FINANCE NEWS: Triodos reports huge growth in sector loans

The amount loaned by charity sector bank Triodos to voluntary organisations rocketed 50 per cent in the first half of 2003.

The bank made £11m-worth of loans, including one of £3.9m to Greenpeace, the largest single loan it has ever made.

Triodos says the figures show evidence of increased demand for loan finance, which could signal a radical shift in the way charities raise money.

"It's been an extraordinary period," said Charles Middleton, Triodos managing director . "We have lent more than £11m in six months. From arts trusts in Scotland to crisis intervention in London, the charities we work with are all building more professional financial expertise - and that's good for the long-term health of those charities, the causes they support and organisations like ours that exist to make money work for positive change."

Triodos' experience has been matched by that of Charity Bank. Chief executive Malcolm Hayday said his organisation had seen similar if not marginally higher levels of growth.

"The interesting question is whether charities are taking advantage of the low cost of money to acquire properties or showing a more deep-seated commitment," he said.

But he added that 40 per cent of the bank's loans were for unsecured working capital, which seemed to indicate that charities had changed their attitude to borrowing to finance their work.

Loan finance for charities has expanded in the past two years as grants have stagnated.

In January, the Scottish voluntary sector loan fund, Social Investment Scotland, reached the landmark of £1m in loan finance. Set up as a joint venture between the Scottish Executive and Scotland's four largest clearing banks, the organisation has received more than £5m in loan enquiries and believes it could invest up to £10m in the next three years.

Chief executive Scott Anderson said developments signalled "perhaps not a sea-change but encouraging progress".

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