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January 29, 2002
One Percent Community Investing Campaign Gains Momentum
    by Mark Thomsen

MMA Praxis places 1 percent of its assets in community investments, indicating continued overall growth of community investing.

In 2001, the Social Investment Forum launched a 5-year campaign to move more than $10 billion in socially responsible investment assets into low-income communities. This "1% in Community" campaign recently scored a victory with the announcement that MMA Praxis Mutual Funds had broken the one percent level of assets allocated to community investments. MMA Praxis is the first church-owned mutual fund family to reach that benchmark.

"MMA Praxis is delighted to have reached the 1 percent level," said Howard L. Brenneman, MMA president and chair of MMA Praxis. "Our shareholders can now be involved in helping these communities in the U.S. and around the globe meet their own goals, including affordable housing, a more stable local economy of small businesses, a healthier environment, or neighborhood revitalization."

The 1% in Community campaign is being implemented through a joint partnership between the Social Investment Forum and Co-op America. The Social Investment Forum is a U.S. nonprofit trade association that promotes all aspects of socially responsible investing. Co-op America is a national nonprofit that provides resources to businesses and individuals to help them address social and environmental issues.

Community investing has been very effective in assisting economically disadvantaged people that are underserved by traditional financial institutions. Local organizations in urban and rural areas use community investment capital to create affordable housing and jobs, provide financial services to low-income individuals, fund small businesses, and develop vital services as childcare. Investors can reach these organizations through the hundreds of community development banks, credit unions, loan funds and venture capital organizations that exist across the U.S.

Mennonite Mutual Aid (MMA), the church-affiliated parent of MMA Praxis Mutual Funds, solidified its commitment to community investing in 2000 with the launch of its MMA Community Development Investments program. Through that program, MMA has devoted approximately $6 million to such community development financial institutions as the Illinois Facilities Fund. The Illinois Facilities Fund is a state-wide, nonprofit corporation providing real estate loans, facilities planning and facilities development to human service and community development nonprofits in Illinois.

A number of mutual funds and mutual fund families have already reached the 1 percent level in community investing. They include Domini Social Investments, Calvert Group, Parnassus Investments, the New Alternatives Fund, Portfolio 21, and Aquinas Funds. Institutional investors that have achieved the same percentage of assets allocated to community investing include the Tides Foundation as well as the pension boards of both the Evangelical Lutheran and United Methodist Churches.

According to the Social Investment Forum's 2001 Report on Socially Responsible Investing Trends in the United States, community investing is now the fastest growing category of socially responsible investing in the U.S. Through data gathered from community development trade organizations and intermediaries, the Forum estimated that assets flowing into community investing organizations grew from $5.4 billion to $7.6 billion between 1999 and 2001.


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