The CDFI Coalition Institute is happening this month! From February 28–March 1 CDFIs from across the nation will converge in DC to engage in dialogue around CDFI investment and advocacy, and take to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress. 

As CDFI Coalition Board members and Institute co-chairs, Teresa Montoya, Sr. Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of GECU, and Ceyl Prinster, President and CEO of Colorado Enterprise Fund, have said there are many reasons they participate in the Institute each year. At the top of that list is the opportunity to meet with CDFIs of all types, from around the country, for two days of substantive conversations on issues of importance to the CDFI field. It also provides great networking opportunities and a chance to head to Capitol Hill to educate Members of Congress on your work as a CDFI.

“The conference is laser-focused on topics and issues critical to our CDFI industry—from funding to impact to technology,” said Ceyl Prinster. “In addition, the DC location enables us to have broad access to CDFI Fund staff and direct input from Administration and Capitol Hill staff, get up-to-date information, network with industry peers, and build relationships with our Members of Congress. Don’t miss it!” 

CDFI Connect spoke with Ayrianne Parks, one of the Institute organizers, to learn more about what to expect.

Let’s start with the big “why.” Why is the CDFI Institute a must-attend event?

We’ve said this before, of course, but this year it is as true as ever: it is a critical time for the CDFI community to be in town. We have the president's FY19 budget proposal, which all but eliminates funding for the CDFI grant program—just as it did last year. So it is especially important to head to Capitol Hill together, en masse, and advocate on behalf of appropriations for both FY18 and 19.

Beyond that, the Institute has a great lineup. We are starting off with Senator Shelly Moore Capito, who is the chair of the Senate Appropriations sub-committee, which has jurisdiction over CDFI Fund appropriations in the Senate. She will be immediately followed by CDFI Fund Director Annie Donovan, who will preview what is on the horizon at the Fund.

Throughout the event we have panels addressing important areas like measuring impact and how to ensure the CDFI industry reflects the communities we serve, as well as making sure resources are going where they are needed most. We will be talking a lot about metrics and impact data evaluation.

You have a great slate of speakers. Who are you most excited to hear from, and why?

I am most excited to hear from Senator Capito and Chairman Graves. We are yet again in a situation where we are addressing two budgets at once, so we will be able to hear from the decision-makers directly on what to expect with the FY18 rolling into FY19.

Can you share some highlights from the sessions:

I am really looking forward to the session on fostering racial equity in the CDFI field. During this session, the panelists will be addressing expectations and goals for cultivating more equitable opportunities for underbanked and underserved low-income communities of color. We will explore opportunities for building assets, discuss how to measure impact, and think through how CDFIs can make sure the resources are reaching and benefitting the communities they are intending to serve. Panelists will also examine the CDFI industry and discuss what we should do internally to ensure organizations reflect the communities we are serving. John Holdsclaw, one of last year’s CDFI Institute committee chairs, will moderate this session and we will have panelists from CDFIs around the country.

We pack a lot into the two days with six keynote speakers, seven plenary panels, time for congressional visits, a Capitol Hill reception, and an annual business meeting of the Coalition’s membership. We are holding three concurrent sessions to bring in new subjects that appeal to different segments of the CDFI industry, including a panel on community development and the tax code, which will highlight a new economic impact report on the NMTC and the Investing in Opportunities Act. We have invited several experts to discuss how the new Opportunity Zones program might play out.

What tools and insights will you provide those participants heading to the Hill?

For those going to the Hill, we are providing state fact sheets and an appropriations fact sheet for both FY18 and FY19. We will have a general fact sheet that talks about the CDFI Fund program and gives overall numbers as talking points for CDFI stats. We definitely encourage attendees to bring along success stories to share about their personal work on the local level. Stories about local businesses or constituents is the best way to connect policy with the real-life impact the CDFI Fund programs have in their districts and states.

How are the CDFI Coalition and OFN working together for CDFIs?

There is a lot of synergy between OFN and the Coalition and working together to advocate for CDFIs makes so much sense. For the CDFI Institute, we will see quite a few familiar OFN faces: Lisa Mensah is speaking at our luncheon on the first day, and we are excited to have her get folks energized before they go off to the Hill.

Dafina Williams is moderating a panel. Jennifer Vasiloff—who represents OFN on the Coalition board—and Katie Havlovic have offered to help with organizing congressional meetings for the Institute.

It has been great to have this collaboration to make sure that at this very important time we have as much strength and coordination as possible.

Register today to attend the CDFI Institute. Need another reason? Teresa Montoya says, “Even if you have never been to the Institute or visited Capitol Hill, I encourage you to come this year. We need to make sure every Member of Congress knows about the important work being done by CDFIs across the country. Each and every one of our voices makes a difference.”

Registered attendees can also and attend the Webinar on February 15, 1:00 PM/ET which will help prepare you for your Capitol Hill visits during the Institute.


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