The Washington OPPORTUNITY FUND
The Washington Opportunity Fund (WOF) is built around the needs of conservation practitioners to help support the protection of Washington State’s wildlife and their habitats. Specifically, WOF is structured as a rapid-response revolving loan fund to help bridge the gap between high-priority habitat conservation opportunities and longer-term permanent funding sources.
As nonprofit conservation organizations continue to expand the scope of their vision in the face of ongoing fragmentation and conversion of high-priority habitat, they need a variety of different tools to help respond to important opportunities. Based on feedback from practitioners across the state, the WOF is structured to provide loans of up to $500,000 with a process that is fast, flexible, and friendly.
The Fund is administered by the Community Foundation of North Central Washington (CFNCW). The Fund initially has a loan capacity of $1,000,000.
The vision of the WOF is that by providing this type of conservation finance, it can both help achieve priority conservation outcomes that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, while helping to spur organizational growth among nonprofits that might otherwise have been unable to effectively leverage debt.
Eligible Organizations and Projects
WOF is available for land trusts and other nonprofits operating in Washington State to acquire fee-title, or less than fee-title (i.e. conservation easement), interests in land. Though we recognize that projects often provide the opportunity to support multiple environmental and social benefits, the WOF is intended first and foremost to support ecological conservation values, including but not limited to projects that:
- directly or indirectly provide habitat for priority species;
- help connect or expand existing protected habitat;
- support ecological resilience in the face of a changing climate;
- facilitate and secure important restoration efforts; or
- prevent imminent, adverse development.
In addition, though the WOF is open to all land trusts and conservation nonprofits in the state, the WOF is intended first and foremost to support organizations that:
- may lack a base of donors who can provide larger private loans on short notice;
- may struggle to provide collateral other than the value of the land;
- are looking to further utilize debt-financing as a part of their conservation strategy; and can leverage WOF funds to help raise their community profile and technical capacity.
Loan Terms and Conditions
If the project is approved, subject to the availability of funds, the Loan Agreement will take the form of a simple promissory note, subject to the following terms and conditions:
- Loans shall not exceed $500,000;
- Proceeds of the loan may only be used to close a specific real estate transaction;
- The loan is non-recourse and does not require collateral;
- The borrower may subordinate this loan to the benefit of another lender;
- Interest will accrue at the rate of 1% per annum, to be paid annually;
- Maximum loan term is 36 months, with no penalties for prepayments;
- Failure to pay principal when due will leave the loan as an outstanding liability.
Application and Approval Process
Potential applicants are asked to submit a brief, one or two-page pre-application that addresses:
- A description of the proposed acquisition (location, acreage, infrastructure);
- Status of the proposed acquisition (under contract, in negotiation, up for auction, etc.);
- Proposed loan amount and sources of matching funds;
- Potential final funding sources and estimated schedule for receipt;
- Summary of ecological conservation values;
Upon review, and potentially a short interview with the prospective applicant, the Fund Committee will advise as to whether the applicant is invited to move forward with a full application, as further described below. Pre-applications can expect a decision within 2 weeks.
As part of submission of the pre-application, a potential borrower may request up to $10,000 as seed money to assist with due diligence costs related to getting a project to the point where a full loan application can be made. Such costs might include, for example, appraisals or other valuation analyses, environmental site assessments, earnest money, etc. Seed monies received will be added to the loan principal if the full application is received and the project is approved; otherwise, the seed money will be considered a financial grant.
If an applicant is invited to submit a full application, they will use the application form that is attached separately and should be submitted to CFNCW’s online application system., which can be accessed here. Specifically, the full application supplements the pre-application with additional project, organizational, and financial information to better assess the merits of the project.
Applications can expect a decision within three weeks of submittal.
Funding decisions made by the WOF will be guided by the Fund Committee and its advisors. It is the intent of the WOF to maintain a Fund Committee with a combination of expertise in wildlife biology/habitat ecology, conservation real estate, nonprofit executive leadership, and financial risk assessment. This will allow the WOF to provide a robust assessment of the conservation benefit, organizational capacity, and financial viability of any particular project. Current members of the Fund Committee include:
- John Rose, Founder, former chair of the Washington Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and current chair of Sustainable Northwest.
- Owen Wozniak, Land Transactions Program Manager at the Land Trust Alliance
- Tim Seifert, former Executive Director of the San Juan Preservation Trust
Committee Advisors include:
- Peter Dunwiddie, Affiliate Professor in the University of Washington Dept. of Biology
- Curt Soper, retiring Executive Director of the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust