catering to the rural poor of Bangladeshi and self-employment creation, it had (and still has) no contracts, no interest and asked for no collateral, yet it boasts an enviable repayment rate of 98%.

It was so successful as a model that in the early 2000s a global spin off Grameen Foundation began, and now it has assisted almost 9.5million of the world’s poorest to access financial services they had previously been excluded from.

A small but powerful idea grew into something that has had huge social impact across the globe.

Community 21 likes to think that the bold idea to start a banking service for the not-for-profit sector is another small but powerful idea.

In the beginning

In a climate where not-for-profit organisations in Australia were being treated like small businesses or not being treated at all, it aimed to improve financial services to Australia’s not-for-profit sector, so they can be more successful in their work with communities and causes.

To embody this aim, it approached the community minded Bendigo Bank and together they started Community Sector Banking.

The growth of Community Sector Banking to over 8,500 organisations is testament to the need for the sector to have tailored banking and financial solutions. However, other than being customers, participation for the sector at large was restricted.

“One of the reasons we’ve wanted to undertake a share offer is that we have a deep conviction that this small but a powerful idea and still has great potential to improve things for not-for-profit organisations” said Peter Quarmby.

For 13 years Community 21 has been a consortium of 20 shareholders, but it is currently undertaking a Share Offer, inviting more not-for-profit organisations to step towards controlling their own financial destiny by investing.

“Community 21 investors are our brains trust, they join other not-for-profit organisations in directing product and service development, making sure it’s relevant and responsive to the sector needs” Mr Quarmby continued.

“When we started there was no such thing as a streamlined way to administer your salary packaging, so with help from the Community 21 shareholders Community Sector Banking developed an innovative range of salary solutions

“Likewise there was little lending into social and affordable housing. Community 21 and Community Sector Banking are proud of their work in advocacy with government and policy development which opened up that market to the broader financial world” Mr Quarmby stated.

“But we want to do more. And we need the sector’s help” Mr Quarmby continued.

Community Sector Banking is expanding. They are currently developing the missing link between crowdfunding and banking as well as a number of new impact investment vehicles, aiming to bring more funding streams to the sector.

“With more not-for-profit investors we’re anticipating drawing on the knowledge and experience of a much broader selection of sector representation to solve the difficult problems.” Finished Mr Quarmby.

Investors will hopefully benefit in two ways: financial products and services that are flexible and adapt to the changing funding environments. And through their financial stake in the success of this venture.

This Share Offer is exclusive to Australian not-for-profit organisations and only available for a limited time. Find out more by downloading the prospectus today from www.community21.com.au/prospectus

And to find out more about banking with the not-for-profit specialist www.communitysectorbanking.com.au

To find out about the Grameen Bank and Professor Muhammad Yunus go to http://www.muhammadyunus.org/