The Sustainable Economies Law Center's Grassroots Finance Program develops legal resources and policies that allow local community financing and ownership of enterprises and assets, with a focus on securities laws and local investing.
Why Grassroots Finance?
SO HOW DO WE DO IT? We believe that we need to look beyond conventional financing mechanisms and tap into other pools of capital, including community capital (savings and investments of ordinary people), retirement savings, foundation endowments, funeral and life insurance financing, and more. To unlock these pools of capital, the Law Center is looking at a combination of legal, policy, and coalition-building strategies. For a brief introduction, check out Farmland Finance for the Next Generation of Farmers.
Click below to learn more about our strategies, which include:
Securities Law Basics: Click here to watch a video presentation about securities law basics, featuring squirrel cartoons!
Legal Resource Library: Check out our Legal Resource Library at CommunityEnterpriseLaw.org for information on financing, local investing, business entities, employment, and land and housing. Also check out the Community Enterprise Blog!
California has a new securities law exemption for worker cooperatives! Click here to learn more about how worker cooperatives can raise capital using the new securities law exemption for community investors.
Grassroots Financing Guide for California Farmers: Check it out here!
If you have questions or would to get in touch about this project, contact Grassroots Finance Attorney, Cameron Rhudy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This work is funded, in part, by a grant from the Clarence E. Heller Foundation.
Workshops: For a list of our upcoming workshops, click here to see the events page.
Legal Advice: We offer donation-based legal advice to small-scale food enterprises and other community-based enterprises through our Resilient Communities Legal Cafe. Locations rotate weekly to different San Francisco Bay Area locations. Click here to see the schedule and RSVP.
Creative Financing: Check out our Grassroots Finance page.
Bite-Sized Guides: We are constantly creating new easy-to-understand legal guides on a variety of topics, including food and farming! Click here to visit see all of our bite-sized guides.
By Julie Gilgoff, Legal Fellow //
While billion dollar development companies eat up affordable housing units throughout the Bay Area, dedicated teams of organizers, nonprofit service providers, community development corporations, and others fight a relentless battle along side and on behalf of those at threat of displacement. Some are seeking to transform the current system of land ownership, removing profit incentives, and assuring that the land is used for the benefit of longtime community residents.Read more
By Chris Tittle, Director of Organizational Resilience //
At a recent Oakland City Council meeting, Wilson Riles, a community leader and former City Councilmember, reminded us why Wall Street is so-called: it actually had a wall built around it in the 17th century to keep out Native tribes displaced by early colonists.
It’s also worth remembering that Wall Street was the site of New York City’s first slave market, and the first modern financial instruments were developed to collateralize Black bodies in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.Read more
This Guide discusses options for obtaining funds for farm enterprises in California through methods other than bank and institutional loans. With growing consumer interest in local sources of food, there are increasing opportunities for farmers to include their customers, friends, family, neighbors, and other community members in the farm enterprise as investors. Receiving investment dollars from community members instead of larger institutions may also be more feasible for many beginning farmers, since banks and other institutions generally only lend to well established businesses with steady revenues.
However, numerous state and federal laws apply to soliciting investments from individuals and organizations, which this Guide will explain in detail. These laws are collectively known as securities law and they are primarily designed to protect investors from entering into fraudulent or overly risky investment deals. Before asking anyone for money, farmers should be aware of the basic of securities law.
Released in September, 2017
Written by Christina Oatfield, Policy Director for the Sustainable Economies Law Center. This guide was supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Grant of the USDA-NIFA program titled, Growing Roots: Deepening Support for Diverse New Farmers and Ranchers in California, Grant # 2015-70017-22868.
By Christina Oatfield, Sustainable Economies Law Center Policy Director
I just stumbled upon an opinion piece by Adam Calo in the San Francisco Chronicle from several months back, which describes the crisis of farmland access and ownership facing beginning farmers. It very poignantly calls on farmers and eaters to engage in policy, specifically around farmland ownership and lack of access to farmland on reasonable lease terms for beginning farmers.Read more
By Sustainable Economies Law Center Executive Director, Janelle Orsi
So often, it comes back to money. Questions of finance are tethered to nearly every issue we work on at the Sustainable Economies Law Center. Efforts to build sustainable systems for food, housing, energy, water, and jobs rely on a community’s ability to access and transact with dollars.Read more
CA Local Economies Securities Act Passes Through the Banking and Finance Committee -- Will Open Doors for Small Enterprises to Raise Capital
Contact: Christina Oatfield, (415) 8285627, Christina@theselc.org
OAKLAND, CA.— Sponsored by the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), the California Local Economies Securities Act (AB2751) passed through the CA Assembly Banking and Finance Committee. LESA will exempt certain securities offerings from California permit requirements, and therefore open doors to raising capital for a variety of enterprises necessary to the economic and ecological health of California, including small farms, agricultural land trusts, cooperatives, nonprofit organizations with business income, and renewable energy systems. It was introduced by Assemblymember Cheryl Brown.Read more
In anticipation of the Community Capital Conference coming up in Portland, Oregon, movers and shakers in the local economy and community investing realms are being interviewed about what they are looking forward to discussing and learning.
SELC's Policy Director Christina Oatfield spoke with Hatch Oregon's Hatch the Future podcast about our Grassroots Finance and Farmland programs, our Local Economies Securities Act legislation, the early development of SELC, and her own path to becoming a lawyer without going to law school.Read more
The Sustainable Economies Law Center has worked to pass legislation to make it easier for small businesses, cooperatives, farms, and renewable energy projects to raise money from local investors and to enable California residents to move their money from Wall Street to their local community.
AB 2751 stalled in the legislature in 2016. We faced numerous obstacles to passing the bill, including a lack of understanding about securities law and about small businesses' financing needs among lawmakers. After debriefing the situation with our allies in the campaign, we decided not to pursue another bill around local investing in 2017 because we predicted that we would face the same obstacles. We are shifting gears to instead provide more direct legal support to small business and organizations in utilizing existing community capital legal strategies available now, and to educating investors more on possibilities for local investing under our current regulatory landscape. We are open to working on future legislation to make local investing even more prevalent, but we have no immediate plans to do so. Read more about the work we are doing to help make more local investing happen in California on our Grassroots Finance program page here.
Learn more about the Local Economies Securities Act:
Click here to read a summary of the bill, background info, FAQs, and more.
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We'll send out emails only when there are important developments with legislation that we are working on or supporting related to breaking down barriers to local investing, including opportunities to get involved, and resources for investors and businesses alike related to local investing. Giving us your mailing address will help us know to contact you if your Assemblymember or Senator sits on an important committee related to any such legislation. We won't send you junk mail, in fact, we rarely send paper mail at all!
Please email Christina@theselc.org if you want to get more involved in advocating for local investing legislation or if you have questions or feedback about the legislation.