Lending, Learning, Leading: How Community Lending Institutions Are Focusing on Results

Posted November 9, 2015, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Over the past few years, community development financial institutions, or CDFIs, have emerged as important partners in Casey’s strategies for strengthening communities. While they take many forms — banks, credit unions, loan funds and venture capital organizations — CDFIs share the mission of providing lending and financial services to people, businesses and communities that are traditionally underserved. The Foundation now has a social investments portfolio of $100 million, with the bulk of the investments through CDFIs around the country.

A new Foundation report, Lending, Learning, Leading: Developing Results-Based Leaders in Opportunity Finance, shows how CDFI leaders have been using an introduction to results-based leadership development (RBL) to more precisely measure their contributions in the communities they serve.  Over the past several years, the Foundation created a CDFI Leadership Learning Network — two groups of community financial leaders who participated in an in-depth leadership development program.

Participants have since applied results-based leadership competencies and thinking to develop new tools for their work back home. For example, the Northern California Community Loan Fund in San Francisco developed a new rating system to more precisely measure how its loans contribute to increased opportunity for people of color and low-income communities, focusing on four data categories. The organization, which had three leaders in the Casey program, also used results-based approaches to collaboration and action planning to help launch new work to finance emerging food-related and agricultural businesses.

Now that the leadership development program has ended, the Foundation is hoping that organizations serving the CDFI field will embed the lessons in their own leadership programs and that leaders who participated will continue to develop better ways of measuring and improving the difference they make.

“RBL makes you think beyond what your balance sheet looks like so people see that there are other results that are equally or even more important,” said network participant Keith Bisson, senior vice president, program management and development at Coastal Enterprises, Inc., in Wiscasset, Maine. “The bottom line is that you may be a profitable organization, but are you really making a difference?”

Download the report