Investment Connection: Online Tool Helping Make New, Efficient Connections

April 30, 2015
By Ariel Cisneros, Senior Community Development Advisor


The Kansas City Equity Fund, Young Americans Bank and Mi Casa Resource Center are just three of many organizations that recently have benefitted from new funding relationships courtesy of Investment Connection (IC) Online, a database developed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

IC Online is designed to increase awareness about community and economic development programs in the Tenth District. IC Online is a platform for community-based organizations trying to generate interest in their program(s) and that have a need for loans, investments and service opportunities to connect with funders.

Building affordable housing relies on combining multiple funding sources, or “capital stacking.” Raising all the funding necessary to provide affordable housing to families who earn less than 60 percent of area median income is challenging. It requires dedication and skill to overcome many obstacles. Erica Dobreff, president of the Kansas City Equity Fund, posted a proposal for the Gateway Community Development Fund to the IC Online and was selected to share information about the housing proposal and her organization to a group of funders in late 2014.

“The experience was terrific,” she said. “I was pleased by the number of funders in the audience, some that I knew, but many were new. I was happy that it was a large audience—it was fun for me. The audience asked questions about the investment opportunity and the organization. Overall, it was a very cordial way to present the information.”

Dobreff said the IC Online platform was an easy and ideal way to promote an existing program that needed additional funding to grow. “I am extremely pleased with the results from the program; we reached new funders and secured a $250,000 investment by Equity Bank; the return on investment was outstanding. I’m not surprised that IC is quickly approaching $25 million in connections.”

Dobreff found IC Online so successful that she plans to submit a proposal for the St. Louis CDFI Fund that offers multiple funding opportunities. “I would recommend Investment Connection Online to other community development organizations that are trying to reach funders and create awareness of their programs,” Dobreff said.

Mark Parman, regional president-Kansas City for Equity Bank, said he knew there was a solid connection when he heard Dobreff’s presentation.

Parman found IC to be a valuable program, adding that it was concise, well done and a good use of his time.

“The variety of programs available—with diverse geographic coverage and areas of focus—provided an opportunity to hear about many investment and lending opportunities in one meeting,” Parman said. “It is beneficial when you are looking for CRA-eligible investment opportunities that make sense for your bank; you don’t have to chase them down.”

Parman said he definitely would recommend IC to other funders, adding it is a very efficient way to learn about various programs.

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Erica Dobreff, Kansas City Equity Fund; Cliff Pouppirt, director of planning and development for Blue Hills Community Services; and Mark Parman, Equity Bank review blue prints for an affordable home.

Cassandra Ilich, assistant vice president, community reinvestment and fair lending, Colorado Federal Savings Bank, said attendance at the in-person IC program provided the impetus to work with Young Americans Bank and fund its Send-a-School program with $10,000.

“Because of you guys we were able to make strong funding connections,” Ilich said.

Ilich added that organizations’ websites often look the same and IC gave her a better understanding of the organizations and their proposals.

“IC helped us establish new relationships with organizations we may not meet, sped up the funding process, and provided an efficient way to learn about different activities around the state,” she said.

In addition to funding Young Americans Bank, Colorado Federal Savings Bank also established a relationship with Mi Casa, making a $25,000 investment for a new resource center. Ilich said she thinks IC is a great way to spread the wealth.

Rich Martinez, president of Young Americans Bank, said he sees IC as a unique way to make presentations to funders intent on making investments in the community. Martinez said securing two investments through IC was an excellent return on investment. In addition to the $10,000 it received from Colorado Federal Savings Bank, Young Americans Bank received $1,500 from Colorado East Bank and Trust for its On the Road Initiative for Pueblo and Greeley, Colo. Martinez added the bank is developing several new relationships with funders that are considering proposals for funding.

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Patrick Fogerty, SVP of Colorado Federal Savings Bank, Ashley Dunn mayor of Young Ameritowne, along with Rich Martinez, Young Americans Bank and Cassandra Ilich, Colorado Federal Savings Bank recognize the banks investment.

Visit Investment Connections to submit a proposal or find funding opportunities.

Learn more about community development investment resources or contact Ariel Cisneros.