Propel Nonprofits business loans review February 2019 |

Propel Nonprofits business loans review

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Working capital loans and more for Midwestern 501(c)(3)s.

When grants or donations won’t get your nonprofit funds in time, a business loan could help cover the upfront costs of a project. But most lenders only work with for-profit businesses.

That’s where Propel Nonprofits can help. It’s one of the few lenders out there that specializes in nonprofit business financing. It’s only available in a handful of states, however, so not every nonprofit can benefit.

Product NamePropel Nonprofits working capital loans
Min Loan Amount$20,000
Max. Loan Amount$600,000
Interest Rate TypeVariable
Minimum Loan Term.4 year
Maximum Loan Term15 years
RequirementsBe an established and registered as a nonprofit and be based in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota or South Dakota.
  • Be an established nonprofit.
  • Must be based in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota or South Dakota.
  • Be a registered nonprofit.

First, do I qualify?

To qualify for a business loan from Propel Nonprofits, your business must:

  • Be a registered 501(c)(3).
  • Have an established operating history.
  • Be located in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota or South Dakota.

What is Propel Nonprofits?

Propel Nonprofits is a community financial development institution (CDFI) that specializes in nonprofit financing. It offers secured working capital term loans from $20,000 to $600,000 designed to help nonprofits keep programs afloat or expand when you don’t have enough steady money coming in.

APRs start at 6.5%, and term loans come with a $500 closing fee. Terms vary widely, from 0.40 year to 15 years. The specifics of your loan depend on factors like your nonprofit’s business model, what collateral your business has to offer, how much regular cash you have coming in and future projects.

What makes Propel Nonprofits business loans unique?

Propel Nonprofits is one of the few lenders that even offers business loans to nonprofits, let alone specializes in them. Since nonprofits have different needs than for-profit businesses, Propel works to tailor features of your loan such as the terms, repayment plan and loan amount to your unique organization.

Other loans offered by Propel Nonprofits

In addition to working capital term loans, Propel Nonprofits offers the following types of financing to eligible 501(c)(3)s:

  • Lines of credit. Get access to credit limits from $20,000 to $600,000 to help make up for regular cashflow gaps. On top of the $500 closing fee, these come with a 1% annual fee.
  • Short-term facility projects. Short-term loans from $50,000 to $1 million for making improvements, repairs, buying equipment or covering expenses while you’re waiting for money to come in from a campaign.
  • Long-term facility mortgages. Mortgages from $50,000 to $1 million to buy, renovate or build real estate.

What are the benefits of borrowing from Propel Nonprofits?

  • Loans made for nonprofits. Propel understands your organization’s unique needs and works to help you get the right kind of funding.
  • Flexible terms. With terms ranging from 0.40 year to 15 years — in some cases even longer — Propel’s financing can work for the very short or very long term.
  • Tailored to your needs. Propel doesn’t believe in one-size-fits-all loans. Instead, its lending team works with your organization to make sure you get the right kind of funding.

What to watch out for

  • Limited state availability. Propel only works with nonprofits in five Midwestern states.
  • Not available to startups. You can’t use a loan from Propel Nonprofits to start a nonprofit or help it through the early stages.
  • Fees. Propel Nonprofits charges a closing fee of $500 when your business applies for a loan. Lines of credit also come with a 1% annual fee.

What do other customers have to say about Propel Nonprofits?

Almost nothing as of October 2018 — not surprising for such a small and specialized financial institution. It doesn’t have a page on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or Trustpilot, nor does it have mentions from former borrowers on popular forums like Reddit. While it has a Yelp page, nobody has left a review.

How do I apply?

You can download the application on the Propel Nonprofits website and fill it out on your own. But you might want to reach out to a loan officer first to discuss your options by calling 612-249-6700. Before you get started, double-check that your nonprofit is eligible.

Eligibility requirements

To be eligible for a loan from Propel Nonprofits, you must:

  • Be an established nonprofit. Startups or organizations in the early stages don’t qualify for a loan.
  • Be located in an eligible state. Your nonprofit must be based in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota or South Dakota.
  • Be a registered nonprofit. Your business must be registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) to be eligible.

Steps to apply

  1. Go to the Propel Nonprofits website.
  2. Scroll down and click Apply for a Loan.
  3. Click Nonprofit loan application under Ready to apply?
  4. Fill out the application either using a PDF reader or by hand.
  5. Print the application and all relevant documents.
  6. Sign and date your loan application.
  7. Mail it to the address printed at the bottom of the application.

What documents do I need to apply?

Propel Nonprofits asks for the following documents from applicants:

  • Three years of audits. If your organization hasn’t been audited, submit any available 990s for the past three years.
  • Financial report. This should be up to date and include balance sheets and income statements.
  • Operating budget. Propel asks to see your nonprofit’s operating budget for the current fiscal year.
  • Cashflow projections. If you don’t have cashflow projections for at least 12 months or the requested term of the loan, you can use the template linked in the application.
  • Corporate borrowing resolution. This can be found on the last page of the application form. Print it out and bring it to your next board of directors meeting. Have all relevant directors sign and date the document, and have your organization’s secretary complete and sign it.
  • Proof of tax-exempt status. Propel asks applicants to submit a letter from the IRS showing that it doesn’t have to pay federal taxes.
  • Corporate bylaws. Propel uses this to get a better understanding of your organization and how it functions.
  • Articles of incorporation. This shows that your nonprofit is registered as a 501(c)(3) in an eligible state.

I got a loan from Propel Nonprofits. Now what?

It depends on the terms of your loan. Review your loan documents to make sure it’s clear when your repayments are due. If possible, sign up for autopay. That way, you won’t have to take time out of your work schedule to manually make a payment each time it’s due.

If you have any questions about your loan balance, reach out to customer service as soon as possible to resolve the issue.

Bottom line

Propel Nonprofits could be a great resource for nonprofits in the five Midwestern states it serves. But it only serves that small niche — and it’s not an option for startups or those just getting off the ground.

Want to look into your other options? Check out our guide to nonprofit business loans or read about how business financing works in general.

Frequently asked questions

Anna Serio

Anna Serio is a staff writer untangling everything you need to know about personal loans, including student, car and business loans. She spent five years living in Beirut, where she was a news editor for The Daily Star and hung out with a lot of cats. She loves to eat, travel and save money.

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