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COVID-19 loans given to local nonprofits repaid with minimal losses

A COVID-19 testing site at San Diego State University. Jan. 15, 2021.
Alexander Nguyen
A COVID-19 testing site at San Diego State University. Jan. 15, 2021.

The San Diego Foundation and Mission Driven Finance Thursday announced that of $5.2 million lent to nonprofits during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been repaid with less than one-tenth of 1% in losses.

"Through this loan program, we were able to quickly assist nonprofits alongside our government and financial services partners, while addressing our region's most critical needs during a turbulent time," said James Howell, vice president and CFO at San Diego Foundation. "San Diego Foundation is committed to serving our community as a proactive and creative solutions provider made possible by a generous donor base and a deep board and staff commitment to impactful investment and fund management."

The San Diego County COVID-19 Nonprofit Loan Program supported 26 nonprofits throughout the region, serving diverse needs and areas.


Some of these included Angels Foster Family Network, which connects children in foster care with loving families; Anza-Borrego Foundation, which supports education, research and conservation programs benefiting the Anza- Borrego Desert State Park; and Space 4 Art, which builds a creative regional economy by encouraging innovation and interaction between artists, educators, youth and community members, a statement from SDF read.

"Remembering the devastation COVID-19 wreaked on our nonprofit ecosystem, it is incredibly powerful and gratifying to see a relief interest- free loan program for nonprofits where over 99% of the capital is repaid, early, to our investors," said Louie Nguyen, chief investment officer at Mission Driven Finance. "This program demonstrated that investing in our community generates transformational returns for a more inclusive, prosperous and connected society."

The loan program began in April 2020 with seed funding from San Diego Foundation. It provided zero-interest gap financing to San Diego County-based nonprofits, "particularly for those providing front-line care to affected communities, with a priority on those serving communities disproportionately affected by the global pandemic and its economic consequences," the foundation's statement read.

"The loan helped us pull through in a time of uncertainty. Knowing there's money coming in stabilized progress on major projects, including purchasing land and formulating a multi-year strategic plan," said Bri Fordem, executive director of The Anza-Borrego Foundation. "The cash flow provided organizational continuity; where other organizations were pulling back; we were able to move forward.

"It also helped us feel lighter; when things were getting pretty dark due to the pandemic, it helped lift the scarcity mindset and allowed us to think differently about our finances," Fordem said.


Loans ranged from $150,000 to $300,000 with terms from 18 to 30 months. The funding went toward operations, employee retention, rent and other overhead costs.

According to the SDF, more than 91% of the organizations supported by the loan program feature women in key leadership roles, while 95% of organizations feature people of color in leadership positions.

The foundation plans to reinvest the $5.2 million in housing-related efforts.