Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) held its ninth annual Small Business Finance Forum this week which convenes CDFIs from around the country to discuss best practices in lending and opportunities to connect. Originally planned to be held in Chicago, this year’s forum was virtual due to the COVID pandemic. CDFI leaders and investors spoke about the effect of the pandemic on their portfolios and how staff are currently working 18+ hour days to proactively and effectively deploy new relief loan products and PPP loans, small business grants, and other support to the small businesses. They talked about lessons learned along the way and the importance of public/private partnerships.
During the Breakout Session More than Capital: The Heightened Need for Technical Assistance, CAMEO member and San Francisco Bay Area CDFI Working Solutions’ highlighted its COVID TA offerings. COO/CFO Inga Mork described how Working Solutions has always been “first to believe” and is now also “first to respond” to underserved and vulnerable small businesses. Working Solutions was well positioned to help clients during COVID because it had already had extensive experience providing emergency loans and small business disaster grants to businesses in the wake of natural disasters like earthquakes and fires. Working Solutions has further tailored its one on one consulting to portfolio clients on these specific topics:
- Debt repayment planning
- Grant application assistance
- Grant capital financial planning – how to use the grant once it is received
- Insurance claims
- Streamlining core values while shifting the business model to fit Shelter in Place restrictions
- Lean business practices
- Contingency planning for sustainability
- Exit strategy
Other CAMEO members that participated in sessions included*:
Bob Porter from PCV spoke on the panel Increasing Liquidity and Sharing Risk through Participation, Loan and Portfolio Sales. Anthony (Tony) Giuliano from Opportunity Fund was on the panel New Lending: Underwriting and Credit Risk Management in Uncertain Times.
The Forum underscored that now is THE moment for CDFIs. They are investors in racial justice initiatives for businesses who have been left out of the mainstream due to systemic racism. The news is paying attention. They’re in the spotlight and being recognized as economic recovery engines for small businesses as well as providing solutions to build greater equity in this country through access to capital and emergency relief for businesses affected by COVID-19.
*If you are a CAMEO member that spoke at OFN, let us know and we’ll highlight it.