Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions



What is The Conservation Fund’s ShadeFund™ program?

Established by The Conservation Fund with a lead grant from the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, ShadeFund enables individuals, companies and foundations to help green entrepreneurs across America grow their businesses and create jobs. Tax deductible contributions to ShadeFund are pooled and lent to qualified small green businesses nationwide. As entrepreneurs repay their loans, those same dollars are recycled to help other entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

How big are the ShadeFund loans?

ShadeFund loans range from $5,000 to $50,000. Most loans are expected be $20,000 or less.

What are the rates for a ShadeFund loan?

ShadeFund interest rates are 4-9% and vary according to loan amount, available collateral, and credit worthiness.

What kinds of businesses will qualify?

Green entrepreneurs who work in sustainable forestry and forest products, sustainable or organic farming, eco-tourism, natural food and medicines, biomass, and energy efficiency projects can apply for a ShadeFund loan.

Why do green entrepreneurs need ShadeFund? Why can’t they just get a loan from a bank?

Even the most creditworthy businesses are having a hard time getting loans today. Green entrepreneurs face an especially steep challenge. Their business models are unfamiliar to traditional financial institutions, and most banks don’t make small loans to young companies, due to the transaction costs and risk.

How do I apply for a ShadeFund loan?

To be eligible for a ShadeFund loan, both you and your business must be located in the United States. You’ll also need access to the Internet and a commercial bank or credit union account able to process payments. In addition, you must be willing to help ShadeFund measure the loan’s impact on your business.

ShadeFund will review your credit history and references and focus on the following questions when reviewing your application for a loan:

Does your business use natural resources sustainably?
Can your business make good use of a small loan and repay it?
Once your application has been approved, you’ll create a profile for your business that will be posted on the ShadeFund website, and you’ll be eligible to receive a loan.

Apply for a loan now. Or call ShadeFund at (919) 967-2223, x 113 or (919) 949-4724, or e-mail us for more information.

Can I apply for more than one loan?

Yes, once the first loan has been successfully repaid.

How can I support a ShadeFund entrepreneur?

You can support a ShadeFund entrepreneur by visiting and making a tax deductible donation. Your support will be pooled with donations from other individuals and funders to provide a loan to the entrepreneur(s) of your choice.

You can also become a ShadeFund Field Partner. Field Partners help us identify promising green entrepreneurs and connect them with the ShadeFund application process. To learn more about becoming a Field Partner, please call ShadeFund at (919) 967-2223, x 113 or (919) 949-4724, or e-mail us.

What happens if a ShadeFund entrepreneur doesn’t repay the loan?

ShadeFund provides loans, not grants. Our ability to continue to support green entrepreneurs depends on repayment. We will work with borrowers to restructure their loans if possible, then use all available legal means to recover the loan amount.

Can I choose which entrepreneur will be supported by my donation?

Yes. Your gift can be designated to support one or more entrepreneurs, to support ShadeFund, or both.

Do I have to donate the full loan amount requested by a ShadeFund entrepreneur?

ShadeFund pools your donations to fund loans, so every donation — $50 or $500 — makes a difference. While there is no minimum giving level, we ask that you donate $25 or more to minimize ShadeFund’s transaction costs. If you’d like to make a major gift of $1,000 or more, please call ShadeFund at (919) 967-2223, x 113.

Is my donation tax deductible?

Yes. ShadeFund is administered by The Conservation Fund. An acknowledgement of every gift and statement about The Conservation Fund’s tax status is automatically generated for online donors. We are consistently recognized as one of the nation’s most effective and efficient environmental charities by two watchdog organizations: American Institute of Philanthropy and Charity Navigator.

Who is The Conservation Fund?

The Conservation Fund preserves America’s natural resources by investing in conservation and communities across the United States. Since 1985, The Conservation Fund has combined business savvy with environmental expertise to protect more than 6.6 million acres — from wild havens to small family farms and forests — all with an emphasis on building stronger local economies. Both the American Institute of Philanthropy and Charity Navigator have awarded The Conservation Fund their highest ratings for effective and efficient use of donated funds.

Who is The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities?

The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities provides critical start up capital for ShadeFund. Founded in 2006, the Endowment works with the public and private sectors to advance systemic, transformative and sustainable change for the health and vitality of the nation’s working forests and forest-reliant communities.