Community shares and loan stocks are financial tools available to cooperatives to raise money to get started, to grow and to buy resources they need to be successful and profitable. These tools are only available in the United Kingdom.
Community shares are a unique form of share that can be issues by cooperatives and community benefit societies. This “withdrawable” share can be cashed-in and not trade-able on the stock exchange.
Community shares are offered to community members who want to invest money into the project in exchange for membership. Community members literally buy-into the cooperative through purchasing shares and ultimately benefit from it as they become regular members of the cooperative (participating into the democratic governance of the coop and receiving dividends).
Community shares represent a democratic way to engage with a community who support and recognise the social value of the cooperative.
Like community shares, loan stocks are another financial tool for a cooperative to raise money through the investment of the community. However, loan stock grants no rights of participation in the cooperative to the investors. It is a stock, not a share.
As an IPS, cooperatives have the right to borrow money in the form of loan stock. In much the same way banks and building societies have fixed terms deposits, cooperatives issue loan stock for a fixed period of time, stipulating a maximum amount that can be issued, with a rate of interest. Potential investors can be offered a range of interest rates to choose from, from 0% to the equivalent of the market rate. The loan is repayable in full when it matures.
We are looking into the possibility of loan stock and other alternative finance mechanisms that are available to cooperatives in the Republic of Ireland. We will hopefully post more information on it soon.