I love branding. I love messaging. I love talking points. From time to time, we will feature what we believe are great websites that perfectly communicate the mission and vision of nonprofits in microenterprise and small business development. My criteria? Whether my parents can get the central message and be able to repeat it within 60 seconds. Not a low bar, in my experience.
Check out Centro Community Partners in Oakland, CA. It mission is to build thriving communities by providing underserved, low-income entrepreneurs with entrepreneurship education, one-on-one business advising, mentoring and access to capital. The site is easy to navigate and does a masterful job in explaining its purpose and services to a wide audience. The photos are top notch and video is not a chore to get through. I think one area for improvement is in illustrating impact. How do they measure success? What are the tangible outcomes of the businesses they support? I have no doubt they will and I am looking forward to sharing those results with you.
Online Small Business Lenders?: As Transparent as a Black Hole….
I recently heard Dory Rand, president of Woodstock Institute, speak during the opening plenary of OFN’s recent Small Business Finance Forum in Chicago. The Woodstock Institute published an analysis of non-bank small business online lenders. As you might expect, the results, albeit from a small sample, are not good. For starters, the report cites a lack of transparency, “junk fees,” and pre-payment penalties. Other than get riled up about this, data like this continue to support the case for CDFIs. Print this out, share it with your board and staff. Create a couple of talking points around it to use for your elevator pitch!
Growing Microenterprise: “Vertical Farm” Start-Ups Flourish
Check out this New York Times article on how growing microgreens in a spare room in a Baltimore row house has led to a growing microenterprise!! “Consumer demand for locally grown food and the decreased price and improved efficiency of LED lighting are driving the creation of more so-called vertical farm start-ups,” said Chris Higgins, editor of Urban Ag News.
Got Good Culture?
We are getting requests for advice on how to address issues related to nonprofit organizational culture. Organizational culture is a system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs, which governs how people behave in organizations. These shared values have a strong influence on the people in the organization and dictate how they dress, act, and perform their jobs. Think about culture as the personality of your nonprofit. It defines the environment in which employees work. It is shown in:
(1) the ways the organization conducts its business, treats its employees, customers, and the wider community,
(2) the extent to which freedom is allowed in decision making, developing new ideas, and personal expression,
(3) how power and information flow through its hierarchy, and
(4) how committed employees are towards collective objectives.
But what if those values have not been articulated, practiced, and periodically evaluated? The result is often staff dissatisfaction, low morale and turnover. I really like this article from Nonprofit Quarterly that references the Principles & Practices for Nonprofit Excellence, by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. Check out the 19 practices designed to set out an explicit set of expectations for leadership from board members, managers, and volunteers and encourage broad participation in important discussions and decision-making. How many of these are embedded of your organization’s culture?
Opportunity to Support Women Entrepreneurs!
The U.S. Small Business Administration has announced funding for up to six (6) non-profit organizations that will provide services to the population of Alaska, Florida, Guam, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia to start new, community-based Women Business Centers (WBC). Link: http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=285169 The application is due August 3rd.
Women Business Centers (WBCs) represent a national network of nearly 100 educational centers throughout the United States and its territories, which are designed to assist women in starting and growing small businesses. This is a terrific opportunity to deepen your support for women-owned businesses and a great partnership with SBA.
Friedman Associates has extensive experience in both the administration of WBC Programs, as well as writing competitive applications.
Contact us for an initial consultation and we can share our experience and strategies for success.
Live Recording Now Available for CDFI Fund Certification Application Process
Over 100 nonprofit practitioners joined us yesterday to “crack the code” on the CDFI Fund Certification Process. This 100 minute webinar will take you through the entire process of determining your eligibility for Certification. Many thanks to our friend and colleague, Alice Veenstra, for her perspective and insights. She should know – Alice has read nearly 500 applications and has lost count on the number she has written! After the webinar, participants will receive a free preliminary assessment of their eligibility for certification. Missed the webinar? Watch here and give us a call to obtain your assessment. More webinars are on the way. Enjoy!
Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) held its annual Small Business Finance Forum in Chicago last week. Nearly 400 attendees! Friedman Associates was proud to feature current and former Associates doing what we do best – relentlessly building the capacity of CDFI to increase impact and performance. Left to right: George Koste, Maryland Capital Enterprises; Dan DeSantis, Dorchester Bay Loan Fund; George Kenefic, The Loan Fund; Nancy Ng, Rainer Valley Community Development Fund; yours truly; Ross Welch, Arcata Economic Development Corporation; Robin Wang, Albinia Opportunities Fund; Michele Clapper, JARI; and Natalie Hester, Rainer Valley Community Development Fund.
Looks like we are working really hard!
- What does it mean to become a CDFI? What are the benefits?
- What are the 7 tests of certification and how do I know if my organization can be certified?
- What is the process to prepare the application?
- If we are not yet ready for certification, how do we prepare for it?
“Must Read” Reports on CDFIs & High-Cost Alternative Lenders
High-Cost alternative lenders: the bane of our contention. Yesterday, the U.S. Treasury released a seminal white paper on online marketplace lending called “Opportunities and Challenges in Online Marketplace Lending.” It was published after Treasury reviewed public comments on the issue, and conferred with seven relevant federal agencies. Treasury’s top recommendation to the federal government and private sector is that they “support more robust small business borrower protections and effective oversight.”
Related to this is a study just released by Opportunity Fund, a leading CDFI in California, that is a first-of-its-kind analysis of the loans being offered to small businesses by short-term, high-cost alternative lenders. “Unaffordable and Unsustainable: The New Business Lending.” One of their findings was that among the businesses that Opportunity Fund was able to refinance, monthly payments fell by more than 60% and APR dropped by an average of 85%. Those savings represent critically needed cash flow for many small businesses, but especially those struggling to survive or expand.”
Kudos to Opportunity Fund for investment in using their data sets to illustrate a problem – and a solution!
Many of our clients work with funders that focus more on overhead not impact. Sound familiar?
I think this graphic from the Bridgespan Group hits the nail on the head. How do you frame this issue with your stakeholders? How do you define mission-driven success? What does long-term change and impact look like for your clients? The less these questions are answered, the more some funders will resort to focusing on overhead. What do you think?