Seven candidates. Three seats. The campaign is on! This year, your CDFI’s vote for the OFN Board is more important than ever. Get to know the candidates through candid interviews with CDFI Connect.
Next up in our series of Board interviews is Carla Mannings, Chief Program Development Officer for Partners for the Common Good. After you read the interview, learn more about Carla and the other candidates here.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what motivates you to keep pushing for the industry.
I have more than 20 years of experience in banking and community development finance. I enjoy working with people, being a part of achieving positive impact, and find our field of community development fascinating and rewarding. Currently, I lead the program and business development outreach for Partners for the Common Good. One component of this is CapNexus. I led the effort to relaunch CapNexus website in July of this year. The original platform launched in 2012. It was necessary to relaunch the platform to remain current with the advances of technology and also to make sure that we had a website that was intuitive and relative to the market.
A number of years ago, I discovered that a central tenant to my work is that I like to make an impact. After a number of years in banking I moved into the CDFI industry, first at Community Housing Capital (CHC)—a national CDFI exclusive to NeighborWorks America, where I started as a loan officer. Then I moved on to NeighborWorks America, working with nonprofits and CDFIs in the southern region of the United States. In this capacity, I also assisted organizations that wanted to become CDFIs or be recertified.
While working at CHC, I had an eye-opening moment that changed my outlook on the world. During this time, I visited the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco. This was and continues to be an area known for high crime, poverty, drug use, and prostitution. I visited an organization, where we walked the neighborhood, then toured one of their formerly homeless housing developments. Since I was there in an official capacity, I felt myself looking at the neighborhood differently than I might otherwise. I was moved by the nonprofit response to the local population. I also paid closer attention to my own interactions with the people in the community. It made me realize that there is absolutely no difference between that homeless person on the street and you or me. We are all the same - all connected. The only difference is the homeless person ran out of options, where we still have options. It became a very personal mission for me in the work that I do. Further interactions in my work have shown me a huge appreciation for not only what CDFIs do as a whole, but for those people who are on the ground, counseling people in time of crisis.
What is the most important role for OFN in the CDFI industry right now?
CDFIs come in all shapes and sizes. We have geographic diversity and deliver services in different manners to different client types. We are all different, and yet, there are a lot of commonalities in what we do. I feel it is important for the industry to stay connected, and we do this through OFN. OFN’s primary role is to be a connector, a source of collaboration, and a voice for us all. This is true not only by physically connecting us through the annual and regional conferences where we can learn and network with one another, but also in terms of policy and having one voice. When we come together, we are stronger and more poised to achieve our objectives.
Where do you want to see us go during your tenure?
We have funding and budgetary needs that are critical to our industry. There are different ways we need the capital to do our good work. We appreciate and rely on subsidy dollars, because we need those to run our programs. We need to make sure that the funds that we get from federal and state are not only continued, but increased. At the same time, we need to be able to generate earned income so that we are not so heavily reliant on subsidy dollars. Some organizations are better at this than others. I want to focus on ways to collaborate as an industry to figure out how to generate earned income in an impactful way and to increase the capacity of those who rely more heavily on subsidies to become more independent.
Another item that we need to work on is talent in the industry. We may not be able to pay Wall Street salaries, but we offer a fulfilling career choice because our mission focuses on creating positive impact, social justice and change. I believe we need to focus on more training as an industry as well so that once talent is attracted, it is retained. We can accomplish this through professional development, obtaining higher degrees, certifications, continuous education and other means to keep us sharp and focused. This is imperative to continue to be relevant and effective.
Why is it important to you to be a part of the OFN Board during this industry and organizational inflection point?
We are at a very critical point within our industry. You have the transition within OFN as the CEO search commences this fall, and that needs to be handled with care to ensure the continued strength of OFN as our industry voice is not only maintained, but enhanced with new ideas that will continue us on this upward momentum.
Another critical element right now is making sure our voice continues to be heard in a non-partisan manner as we enter into a new presidency, with new faces in Congress.
So there is a lot of change going on right now in our industry and communities. I am personally and professionally an advocate for change and also, an example of embracing change which results in improved and positive outcomes. Throughout my career I have always viewed change as a way to get better and improve, which I would bring that perspective to the board.
What do you uniquely bring?
I bring a unique mix and skill set from my work in both the for-profit side at a national bank working in both finance and the commercial side of the bank, and in my work for and with CDFIs. In my work at NeighborWorks America, Community Housing Capital and now Partners for the Common Good, I have worked directly with CDFIs of all kinds. I have been involved with financial, development, lending and other components of their business. I have been involved on the ground to see the work they do. These types of different of perspectives enable me to understand where other CDFIs are coming from, therefore giving me the ability to share and articulate as an OFN Board Member.
To ensure an efficient voting process, we are asking Members to identify their Voting Delegate in advance of the Membership Meeting at OFN Connect. Please contact Emily Tunney with the name of the Voting Delegate for your organization. Voting Delegates will be able to pick up their ballots a half hour before the start of OFN Connect.