RDF Launches Community Enterprise Development Program

To read part one of this blog, click here.

At Raza Development Fund we are playing a role in supporting Small Businesses and Nonprofits through these difficult times, keeping community central in our approach. In February, RDF quickly pivoted available resources and developed a program – COVID-19 Hope Fund – to provide immediate financial assistance to small businesses across several markets in partnership with UnidosUS affiliates, a network of community-based nonprofits focused on serving Latino and underserved communities. Simultaneously we began a pilot affiliate support program offering technical assistance to UnidosUS affiliates on the frontlines of the pandemic response.

We learned firsthand the common challenges faced by small businesses and nonprofits, many of which are pillars in their communities. This has led us to focus on developing a new program to provide long term technical assistance to both SME and NPO enterprises – the Community Enterprise Development Program (CEDP).

Born out of the intersections identified, merging of ideas and learnings from the programs referenced above, we established a technical assistance program based on the following ideas/observations:

  1. Most community-based nonprofits lack the resources and capacity to maximize their potential in their current environment.
  2. Community-based small businesses suffer from similar disadvantages as they lack the connectivity to more mainstream small business support systems.

We focus on the enterprise’s connection to their community as opposed to their status (nonprofit versus for-profit) and see the importance in supporting both toward building stronger communities as the focus and innovation of the program.

The Community Enterprise Development Program’s mission is to support the sustainability and capacity of community-based enterprises that improve the advancement and resiliency of people in underserved communities. We accomplish this through hands on technical assistance that strengthens and connects a network of enterprises that see the importance of achieving social impact in their communities, promoting access and opportunity toward maximizing human and community potential.

Connecting community enterprises with a team of direct technical service providers and trusted advisors that serve as partners, connectors, and promoters of community enterprises through:

  1. Empowerment – engage in a consultative process that results in action-oriented recommendations followed by hands on implementation support, we help enterprises gain self-knowledge, tools and resources that allow them to accomplish their work from a position of strength and improves their value proposition to the communities they serve.
  2. Team oriented – highly skilled, culturally sensitive, authentic technical assistance providers work alongside boards, leadership, and staff to ensure change takes place that leads to measurable impact.
  3. Asset driven – starting from an asset-based lens that seeks to understand the strength and value of the organization to the community and strives to connect them to resources that allows for growth and expansion.

Envisioning a better future means making impactful changes now. Asking community enterprises to make these changes in the context of a myriad of crisis can be daunting. Through the CEDP program, RDF hopes to help provide the financial and operational support needed to help address these challenges and foster an environment where community-based nonprofits and small businesses can thrive.

Eric Salazar, Director of UnidosUS Affiliated Investments, Masters in Nonprofit Leadership and Management, joined the RDF team in 2020. In his role, he is establishing an outreach and technical assistance model that will help RDF educate, inspire, and activate nonprofit organizations to develop earned income strategies, explore social enterprise opportunities, and seek CDFI investments along a path of transformational growth and impact in their communities.