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 Lori Chatman, President of Enterprise Community Loan Fund. After you read the interview, learn more about Lori and the other candidates here.
Tell us a little about yourself and what motivates you to keep pushing for the industry:
I have been working in community development finance since 1991. I was bitten by this bug once I understood the disparities for those working in disadvantaged communities in terms of their access to fair and thoughtful capital. I had been working at a fairly large bank were money was a commodity. You traded on pennies as to whether you were successful in your work, which told me early on that the work I was doing was not necessarily meaningful for everyday people.
I started my work in the industry at Capital Impact Partners (it was NCB at the time). In my 11-year career there I grew from an analyst to actually running their lending team. From there I worked at the Calvert Foundation for two and a half years before joining Enterprise.
The moving moment for me was literally on my first site visit as an analyst at CIP. I went to visit a community health center in Indianapolis. When we arrived there, this center was located in a little strip of land that was buried in what we would normally call a housing development/housing project. This strip had a couple of uses, and in it was this health center that was essentially a store front. What was telling is it was woefully inadequate as a place to deliver care. This was the kind of place that, if I had a choice, I would never choose to go there. There were literally bullet holes in the door. In that moment, I understood health care is a business. It was not about care of people at all. If it was, no one would have to be limited to that as a place to go to get well. The place was decrepit and unclean, a place where I couldn’t imagine how you get better going in there. In my childhood, my family was working class, but I realized then how blessed my family was to have health insurance, and therefore options. It was in this moment that I knew my life’s work. That day, I was there because my organization was filling the missing link, the $500,000, that was needed for a loan for a new facility.
What do you think the most important role for OFN in the CDFI industry right now?
I think a critical role OFN needs to play right now is collaborator. If we, as an industry, come in as a strong collective, we will be able to have the influence needed to improve upon, expand access to, and increase the usability of the many financial tools available to CDFIs, but which are not necessarily accommodating to all CDFI types. We need to work across all types of CDFI entities, be they Credit Unions, Banks, Venture Funds, or others who are working in the space. Including those who are CDEs (not necessarily CDFIs). I see this as the imperative in order for OFN to achieve its mission and vision, but more importantly for people living in low-income and low-wealth communities and feel they have no choice.
The industry as a whole needs to continue to step back and be thoughtful about how and why we got to where we are today. We need to be keenly focused on what is needed for tomorrow and tomorrow's communities and the people that live in those communities.
I cannot emphasize enough that CDFI Futures is a report we should all read and be thoughtful about how we continue to see that work move forward. It could be an important and seminal piece for us to have as a working document. To help us as we look toward the future.
Where do you want to see us go during your tenure?
If elected, I would be keenly focused on ensuring OFN's future leadership is wholly committed to the Membership, and what are arguably some of the challenges and disparities faced by CDFIs of all stripes. We have some CDFIs who are challenged by lack of access to capital because of some set of reasons that may be different than access to capital issues faced others. We need to consider how OFN can work effectively with CDFIs along a spectrum and understanding how those needs represent a continuum.
Why is it important to you to be a part of the OFN Board during this industry and organizational inflection point?
My decision to run for the board at this stage is a reflection of how I see where we are - I am excited and optimistic and humbled by all that I have learned about us as a Membership organization and the different types of Members that make up OFN. I am excited about the promise of all the things that are before us in terms of capital opportunities and options and what those things can mean for communities we care about. I am optimistic because at this inflection point we have an opportunity to identify and bring on a leader who can build upon a very strong framework that Mark as well as the team at OFN have established. OFN is a very strong organization and it is financially sound and the organization is well poised to begin to cement the importance of CDFIs as a critically important and very much needed component of the overall financial services and capital markets system. CDFIs have to be in that mix if we are ever going to realize a truly inclusive, accessible and equitable financial system.
What do you uniquely bring?
I started in this work very early in my career and can recall how our collective work transitioned from a movement to a field to a sector. I grew up with that and this experience along with where communities are today leaves me charged and challenged to work towards solutions aimed at improving the prospect for opportunity for all. I still get goosebumps when I read OFN’s core purpose of aligning capital with social, economic, and political justice because I think it is such a powerful tagline that truly encompasses the role I hope my organization play in creating a level play field.
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.