“The devastation is demanding that government, nonprofits, and other organizations think broadly and creatively to address the growing needs of households and businesses across the nation,”

--Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard during her welcome remarks for Investment Connection-Colorado. (May 5, 2020)


As Investment Connections approaches its 10-year anniversary, now is a great opportunity to take stock. Over the decade, the program initiated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City has connected more than $50 million in loans and grants in gap funding for community organizations.

Funds have supported areas such as affordable housing, small business development, workforce development, digital inclusion/broadband and financial education. The effort has led to donations of thousands of computers and other needed supplies, and led to countless hours of volunteering from bank staff members serving on boards or committees.

Educate, inform and connect

The Kansas City Fed developed Investment Connection (IC) to help nonprofit leaders connect with funders. The funders include banks seeking Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) opportunities throughout their service areas, as well as foundations and government agencies (state, federal and local).

In doing so, IC provides funders with a broad perspective on the issues and challenges faced by low- and moderate-income people and their communities.

Community organizations educate and inform funders of the issues, challenges and opportunities that exist in the communities they serve. They share information about their organization, how they affect the community and how a partnership with funders can be developed.

IC encourages a diverse reach

From small neighborhood community organizations to broader statewide or multistate organizations, IC continues to identify organizations with appropriate proposals to positively affect communities.

From rural towns looking to solve a communitywide or neighborhood issue, to urban centers to states with a wide reach, IC encourages diversity among organizations submitting proposals and the people they serve.

Funders of all sizes, types are involved

Leaders from community banks to large banks, foundations of all sizes, and local, state and federal government come together to hear the proposals at live events or use the other resources to connect with proposals.

Banks have an opportunity to diversify their CRA portfolio through IC. In addition, IC helps mitigate risk, as each proposal is first reviewed by a CRA examiner. CRA officers say they have found IC to be a useful tool in identifying proposals in their assessment area.

Jerome Powell, Ariel Cisneros and Janet Yellen at Yellen Awards ceremony

Kansas City Fed Senior Community Development Advisor Ariel Cisneros was named the Federal Reserve System’s first recipient of the Janet L. Yellen Award for Excellence in Community Development. He is pictured here with current Chair of the Federal Reserve Board Jerome H. Powell and Janet Yellen, chair from 2014-2018 at the award ceremony in Washington D.C..

IC uses place-based live events, virtual events and a searchable database to deliver impact

Funders have shared with us that live events, where they can interact with presenters, are a best practice for IC. Since we always receive more proposals than the eight or so we can share with funders at an event, in 2013 the Kansas City Fed developed personalized online search ability 24/7.

We continue to improve the site, seeking to enhance funders’ ability to identify proposals that work for them in terms of geography, area of focus and type of support needed. The database provides complete contact information and an opportunity to link to additional information about the organization, along with the proposal and supporting documentation provided by the organization.

Due to the devastation of COVID-19, in 2020 we conducted virtual programming. Online events focused on front-line organizations addressing pressing community needs during the pandemic. Virtual sessions are continuing in 2021.

Impact

Because IC can respond to different issues, community organizations and funders have leveraged it to address a range of issues. For example, relationships developed through IC have provided more units of affordable housing, additional funding for small businesses, support for workforce programs, childcare services, food bank support and digital inclusion support.

Whether you represent a funder or community organization, you are sure to find IC to be thought-provoking.

More information:

Author

Ariel Cisneros

Senior Advisor

Ariel Cisneros is a Senior Advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City—Denver Branch. Cisneros focuses on the community and economic development informational needs of ban…