When we talk about CDFI strength, it is often in terms of organizational capacity: capacity to serve the community, capacity to grow, and capacity via access to capital. But what about the capacity of CDFI practitioners themselves?

OFN knows that in order to grow a CDFI you have to start with individuals. This means providing employees with access to opportunities to hone skills, learn best practices, and gain valuable insights. CDFI strength is knowledge.

OFN has four training opportunities coming up for the remainder of 2017 and into early 2018:

CDFI Connect Blog sat down with OFN’s own Pam Porter, Executive Vice President, Strategic Consulting, to learn more about how  upcoming training opportunities can help CDFIs gain this critical knowledge.

Let’s start with the big question: there is limited time for many CDFI practitioners to focus on themselves, so how can training opportunities demonstrate ROI?

It really comes down to the importance of the mission of our organizations. We can’t afford for CDFIs not to be high performing. CDFI staff must be equipped to have the greatest impact. Professional development specifically designed for the CDFI industry offers strategies for being effective and efficient combined with the opportunity to learn from fellow practitioners and experts.

CDFIs are eager for new inspiration and ideas to do our jobs better. How do these trainings tap into that need?

We blend expertise from successful practitioners with innovative ideas outside the industry. We foster strength building by combining three key elements: deep practitioner expertise, innovative ideas from outside the industry, and peer learning.

What skills are especially important for CDFI practitioners?

It is incredibly energizing to know your local work is part of a $130 billion national industry with a network of over a thousand CDFIs operating in all 50 states. Connecting people with the network and the resources to help them accelerate their knowledge of the field and be equipped to tap into resources efficiently is part our goal in the Board briefings, webinar series for new staff, and the in-depth fundamentals course.

Both the webinar series and the CDFI Fundamentals focus on new staff or new entrants to the field. How do they differ?

The webinar series is easy to access with a modest investment of time. We have curated some of the most important things to learn about the industry overall and about the key components of the CDFI business model. This will accelerate how new hires contribute to building stronger, more effective organizations.

The Fundamentals course, on the other hand, is a three-day, in-person training for people who can invest time in a deeper dive. The two offerings complement each other. The webinars focus on new staff onboarding training. The Fundamentals course is for career changers who are in leadership positions and CDFI partners who need to get up to speed very quickly.

The webinar series kicked off this week, what can you tell us about it and is it too late to join in?

We will offer this series a few times a year so it can become a reliable onboarding resource for CDFI staff across the country. These webinars are designed to be interactive and provide an outlet for new staff to ask any question as a new entrant to the field.

Our presenters are 10 experts at OFN, so you not only get the information but you also get to know key staff members and their positions at OFN. In our first webinar of the series we provide a general industry overview and introduce the topics of equity, OFN Membership benefits, and industry events and resources. Later sessions will focus on the CDFI business model, lending life cycle, policy and advocacy, access to capital and collaborations.

Those who sign up for the series may access recordings. And if you miss the first one you can join the later webinars or select which you most prefer. A detailed agenda is available online.

Back to the Fundamentals course, how do you “convince the boss” to let you go away for a three-day training?

This training is really designed to ramp up folks coming into leadership positions with the critical knowledge they need to be effective in their new positions. This is not just CDFI practitioners but also key CDFI partners, like banks and foundations. If someone is coming from outside the industry into a management role this is a very effective way to develop an in-depth knowledge of the industry as well as build connections with other CDFI partners and investors.

Speaking of leadership, tell me more about the unique need the Board training meets?

We’ve worked with hundreds of CDFIs and one thing we have heard is there is a real need to provide board members with executive briefings on the state of the industry, the emerging trends in the industry, and a framework for good governance. In addition, there is a need to provide board leaders with the tools to achieve high performance at their CDFI as part of their role.

We developed this training in response to this need, and focused it on the topics that are most critical for governing and leading high performing CDFIs to have impact. Past attendees have shared that the topics covered during the workshop really equipped them with the tools they need to provide outstanding leadership and governance.

Coming up in December you are also offering a Business Plan for Growth Training. What is this designed to achieve over the course of the two-day experience?

What we wanted to do is create a high-impact workshop that homes in on the key aspects of developing a growth plan that could be executed and updated on a regular basis. We have treated CDFIs as if they are a small business. We have tailored the key aspects of developing an innovative, actionable growth plan with very practical tools that can be practiced in the workshop and taken back and used time and time again as they respond to emerging needs in the market. These tools will help them not only expand products, but also expand geographically (if that is their desire) to meet the needs of their communities. So in the end they walk away with the confidence that they can be both high performing and highly impactful in the areas they serve.


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