As CDFIs from across the nation prepare to travel to Washington D.C. to meet with policymakers for 2016 Advocacy Day, I’m reminded of how far we have come since we began our annual visit to the Hill six years ago.
In 2011, Advocacy Day began as an effort to engage our Board of Directors in our public policy work and advance our policy agenda. The first couple of years were rough: while we had some supporters on both sides of the aisle in Congress, the aftershocks of the Great Recession were still reverberating through the economy. Austerity was the name of the game, and the mood in D.C. was not conducive to government spending. Many programs, particularly those providing services to the under-resourced communities in which we operate, were facing steep budget cuts, including the CDFI Fund, the critical source for the flexible, institutional-level capital CDFIs need to lend and grow.
We also recognized that not enough Members of Congress understood CDFIs or were aware of the great work we do in communities every day, and that we needed to expand our reach on Capitol Hill.
So in 2013, we opened our day on the Hill to all OFN Members and I am so proud of how far we have come. Since then, our voice and influence in Washington has grown dramatically. Advocacy Day participation has increased threefold, our industry continues to enjoy bipartisan support, and we have received increases in funding for the CDFI Fund in tough budget environments.
Last year, we introduced even more exciting events into our Advocacy Day: more than 150 people joined us to honor our Congressional Champions at an awards reception on Capitol Hill, we led a briefing with senior Administration officials at the White House, and for the first time, we provided resources for CDFIs that could not join us in DC to participate in a Virtual Advocacy Day.
In just a few weeks, OFN staff, Members and Allies will return to Washington DC for our sixth Advocacy Day, and we are planning to do things even bigger and better. We expect nearly 70 CDFI leaders to join us in Washington on May 25, our highest turnout yet! Scores of CDFIs will meet with Congressional representatives to highlight the growing demand for CDFI financing and demonstrate how CDFIs transform lives and neighborhoods across America. We will also honor four more Members of Congress at our Congressional Awards reception, meet with agency officials and much more.
The work we do is more critical than ever as access to credit and capital remains a struggle for low-income and low-wealth communities, and we hope as many of our Members and Allies will support our 2016 Advocacy Day. Whether you join our activities in person, or support our advocacy efforts virtually, your participation in OFN’s Advocacy Day of the opportunity finance industry is crucial to ensuring federal resources remain available for CDFIs.