As we begin to stretch into 2016, I have recovered from its newness and have begun to process and project where we’ve been and where we can go. I was pleased and encouraged by this year’s CDFI Institute’s focus on “Planning the Future of CDFIs”. The sessions were a great conversation on the past and future of the industry and presented pragmatic insight that challenged us to open the next chapter in the CDFI narrative. It was my honor to be elected to the position of Chair of the CDFI Coalition Board of Directors at the annual meeting at the Institute. I’m eager to continue the legacy of leadership that the CDFI Coalition has provided in policy, strategy, and systemic change. I’m privileged to work with the Coalition’s Board to implementing our agenda of member engagement, clarity in public policy, promotion of the CDFI brand, and growing CDFI resources.
The industry is at a tipping point precipitated by blossoming brand recognition, growing consciousness of performance impact, strong legacy’s staging for change, and the natural transition of senior leadership. The challenge is to make this a positive transformation and begin thinking in terms of what we can do together rather than what our limitations are. “None of us are as smart as all of us.” (Bernhardt J. Klein)
For the Coalition the “together” part of the equation needs more focus. Positive impact is not fueled by abdication, but by information. Coalition members are the key to the unified voice of CDFIs and pivotal to Congress’s understanding who we are. It is the goal to more fervently engage members in the process and profits of unity.
The near-term agenda offers us the opportunity to engage with the Administration, Congress, Treasury, even the campaigns. It also provides us with a good reason to engage the CDFI community in and for the future of the industry.
While Washington—and everyone else, as it seems more often than not—is focused on the election, Congress is in session and considering the last Obama Budget proposal for fiscal year 2017. The Coalition is fastidiously working to ensure the budget request for $249.5 million, which is the highest in the history of the CDFI Fund, is approved.
We are building bipartisan support in both Houses of Congress, working with Congressional Appropriations Committee leadership and a grassroots campaign to support the budget request for the CDFI Fund. In the Senate, the Coalition worked with Senator Menendez on a congressional sign-on letter supporting the $245.9 million level, which was signed by him and 25 of his Senate colleagues. Then, the Coalition sent a letter signed by nearly 250 organizations to the House and Senate Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittees this week, urging them to support that request.
Over the past six years, appropriations for the CDFI Fund have increase by 250 percent. The Coalition is determined to build on this success with the new President and Congress. Much more remains to be done in terms of revitalizing communities and providing technical and financial services to underserved populations, urban neighborhoods, and rural areas.
To accomplish our goals and ensure the communities in need of CDFIs’ services, we have undertaken several actions. Foremost, the Coalition, through Rapoza Associates, has conducted research on the CDFI trends, which was presented and discussed at the Institute. This information will be used in preparing a paper, including a series of policy recommendations, which will be presented to the campaigns and, ultimately, the presidential transition team. In advance, the Coalition has incorporated feedback and comments received from attendees at the Institute, and will be seeking further comments from the membership through a survey. Once the responses are compiled and incorporated, a call will be convened with the membership to discuss the outcomes and next steps, as well as solicit any final comments from our members.
The Coalition will also engage the membership in a call again this July on in-district congressional advocacy. Members will receive tips and ideas on advocacy opportunities and the Coalition will provide talking points and other tools to assist with those efforts.
After the election, the Coalition will present a guide on the new administration and Congress. It will contain valuable information for members on the key players, policy issues that will be front-and-center, and the strategy to ensure CDFIs are part of the conversation.
It is my hope that the Coalition will become stronger and more impactful because of our unity of purpose and power of partnership.
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” (William Shakespeare)
James R. Klein, Chair