This post was written by OFN Blog Guest Author Juliana Eades, President, New Hampshire Community Loan Fund.
Michael Swack was an opportunity finance leader before it even got that name and is this year’s Ned Gramlich Lifetime Achievement Award for Responsible Finance recipient.
As board president of the Institute for Community Economics in 1980, Michael created a grassroots-style loan fund for affordable housing. Chuck Matthei touched the Sisters of Mercy’s religious impulse to use their retirement funds to help the poor, but it was Michael’s insistence on loan policies that gave the Sisters real faith in Chuck’s financing.
Those loan policies became templates for start-up CDFIs in New Hampshire, Boston, Philadelphia, and others. He showed us how to manage risk while defying mainstream market assumptions about what people with low incomes could accomplish.
Not surprisingly, Michael was on the original steering committee that created OFN and on its founding board in 1986. He helped draft the CDFI Fund legislation and testified to the Senate Banking Committee in favor of the bill that created the CDFI Fund in 1994.
In a recent interview with the last three CDFI Fund directors, they twice referred to Michael’s research and publications as contributing to best practices, innovation, and public policy.
Michael makes research actionable. His trademark is the ability to balance a practitioner’s mentality and an academic’s objectivity. He can articulate impact and risk, while designing for scale and sustainability.
Also a great teacher, his workshops on measuring impact, capitalization, and industry trends are always well-attended. Hundreds of CDFI employees and consultants have benefitted from his annual Fundamentals of Community Development Finance training for OFN.
On the occasion of the Gramlich award, and in recognition of Michael’s service to CDFIs across the country, the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund’s board created a fund in his honor.
Every gift to the Michael Swack Fund, large or small, will be dedicated to innovation and strategies of scale. Each gift will send a message of appreciation to Michael personally and ensure that his legacy is known and that his work continues. Go to communityloanfund.org, click on Donate, and put Michael in the comment line.