Frequently Asked Questions
Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF) seeks to fund triple-bottom-line small and emerging businesses in our core service geography:
- West Virginia
- North Carolina
- Appalachian regions of Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, and Kentucky
- Southern Georgia (logging industry loans only)
- South Carolina (logging industry loans only)
Through our web-based microlending arm, ShadeFund, we provide loans under $50,000 to forestry-related businesses and small-scale agricultural producers across the U.S.
What is NCIF and what does it do?
Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF) is a business loan fund that provides debt financing to small and emerging businesses. We have a particular focus on entrepreneurs and enterprises that are good stewards of natural resources. NCIF is a U.S. Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI).
What’s a CDFI?
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) are non-governmental entities with the primary mission of economic development. CDFIs provide financial and business development services to borrowers in financially undeserved and economically distressed communities.
NCIF is also certified as a Community Development Entity (CDE), having met the eligibility requirements set forth in the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program statute, and a certified B&I Guaranteed Lender. NCIF is a member of Opportunity Finance Network, a nationwide association of CDFIs.
How is NCIF structured?
NCIF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit with a dual-purpose mission of economic development and environmental protection. The Conservation Fund launched NCIF in 2001.
Where does NCIF obtain the funds it loans to businesses?
NCIF obtains loan funds (as well as operating support and technical assistance funding) from state and federal agencies, private foundations, financial institutions, and individuals. For a complete list of our funders, please visit our ‘Funders‘ page.
Who can borrow from NCIF?
NCIF focuses its lending on companies and projects that promote sustainable development, and have a positive impact on human health and the natural environment. Sectors of particular interest include:
- Sustainable and value-added agriculture
- Renewable energy and energy efficiency
- Sustainable logging and forest products
- Heritage tourism and ecotourism
- Natural medicines
- Water conservation and water quality
How can NCIF funds be used?
Funds can be used for a variety of purposes, including:
- Leveraging traditional debt from banks and other collateral-based lenders.
- Working capital to grow sales through increased inventory, marketing campaigns, or broker contracts.
- Financing fixed assets, such as technology, equipment and real estate.
How much can NCIF lend? What do the terms look like?
NCIF loans range from $15,000 to $250,000. Terms for our loans depend on the use of capital:
- Working capital loans may be as short as 1 year.
- Equipment loans are typically 3-7 years.
- Real estate loans can have terms up to 15 years.
What’s your interest rate?
Interest rates are tied to the prime rate and vary based on the loan size and purpose, terms of repayment, strength of collateral, and the borrower’s credit history.
What fees does NCIF charge?
NCIF charges an origination fee of 1.5% of the loan amount. The borrower is required to pay all loan closing costs, including filing fees and any attorney’s fees. The origination fee and loan closing costs can be financed, at the option of the borrower, as part of the loan.
How do I apply for a loan?
We recommend that you call us to review your proposed project first. The NCIF application is available in the Getting Started section of this web site. Or, we’ll be happy to send you an application by mail.
What happens after I submit an application? How long does the process take?
The speed of the loan approval process depends upon the completeness of the information provided by the borrower and the complexity of the transaction. Typically, a borrower should expect between 30 to 45 days from application submission to approval.
Does NCIF provide grants?
No. NCIF provides loans and equity to businesses. In some cases, NCIF will underwrite the cost of technical assistance to NCIF portfolio companies.
What happens if a business doesn’t repay the loan?
We understand that entrepreneurs can fall on challenging times. As such, we will work with borrowers to restructure their loans if possible.
However, NCIF provides loans, not grants. Our ability to continue to support small businesses that are responsible natural stewards depends on repayment. In such instances where a restructuring cannot occur, we will use all available legal means to recover the loan amount.