Slow Money is a movement to organize investors and donors to steer new sources of capital to small food enterprises, organic farms, and local food systems. Slow Money takes its name from the Slow Food movement. Slow Money aims to develop the relationship between capital markets and place, including social capital and soil fertility. Slow Money is supporting the grass-roots mobilization of investors through network building, convening, publishing, and incubating intermediary strategies and structures of funding. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit based in Boulder, CO.
Slow Money was started by Woody Tasch, former chairman of Investors' Circle — a nonprofit network of over 200 angel investors, professional venture capitalists, foundations, family offices and others. The idea to initiate the Slow Money movement came to Woody Tasch while he was writing his book Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money– Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered. The non-profit, Slow Money, was founded in November, 2008, following the publication of Mr. Tasch's book. The movement gained significant momentum from a number of local and regional meetings, and press coverage during the first half of 2009 leading to an inaugural national gathering.
The inaugural national gathering of Slow Money took place in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the Farmer's Market in September 2009. 450 entrepreneurs, farmers, investors, and interested people traveled from over 34 states and 6 countries to attend. A second national gathering, attended by about 600 people, was held at Shelburne Farms in Vermont, June 9–11, 2010. Slow Money's third national gathering took place October 12–14, 2011 in San Francisco, CA at Fort Mason. Over 850 people attended and 30 entrepreneurs presented role-model enterprises. The fourth Slow Money national gathering is scheduled for April 29–30, 2013 in Boulder, Colorado. As of early 2013, more than $6 million has been directly invested in 34 small food enterprises that have attended Slow Money National Gatherings.
The initial national gathering has resulted in people starting local and regional chapters of Slow Money. As of early 2013, seventeen local Slow Money chapters have formed, 16 of them distributed throughout the United States and one in France. In addition, six investment clubs have formed. "No Small Potatoes" (initiated by local participants in the Maine chapter) was the first local investment club to form. It has 19 members who have committed $5,000 each and has made 14 loans totaling $62,500 dollars. Members of five other Slow Money chapters were inspired by this model to follow suit. No Small Potatoes has published all of its formational documents, to make this process easier for others interested in local investing alongside their peers.
Through this combined activity — Slow Money national gatherings, regional events, local chapters, and individual action — more than $24 million has been invested in 190 small food enterprises from mid-2010 to early 2013.
In September, 2009, a campaign was launched to get one million people to sign the Slow Money Principles that advocate for cultural, ecological and economic diversity in an economy based on healthy people in healthy places. As of early 2013, over 24,000 people have signed the Slow Money Principles.
Slow Money will continue its leadership by conducting research, publishing newsletters, broadcasting collaborative webinars, and blogging. Slow Money has been named by BusinessWeek as one of the Big Ideas for 2010. Reuters and Entrepreneur Magazine named Slow Money one of the Top 5 Trends in Finance for 2011. Mr. Tasch's book "Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money– Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered" has been published in Italian, is due out in Japanese shortly, and rights have been bought in Korea and China.
Incubating new intermediaries
Slow Money's long-term objective is for one million investors to commit 1% of their assets to local food systems. Slow Money is incubating new intermediaries. The first of these is the Soil Trust, a philanthropic fund organized to "invest in small and mid-size organic farms, seed companies, creameries, grain mills, distribution businesses, community markets and more, in rural America and in the inner city." The Soil Trust plans to aggregate small donations from around the US and the world then invest these funds out alongside local Slow Money investors, leveraging all of its assets for impact. The proceeds of these investments then return to the fund, to be re-invested generation upon generation, funding small, organic, or local food enterprises whose operations restore fertility to the soil. In addition to the Soil Trust, there is a new crowdfunding platform for small food enterprises, homegrown in the Slow Money family. Called Credibles, standing for edible credits, it allows communities to come together and support their local shops by pre-purchasing food. In this way, it expands the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model to other local food enterprises in addition to farms.
Concepts to be developed
Early on, Slow Money founder Woody Tasch also proposed the need for a new class of foundations acting as "I-Funds" with "I" standing for "integral", in which a new foundation charter mandates investment of assets that are consistent with charitable purposes. Another strategy is Slow Munis or tax-exempt municipal bonds dedicated to local food systems. New funds dedicated to organic farmland are being organized. Food funds and "clubs" are being developed locally in many regions. The Slow Money book outlines the need for rebuilding local stock exchanges alongside rebuilding local food systems, asking questions like: "Could there ever be an alternative stock exchange dedicated to slow, small, and local? Could a million American families get their food from CSAs? What if you had to invest 50 percent of your assets within 50 miles of where you live?"
- Conaway, Laura. Wary Of Wall Street? Invest In A Dairy Farm. National Public Radio. 12 March 2009.
- Hawn, Carleen. Slow and steady wins the race. Ode Magazine. November 2008.
- Simon, Stephanie. Forget Conventional 401(k)s; Think Goat Cheese and Fennel. The Wall Street Journal. 16 September 2009.
- "No Small Potatoes Investment Club". No Small Potatoes. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- "Slow Money National Gathering". Slow Money. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- Tasch, Woody. "Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered". Chelsea Green. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- "Soil Trust Home Page". Slow Money. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- "Credibles Home Page". Credibles. Retrieved 6 March 2013.