News Article

Desert Botanical Garden to Receive Community Impact Loan

Project promotes healthier plants, economic sustainability

garden newsA loan made recently to the Desert Botanical Garden from the Arizona Community Foundation's new Community Impact Loan Fund will solve a critical water-access issue, saving the Garden hundreds of thousands of dollars in irrigation costs over the long-term and promoting the health, vitality and diversity of the Garden's plant collection.

The $375,000 loan will enable the DBG to construct a new pumping system to draw nutrient-rich "grey water" directly from the adjacent SRP Canal. This will supply the uniquely indigenous plant specimens with a more natural source of water and at a much lower annual cost.

Over the last several decades, the Garden has had to increase the use of City of Phoenix tap water to supplement annual rainfall. Warmer nighttime temperatures and the addition of new exhibits and plantings have required additional water. Using untreated canal water is a healthier and lower-cost option for the Garden's plant collection.

The project is expected to save the Garden about $75,000 annually in irrigation water costs. And, the Garden will also save on potable water thanks to a City discount for organizations that implement conservation programs such as this.

The $375,000 loan came from ACF's Community Impact Loan Fund, a new charitable vehicle that works alongside conventional grantmaking toward dual goals: producing measurable social impact and building re-usable resources for the future.

This multi-million dollar charitable pool makes investments in nonprofit community projects-typically in the form of loans, equity, debt, loan guarantees and other familiar market instruments-often at or below market rates. The investments help nonprofits achieve scale and expand successful programs. As loans are repaid with a small amount of interest, funds grow and become available for use with other projects, creating a continual recycling of charitable capital.

Funding from traditional lenders is often unavailable or unaffordable to nonprofit organizations like the Desert Botanical Garden-just one of the many advantages of making loans from a pool of charitable dollars, says Steve Seleznow, ACF's president and CEO. "Using just a portion of our charitable assets, we have the flexibility to make this kind of investment that might be difficult to fund otherwise. And, it serves multiple goals: we're supporting an important need to sustain a prized community treasure that will save considerable money over time; we're promoting conservation and efficient use of resources; and the investment will create a positive financial return and the opportunity to use that same capital over and over again. It's a win-win-win."

"ACF's Community Impact Loan Fund has allowed the Garden to move forward with a project that we have wanted to do for years," says Ken Schutz, Desert Botanical Garden's executive director. "The savings we will see on our annual water bill will first repay the Fund and eventually allow us to fund other programs."

The Arizona Community Foundation has a long history of supporting the Garden, with grants from ACF funds totaling $1.3 million in the past 20 years. This new partnership builds on those successes, says Seleznow. "Our funds have supported a wide range of Garden programs and services over the years, so it's a terrific collaboration for our two organizations to come together around this important infrastructure improvement that reduces expenses and promotes conservation and long-term sustainability," Seleznow says.

The Community Impact Loan Fund is an expansion of ACF's success in making loans for affordable housing. Since 2008, ACF has loaned nearly $1.9 million for 23 projects across Arizona, creating 1,000- plus units of affordable housing. Given during the pre-development phase when traditional financing is typically unavailable, these loans have leveraged an estimated $125 million in lender financing, and have created more than 1,600 local jobs.

The Community Impact Loan Fund will continue to invest in projects aligned with ACF's philanthropic agenda: quality education, health innovations, environment and sustainability, arts and culture, and community development and improvement. To learn more, contact ACF at (602) 381-1400.

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