RSF Social Finance: Making money, making change

If you have a few extra dollars in savings, and you’d like to earn more than 0.00001 percent interest or whatever it is your bank or money market fund is paying, and you’d like to support socially conscious businesses, you’ll want to take a look at RSF Social Finance.

RSF Social Finance is a financial services organization of modest means (about $145 million in assets under management) that is bursting with big ideas and bold rhetoric. It calls itself “a leader in building the next economy.” It seeks to generate “social and spiritual renewal through investing, lending and giving.” Its mission is to “transform the way the world works with money.”

Whew. What’s going on here?

To find out, I visited RSF’s offices in the Presidio complex in San Francisco last week to talk with Don Shaffer, the organization’s president and CEO.

At the simplest level, RSF looks and acts very much like a bank: Its flagship product, the Social Investment Fund, takes deposits and makes loans to so-called social enterprises, a term that’s widely (and often carelessly) thrown around to describe businesses or nonprofits whose intention is to improve society and the environment.

Next page: Socially responsible investing is subjective