Sindhu Lakshmanan, SVP Development Services, Opportunity Finance Network
OFN’s March 21 virtual forum focused on strengthening CDFI operations and staffing and featured the release of new industry training toolkits
Over the past few years, CDFIs have earned increasing public recognition for their role as trusted, mission-focused lenders and ability to deliver capital and services in under-resourced communities across the country, particularly during disruptive times, including a global pandemic and rising inflation. As the spotlight on CDFIs has grown, so have the demands on the industry.
In response, many CDFIs have scaled substantially – from originating hundreds of loans as Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lenders to ramping up programs and services for community members to creating new loan products to fill capital gaps.
However, as CDFIs adapt to changing conditions and increased scale, they increasingly need to invest in their own operations and staff to facilitate sustainable, inclusive growth that optimizes their ability to serve the needs of their communities. Data from OFN’s latest research brief demonstrates that OFN members are experiencing growth in both their balance sheets and number of full-time employees.
In response to the talent and capacity needs of OFN members and other CDFIs during this period of growth, OFN launched the Next Generation CDFI Workforce Initiative earlier this year with support from the Citi Foundation’s Community Finance Innovation Fund. Through this initiative, OFN aims to strengthen talent recruitment, development, and retention in the community development finance field by facilitating access to the tools, skills, and expertise CDFIs need to achieve their missions.
For example, OFN is producing a series of more than 30 new toolkits featuring leading practices on a variety of topics most critical to supporting the industry’s next level of growth and impact. We are also offering in-person and virtual learning opportunities, such as our free, half-day CONNECT+ Forum hosted earlier this month.
Recap of OFN’s CONNECT+ Forum
On March 21, OFN welcomed more than 680 CDFI practitioners and industry stakeholders for our virtual 2023 CONNECT+ Forum: CDFI Operations & Human Capital.
The forum kicked off with an insightful conversation among three CDFI CEOs about how to foster a culture of growth while our closing plenary inspired attendees with calls to action and lessons learned from three CDFI leaders about how they operationalized racial equity, inclusion, and accessibility into their lending practices.
Practitioners and industry experts led six breakout sessions, where attendees received actionable advice on strategic planning, talent recruitment and retention, hybrid work environments, managing four generations in the workplace, financial management, and cybersecurity.
OFN thanks our event sponsors: Citi Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo.
Download OFN Toolkits and Research Brief
OFN has released two new toolkits, following the February release of our CDFI 101 toolkit. All three toolkits are now available to download for free from the CDFI Connect resource library.
OFN’s new research brief, “Trends Toward Equity,” is an additional resource that explores CDFI trends from 2017 through 2021, including staffing sizes, functions, and diversity.
- Operationalizing Racial Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (REIA) into Lending Practices Toolkit. Download now.
- Talent Recruitment, Retention & Management Toolkit: Writing Effective Job Descriptions. Download now.
- CDFI 101. Download now.
- Trends Toward Equity: Five Years of OFN Member Data. Download now.
Stay tuned for additional toolkits on strategic planning, financial management, and more in the coming months.
Upcoming OFN Events and Training
Did you know OFN is offering new CDFI 101 Orientations and other trainings at all upcoming in-person events? Check out our website for more details. We hope to see you in person and virtually at other OFN events and trainings throughout the year!