As CDFIs—and all of us who are concerned about increasing economic opportunity and strengthening communities—enter into a new and uncertain era, it is essential that we understand how we can best serve our communities, most effectively attract the investment we need, and demonstrate our impact. To this end, the Urban Institute, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase, for whom CDFIs are important partners, is holding a series of roundtables that bring together CDFIs and their partners, including investors, foundations, researchers, and the CDFI Fund.
Our September roundtable focused on two critical issues: impact measurement and attracting new investment capital. Early in the new year, we will publish full briefs covering these topics and their implications. But as teasers, we’ve written two blog posts describing 10 key ideas that emerged. We believe these ideas may be of interest to Aeris-rated and reporting CDFIs, who are often leaders in both impact measurement and innovative capitalization strategies. Here are the 10 ideas we shared.
- Nurture a learning culture
- Track outcomes, not just inputs
- Take advantage of research
- Measure future outcomes
- Tailor your information for different audiences
- Invest in measuring outcomes
- Attract more equity funding
- Attract nontraditional investors
- Increase off-balance-sheet lending
- Reevaluate nonprofit status
I hope you will read the full articles on Urban Wire about demonstrating CDFI impact and strengthening CDFI finances. One of the objectives of the Urban-Chase partnership is to spread best practices among practitioners and experts in academia, government, and elsewhere. We believe that, if implemented, these 10 ideas have the potential to help CDFIs create more productive relationships with funders, investors, and other stakeholders—and to better serve their communities.
Ellen Seidman is a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, working in housing finance, community development and consumer finance. She chairs the boards of Coastal Enterprises Inc. and Aeris. Seidman also sits on the board of City First Bank of DC and on the National Community Advisory Council of Bank of America. She cofounded and chaired the board of the Center for Financial Services Innovation and was the 2013–14 New York University Stern–Citi Leadership and Ethics Distinguished Fellow. Read her full biography.