Repository of Alternative Financing Structures for Early-Stage Impact Investing

The GIIN’s online repository of alternative financing structures for early-stage impact investment is a resource for impact investors and others who support small and growing impact businesses (SGBs) in emerging markets.


Small and growing impact businesses (SGBs) in emerging markets are critical drivers of inclusive economic growth and job creation, delivering essential products and services to underserved populations. At the same time, these businesses in the ‘missing middle’ face a large unmet financing need, often perceived as too early-stage or too risky for bank lending or venture capital. Impact investors have an important role to play in closing the financing gap, including through the provision of appropriate capital through alternative or innovative financing solutions (e.g., revenue-based mezzanine debt, self-liquidating equity, or holding companies) as well as through the sharing of learnings and emerging models.

The repository is a resource created under the BoP Basic Services Track and was made possible by the support of the U.K. Government through the Department for International Development’s Impact Programme.

About the Repository

This repository aggregates and links to GIIN and industry resources related to alternative financing structures for early-stage impact investing, to provide a knowledge hub for impact investors seeking to learn from others’ experiences and research. It includes relevant publications, case studies and examples, and web links to other online resources and organizations working on this topic. Resources are currently organized by type and then alphabetically by submitting organization. The repository will be updated as new resources become available. If you are interested in sharing a resource for consideration (or developing a new case example to be featured), please contact

Raising Wholesale Debt and On-Lending Capital

Accion Venture Lab
For lending businesses, raising wholesale debt is critical for growing their loan portfolios, but doing so can be a challenge especially early on. This guide can help lending businesses navigate the debt-raising process by providing best practices for selecting debt providers, applying for debt, and evaluating debt contracts and terms.

The CDVCA Equity and Near-Equity Investment Primer: A Tool for Community Development Investors
Community Development Venture Capital Alliance (CDVCA)
This primer is designed to provide community development investors, advisors, lenders and other interested parties with a basic understanding of equity and “near-equity” investing. It provides a concise overview intended for those without extensive backgrounds in private equity investing, a glossary of common equity terms and chapters on four specific deal structures that span the spectrum between debt and equity.

New Perspectives on Financing Small Cap SME’s in Emerging Markets: The Case for Mezzanine Finance
Dutch Good Growth Fund & RebelGroup
In search for new models to provide risk capital, mezzanine finance, which blends elements from traditional Private Equity (PE) and debt financing into a unique product, provides an additional offer in the SME finance ecosystem for missing middle entrepreneurs. As a relatively young and rather complex segment in the impact investing space, this commissioned study provides an understanding of the particulars, diversity (and complexities) of it, critical to spur innovative thinking on both the fund managers and investors sides so products may be improved and models may be more scalable.

De-mystifying Impact Investing: An Entrepreneur’s Guide
GIZ, India
This handbook has been designed as an easy read to provide information on not just a number of impact funds but also on investing essentials like the instruments used, investment process, term sheets as well as what investors look for. The information collected in this handbook was born out of interviews with numerous entrepreneurs and investors and envisages plugging the essential information dissymmetry present in the industry and supporting and encouraging entrepreneurs to make more informed and efficient decisions.

Catalytic First-Loss Capital
Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN)
The issue brief details the motivations, benefits, considerations and suitable scenarios behind the use of catalytic first-loss capital in impact investing transactions. Catalytic first-loss capital refers to socially- and environmentally-driven credit enhancement provided by an investor or grant-maker who agrees to bear first losses in an investment in order to catalyze the participation of co-investors that otherwise would not have entered the deal. Catalytic first-loss capital has gained recent prominence in impact investing dialogue as more investors look to enter the market.

Lasting Impact: The Need for Responsible Exits
Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN)
This report discusses the potential risks to long-term impact that can occur when investors exit impact investments. It provides insight from leading practitioners on how they seek to mitigate these risks by exiting responsibly. It includes approaches both at exit and throughout the investment life cycle, from due diligence to capital structuring – and explores how investors use alternative investment structures to optimize for lasting impact.

Innovations in Financing Structures for Impact Enterprises: Spotlight on Latin America
Inter-American Development Bank & Transform Finance
This report, commissioned by the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, highlights how traditional debt and equity financing structures often fail to adequately meet the needs of early-stage impact enterprises. Through 16 case studies from throughout Latin America, the report examines the pain points for both investors and entrepreneurs around traditional structures and the need for innovative instruments, provides examples of emerging and proven models, from revenue-based mezzanine debt to self-liquidating equity, and offers suggestions for concrete steps to advance the adoption of alternative structures to foster impact enterprises.

Frontier Capital: Early Stage Investing for Financial Returns and Social Impact in Emerging Markets
Omidyar Network
Standing at the convergence of impact investing and venture capital, Frontier Capital focuses on low- to lower-middle-income people in emerging markets.  This report underlines the immense potential of new business models to serve these populations, generating both outsized impact and strong financial returns.  The report also underscores the need to segment the lower-middle-income opportunity by matching the right investors with the right investment opportunities.

Demand Dividend: Creating Reliable Returns in Impact Investing
Santa Clara University
This report explains the Demand Dividend as an investment vehicle designed to improve the repayment cycle for impact investors and ease capital access for social enterprises. The demand dividend differs from royalty financing in that the debt payments are structured based on cash flows instead of revenues.

Articles & Blogs

Introducing Recoverable Grants

Echoing Green
This blog post outlines the benefits and components of recoverable grants. 

The Seed Impact Investment Template Note, Developed by and for Entrepreneurs
Echoing Green
This blog post details the impetus for creating, and a link to, Echoing Green’s Seed Impact Investment Template Note – a resource available for early-stage entrepreneurs looking for debt capital in line with their mission.

Quasi-Equity: A New Financial Structure for a New Challenge
European Investment Bank
The European Investment Bank explains the implementation of quasi-equity investments at the bank. These long-term loans enable the bank to increase the deployment of capital to innovative, high-risk companies that need more time to grow and previously would not have qualified for investment at the bank.

A New Approach to Funding Social Enterprises
Harvard Business Review
This article outlines several alternative and blended capital ideas to help social enterprises obtain the capital they need and scale their impact.

Putting the “Impact” Back in Impact Investing
Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
As impact investors, philanthropists such as the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation must be flexible with their choice of capital to maximize the social impact of their giving. In this blog post, Dell Foundation highlights how they think about the appropriate funding mechanism given the social outcome and organization.

Square Peg, Round Hole: Innovating Finance for Social Enterprises
Candide Group / Transform Finance
Candide Group / Transform Finance describe the short-comings of traditional venture term sheets and provide a set of alternative models.

Don't go Chasing Unicorns
Candide Group
Aner of Candide Group shares specific strategies toward non-venture financing of startups.

Case Studies & Examples

If you would like to share an existing case study or draft a new one for this repository, please email NetworkMembership

Candide Group
Several case examples of debt and equity structures, along with basic explanations of alternative structures and the challenges and opportunities associated with their use.

CDC Group plc
Three case examples from CDC’s Impact Accelerator and Impact Fund teams – two investment facilities within CDC focused on highly developmental businesses with potential to be commercially sustainable but with more challenging risk-return profiles. Case examples include a public-private partnership (at the OpCo level), an equity investment with impact-linked incentives using put and call options, and a blended structure with local financial institutions in Africa.

Cordaid Investments
Cordaid Investments expanded its presence in Myanmar, one of the most fragile countries in South Asia. They managed the currency risk with an innovative blending solution in cooperation with LIFT and TCX. This partnership let Cordaid Investments commit funding for investments to the development and strengthening of the Myanmar microfinance sector and reach over 58,000 microentrepreneurs in 2017.

Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
Four case studies, including examples of debt, equity, and guarantee structures.

Village Capital
A successful example of how to use a revenue-based investment agreement across geographies to provide more flexibility for the investee, avoid dilution of ownership, and still provide liquidity for investors.

Links to Additional Online Resources and Relevant Organizations/Groups

Impact Terms Project

The Impact Terms Project (ITP) offers practical guidance to entrepreneurs, investors and other financial professionals seeking to generate measurable social and environmental impact while achieving financial returns. ITP produces accessible and actionable content on emerging trends and innovations in impact investing structures and terms.

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