CDFIs and The Element of Trust within Communities
Raza Development Fund is the largest Latino Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in the country. RDF has had the privilege of serving majority-Latino and majority-Minority communities throughout the country for years. With nearly $400 million in total assets, RDF has continually been able to address the needs of under-served communities throughout the country. However, RDF is a unique CDFI in that the model under which RDF operates allows for continual community growth and economic advancement. Even as RDF grows and expands into different markets, it never truly lost sight of the “community” aspect of a CDFI, and I have had the privilege of seeing this firsthand.
There are a countless number of CDFIs throughout the country assisting under-served communities—trust me if tried to count them. In all my research trying to understand the goals of other CDFIs, I have yet to stumble upon one as dedicated to community engagement and relationships as RDF.
In each decision, in each meeting, and in each action, RDF considers the individual community that would feel the effects of such actions. In one of their most recent projects, the COVID-19 Hope Fund, a model was created in such a way where every community has a community Ambassador, or liaison. With the support of Community Ambassadors, they were able to best assist the small businesses at a time when it was most needed. It is precisely this ambassador model that has garnered the necessary trust within each unique community that allows for the impact within that community to be far-reaching.
It has been shown “[that] Without purposeful and consistent effort to foster trust and build strong relationships at every step of the way, even the best-designed and thoughtful process will almost certainly either fail or fall short of the success you seek to achieve,” and it is this community trust that is needed now more than ever in this COVID-19 pandemic.
As of today, the United States has seen a total of over 5 million COVID-19 cases and nearly 164,000 COVID-19 related deaths. The majority of these cases are disproportionally located in minority communities, according to CDC data, and thus disproportionally affecting these communities economically.
It is times like these that strong trust between a community and an institution like RDF is vital, and why RDF values maintaining these community relations. With these relationships, RDF has had the ability to continue to grow its relationship with communities as well as assist those individuals within the communities who have been negatively affected as a result of the pandemic.
However, because the relationships allowed RDF to understand, at a personal level, RDF has been able to maintain a true impactful presence during these unprecedented times, as opposed to treating each community with a blanket response.
RDF is one of the nation’s most unique and potentially most impactful CDFI’s in the country. RDF’s model of building close relationships built on trust and community input has allowed for continual economic impact and growth in many communities across the country. Furthermore, this implemented RDF Model allows for immense impact in such a crucial point in time, given the events and current state of our country during this pandemic. Now the question arises, could such a model increase economic and political impact if implemented in different institutions?