As we delve deeper into our coverage of the African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs (The Alliance), and the crucial role that CDFIs play in uplifting disadvantaged communities, it becomes apparent that despite the impact they have on underserved communities, they still are significantly underfunded. This is particularly true for Black Women-led CDFIs that often find themselves having limited resources compared to other CDFIs.
A 2020 report by the Hope Policy Institute revealed a stark disparity, with white-owned CDFI Fund awardees consistently outnumbering minority-owned awardees each year. Similarly, a 2018 study by the FUND Community Institute investigated the role of women in the CDFI industry and assessed whether they felt adequately resourced to succeed. Their research discovered that “84% of their survey respondents strongly agreed or agreed that, based on their race or ethnicity, women of color face additional challenges compared to white women in the CDFI industry.”
Although these findings may not be surprising, it is undeniably important, and the Alliance is actively working to address it through its Women-Led Initiative.
Back in July of 2022, as part of the Alliance’s Women-Led Initiative, 18 Black Women Leaders in Finance received $20-25k capacity-building grants to bolster their organizations. The funds were a part of the Alliance’s $1M Women-Led Initiative, which was established to address the unique challenges and scale the impact of Black women-led CDFIs within the Alliance membership and in underserved communities. The Alliance continues to fundraise to ensure the expansion of the grant program and seeks to provide grants to over 20 organizations in 2023.
The Alliance also fosters collaboration and growth by hosting monthly webinars and presentations for its members. These events provide a platform for connection, knowledge-sharing, and mutual support, empowering women at the helm of CDFIs to learn from one another and thrive together.
“Uplifting and supporting our Black & female CEO members is of paramount importance, as they not only confront significant wealth disparities but also serve as catalysts for transformative change in marginalized communities. Through the Women-Led Initiative, we are investing in their growth and success and aim to actively work towards a more equitable and prosperous future that will benefit all black and brown communities.”– Lenwood V. Long, Sr., President & CEO of the Alliance.
“I will say that I really appreciate the Alliance overall, specifically being connected to the Women-Led Initiative. It is not lost on the Alliance, the challenges that women CDFI leaders face. So, I appreciate all that the Alliance is doing through the Women-Led Initiative to provide grant opportunities, other resources and create a safe space to connect with other women CDFI leaders,” said Tiffany Taylor, Program Director for C3 Fund, LLC. “One particular example that speaks to the benefit of being engaged in the Women-Led Initiative that comes to mind is when I was able to connect with a fellow member to talk through compensation structure and figure out if I’m being compensated fairly in comparison to industry peers. The insight she gave me was really valuable. Coming into a CEO role as a woman of color, it’s nice to have people that look like you, that have shared experiences—that you can navigate various situations with as well has been very valuable for me.”
“The Women-Led Initiative (WLI) connections offer a powerful extension beyond virtual sessions. WLI members have also led sessions at the Opportunity Finance Network Conference, including Thelma Johnson, whose session I have attended and learned from,” said Renay Dossman, President & CEO of Neighborhood Development Center (NDC). “The quality of speakers featured in WLI have been amazing, and it’s remarkable how the group has been established in such a short time. I’m grateful for the WLI group and look forward to connecting with its members, as I always learn something new whenever I’m in their presence.The grants provided by the Alliance have also been a blessing, and I cannot thank them enough for providing a myriad of opportunities.”
If it’s one thing we know, we know that Black women have played a significant role in the progression of our society and that Black women-led CDFI CEOs sit in a unique position of power to help ensure that progression and change continues to take place in our communities across the country.
You can learn more about the Alliance and its Women-Led Initiative by visiting aaacdfi.org.