United in their hunt for capital, scores of Hispanic nonprofits are joining forces under the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, formed recently to improve information-sharing among community development corporations in an effort to boost access to funding.
Interest in the organization has swelled since its founding two years ago by an informal coalition of community development corporations and community development finance institutions. The association's second annual convention in early September drew about 200 participants – about 30 percent more than the inaugural event a year earlier. The association also has drawn interest from major financial institutions such as Fannie Mae and Countrywide Home Loans, both of which helped sponsor NALCAB's recent convention.
Boosting access to capital is a defining theme for the association, whose board has adopted a set of values calling the shortage of affordable investment capital "a crucial obstacle [to] developing Latino communities."
"Our work as nonprofits is primarily about access to capital, because [the field] is capital-intensive," says co-founder Gloria Guerrero, who also serves as president and CEO of the Rural Development and Finance Corp., the San Antonio community development corporation that staffs the association under a management contract.
So far, the group's accomplishments largely have been limited to the conventions and a few organization board meetings, Ms. Guerrero says. But she adds that money now coming in will fund various programming initiatives.
Community development projects are typically funded through government grants and private investment capital. NALCAB aims to improve access to both sources, noting in a "core values" statement that its members' work "requires multi-year [financial] commitments, preferably from a consortium of funders."
Community development corporations work to improve residential neighborhoods and promote economic development by building affordable housing, developing office centers, and supporting workforce training programs. Community development finance institutions achieve similar goals through loans and training programs for local business owners.
Now, the association plans to focus on three projects: a "Colegio" to document community development case studies, a mentoring program to help new organizations benefit from the expertise of similar nonprofits, and an open-ended initiative to increase access to capital.
"Our work as nonprofits is primarily about access to capital, because [the field] is capital-intensive," says NALCAB co-founder Gloria Guerrero, president and CEO of the Rural Development and Finance Corp. in San Antonio.
In a related campaign to expand access to capital, association Chairman Pete Garcia, president and CEO of Phoenix's Chicanos Por La Causa, says the group may promote use of the New Market Tax Credits Program, a federal mechanism offering income-tax credit in return for contributions to designated Community Development Entities. These contributions are then invested in low-income communities.
Even before exploring new ways to tap capital, the organization plans to serve its membership by relaying the experience of member organizations that have successfully spearheaded large neighborhood improvement projects. On this count, the association has a wealth of resources. Its 17 board members include long-standing organizations with impressive records of success.
Among these is board member Arabella Martinez, CEO of The Unity Council, a community development corporation that manages Hispanic community development projects in Oakland, California. Its most recent success is Fruitvale Village, a commercial and residential center featuring senior housing, a computer center, child-care facilities, and a pedestrian mall.
"How an organization, how a community, develops assets are very important lessons for other organizations that are trying to do the same thing," Ms. Martinez says.
The association is hardly unique in its desire to link like-minded community development organizations. Many associations exist around the country, and some of them serve specific ethnic communities, says Jennifer Vasilof, executive director of the Coalition of Community Development Financial Institutions.
The groups are beneficial, she says, because they allow community development organizations to share best practices and even build economies of scale. "Sometimes," she says, "having an intermediary for a number of like-minded groups or other organizations can introduce economies that make sense for the groups that are coming together."
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