Whidbey Island Local Lending (WILL) is a social network of people on Whidbey who are committed to a vibrant local economy and looking for ways to invest some of their money here on the island. Organized in May of 2012, by July, 2019 twenty-two different members had made loans to 39 businesses totaling over $2.1 million in amounts from $300 to $265,000, plus several other “WILL inspired” loans of undisclosed amounts. The estimated impact on local employment is at least 120 jobs created or saved on Whidbey Island.
WILL is a neighbor-to-neighbor exchange whose purpose is simply to connect businesses in need of capital for specific purposes with people who might be willing to make the loans. Potential members and potential borrowers can access WILL through their acquaintance with members of the network. There are regular public gatherings to provide information about WILL and allow potential borrowers to build relationships with members of the network before they submit applications. WILL has been on a forced hiatus during much of COVID-19. Virtual meetings are resuming in 2022; and we plan to meet in person again in 2023.
WILL is not an investor’s circle, investing group, credit union, or grant-maker—it is a unique network intended to enhance the flow of money in our community. As such it occupies a gray area not covered by the FDIC or directly regulated by the SEC, one that requires comfort with risk and a commitment to doing some research on your own or with your financial adviser. We hope that local knowledge and connections will inform member’s lending decisions and infuse transactions with a sense of community.
How does it work?
Our members intend to help local businesses get started or expand, increase local employment, and keep money circulating locally as much as possible.
Individuals, couples or businesses that would like to make small local loans become members of WILL through their acquaintance with other members of the network. New lending opportunities are circulated among members. Network members are completely free to make their own decisions regarding how much they wish to loan and which loans (if any) they wish to make. WILL does not respond to loan requests as a whole group, and consensus among members is not required for any individual member to make an investment. If no lending opportunities are appealing, a member does not ever have to actually make a loan.
Potential borrowers email their loan requests, business plans, and references to the WILL lending opportunity contact. These lending opportunities are then circulated by email to everyone in the network. All information is kept confidential unless the potential borrower has indicated that it is okay to send the request to people outside the member network.
Network members who are interested in a particular lending opportunity will follow up on their own or with other lenders from the group. They will ask for more financial information, and if they decide to move ahead, they will craft their own private loan agreement with the business under whatever terms they both agree to use for length of loan, repayment schedule, collateral (if desired) and interest (or rewards) for the loan service.
Who do I contact?
Where there’s a WILL, there’s a way.