Nonprofit Finance Fund®️ (NFF®️) supports community wealth and well-being through lending, consulting, and their work to positively influence how money flows to nonprofits. They contribute to a more equitable world by helping mission-driven organizations adapt, thrive, and drive positive change. Their products and services respond to the real-time needs of organizations contributing to the wellbeing and resilience of communities across the U.S. Their financing and consulting support organizations in education, community improvement, health, homelessness and housing, human services, social justice, workforce development, youth development, and more.
We recently welcomed back Nonprofit Finance Fund as an IS member and talked with Aisha Benson, CEO, about the unique role of NFF as a community development finance institution.
IS: What is your organization’s mission?
AB: NFF is a nonprofit lender, consultant, and advocate. For more than 40 years, we’ve worked to strengthen nonprofit organizations and improve the way money flows to social good. We believe that alongside others we must build a more equitable and just social sector. We are committed to helping community-centered organizations led by and serving people of color access the money and resources they need to realize their communities’ aspirations.
IS: Tell us about your organization’s areas of interest, the communities you serve, and how your work helps to advance an equitable and healthy sector and nation where all people can thrive.
AB: NFF focuses primarily on community-centered nonprofit organizations led by and serving people of color. We think of community-centered organizations as organizations of all sizes and sectors that hold themselves accountable to their communities by getting and incorporating their feedback into services and involving them in the organization’s governance.
These organizations understand their communities’ aspirations, know the challenges their communities face, have the greatest stake and accountability in solving them, and have the clearest insights about how to do it. By supporting community-centered organizations and leaders of color with the resources they need to thrive, we can begin to correct a legacy of racist, systemic underfunding of these vital organizations, and grow the financial strength of communities of color.
IS: What are your organization’s core or special programs that support the community you serve and help strengthen the nonprofit sector?
AB: NFF invests in communities through customized financing that strengthens mission-driven organizations and evolves with the changing needs of our sector and U.S. communities. Since 1980, we have provided over $1.1 billion in financing and access to additional capital in support of over $3.5 billion in projects for thousands of organizations nationwide.
We also offer consulting that equips social sector leaders to make financial decisions that best serve their missions as they navigate complex financial situations and innovate for strong community results. In 2022, NFF provided one-on-one support to 280 organizations, with the goal of building their capacity and sustainability as they work to create a more just and vibrant society.
IS: How does your theory of change and funding practices assist nonprofits and their work, especially in the wake of COVID-19, economic challenges, climate change, and our nation’s racial reckoning?
AB: As a community development finance institution (CDFI), NFF occupies a unique position between grantmakers and nonprofits. Getting behind the priorities of communities of color and following the lead of those closest to the work is where we see NFF’s greatest value and potential for creating positive change. Through all of our work, our goal is to advance racial equity in how funding flows in the nonprofit sector.
To do this, we work with community-centered organizations, networks, organizers, funders, and financing partners that support community-led solutions. With NFF’s full suite of financing, consulting, and advocacy capabilities, we are able to pair our resources with those of our partners to collectively advance more equitable outcomes.
IS: Independent Sector brings together a diverse community of changemakers at nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs that are working to achieve a racially just and healthy sector and nation where all people in the U.S. thrive. What influenced your decision to become an Independent Sector member? How does your work align with Independent Sector’s mission and our member organizations?
AB: We rejoined Independent Sector because we share this network’s commitment to building a racially just and healthy nonprofit sector. NFF and organizations like us can achieve far more by working in partnership than we ever could on our own. Independent Sector’s work to convene like-minded organizations around the common challenge of achieving a just and equitable society is so, so important, and we’re grateful for the opportunities and partnerships that Independent Sector fosters.
IS: Independent Sector collaborates with individuals and the charitable community to create a racially just and healthy sector and nation. How does your work help to support or advance these objectives?
AB: Communities know their own needs and should be able to make decisions about their future. Yet, many communities of color and organizations led by people of color don’t have this opportunity. They have faced decades of disinvestment because of deeply entrenched institutional barriers in how money flows.
As an organization whose primary business is to provide capital and financial advice, NFF is best able to address inequity by helping community-centered organizations gain control of financial resources. Our aim is for every aspect of our work — including our financing and consulting, our advocacy, and our internal practices — to advance racial equity.
Lindsay Marcal is Manager, Membership at Independent Sector.