RDF: Building Hope Through Innovation and Holding True to Mission

RDF: Building Hope Through Innovation and Holding True to Mission

This last year, 2020, spoke a story about an ever-changing world that can never be taken for granted. RDF’s swift reaction to the worldwide health, economic, and social crisis proved not to be an exception. Last year RDF went through dynamic organization-wide innovations that allowed our team to better pursue our mission of creating financing solutions to create opportunities for low-income and Latino communities around the country. Innovations fit to face the needs of this ever-changing world.

One amazing example of these innovations I reference was the COVID-19 Hope Fund, a continuation of our Small Business Initiative that focuses on providing a combination of grants, technical assistance, and fixed-term capital to minority- and women-owned small businesses to help them solvent the challenges brought by Covid-19 and continue growing their operations beyond these trying times.

The team launched the C19 Hope Fund within a two-week time span that invested almost $700,000 in grants to 111 small businesses in South Phoenix, Portland, Seattle, and Philadelphia, saving 217 jobs, provided over 300 hours of technical assistance, and put out almost $1 million in PPP loans in less than a week.

Several innovative components were central to the successful implementation and impact of this fund including, maximizing the process of humanizing our clients through our communications pieces, constructing decisions based on first and second hand-collected data, increasing the use of technology, and offering products that have historically not been offered by RDF.

Our marketing team did an outstanding job at sharing the stories of the small businesses we supported through the Hope Fund by utilizing different dissemination mediums, including interview videos with the beneficiaries and community leaders that were central components to this initiative. These videos spoke directly to the hearts of our audience.

In addition, by using first and secondhand data collection and research methods, the team collected, presented, and analyzed that data to ensure decisions are made based on the small businesses’ needs and hold ourselves accountable for putting our community’s interest first.

The combination of these was brought to its cusp by the willingness to act in the moment of our team and local leaders, “RDF ambassadors.” The whole RDF Familia from Pacific Northwest through Phoenix, Texas, all the way to the East Coast was ready to mobilize on the spot when necessary, converting the C19 Hope Fund into a vivid reminder to us all of the servant leadership culture we stand by as an organization.

Although historically, RDF has not focused on providing grants as a foundational service in our product line, the small businesses’ need for short term liquidity drove our management team to request a shift in a portion of our 2019 Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital Activator Grant to fill this gap. However, the microgrants don’t stand alone as a solitary product. 8 months later, these micro-grants have been paired with technical assistance and initial steps leading to fixed capital opportunities for the small businesses to support their long-term sufficiency.

The success of this initiative touched the hearts of several investors and local partners around the country, resulting in an exceptional amount of funding and partnering support, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citi Foundation, Vanderbilt University, Maestro’s Entrepreneurship Center, along with several UnidosUS Affiliates such as the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hacienda CDC, Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha, El Centro, and the University of Portland.

Thanks to a collaboration between the RDF team and external partnerships, we will be able to grow the C19 Hope Fund operations to serve more small businesses nationwide. The Hope Fund was an outstanding and hopeful closure to the tumultuous year of 2020. It is also already proving to be one of many leads for us to have faith that RDF will experience an even better 2021. We look forward to expanding our support to small business entrepreneurs and other persons and families that lack the support to create wealth and opportunity for themselves and their communities.

Eugenia Vivanco, Community Impact and Funding Director, with a background in international development and Program Monitoring and Evaluation, joined the RDF team in 2019. In her role, she leads our impact management and evaluation initiative and supports the organization with soft capital strategies and implementation. Our impact management and evaluation initiative focus on designing infrastructures to better tell RDF's impact story through data and technology-driven tools looking to capture and communicate the tangible and intangible aspects of our work and how they create opportunities and advance wealth creation in the communities we serve.