Over the last few years, OFN’s Strategic Consulting team has worked with hundreds of CDFI executive directors in its capacity building work. Repeatedly surfacing is a wish among these executives to work more effectively with their board members.
Intrigued by how prevalent this desire was across CDFIs of all asset sizes—and regardless of how knowledgeable board members were about CDFIs or how much experience they had in our industry—OFN’s team began to explore the phenomenon. In early 2016, they held a small focus group with CDFI executive directors and board members to learn what each party needed to cultivate and nurture a high performing board. Over the year, Strategic Consulting then continued this conversation with other executive directors, funders, and OFN Members. What they learned became the basis of OFN’s new Executive Training for CDFI Board Members.
Designed specifically for CDFI board members, the training focuses on topics like CDFI industry trends; roles and responsibilities of board leaders; board composition, performance, and equity; strategy and leadership; talent management and succession planning; and more.
“Many board members understand they are knowledgeable about the organization they serve, but they may not realize the organization is part of a national industry,” said Pam Porter, EVP, Strategic Consulting, OFN. “This training provides a bigger picture to explore industry trends and introduce best practices and practical tools for CDFI boards.”
OFN piloted the training in December 2016 in Los Angeles and completed a second training in D.C. in May. Nearly 40 board members from CDFIs around the U.S. participated—some CDFIs even sent different board members to each training.
“We’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both new and veteran board members, who said the session reinforced what they are doing well and inspired them to address opportunities to improve,” Pam said. “Participants also really appreciated learning about the industry size, ecosystem, and variety.”
In addition to offering a standard curriculum, OFN can individualize the training for CDFIs, as it did for OFN Member LiftFund in San Antonio. Earlier this year, OFN worked closely with the CDFI, which provides loans and educational services to small businesses, to develop an agenda specific to LiftFund’s board. OFN also provided benchmark data to enable LiftFund to see how its work compares with others doing the same work.
“OFN did a great job of working with me and the LiftFund board chair to prepare for our meeting,” said Janie Barrera, President and CEO, LiftFund. “Pam tailored the presentation to accommodate our specific needs. She gave the appropriate information to our board members regarding trends in the CDFI industry. Our team was then able to incorporate these insights into our strategic plan.”