“The Revolving Loan Fund program is one of EDA’s oldest and most successful initiatives. The RLF Community of Practice will enhance the ability of our network of RLF operators to efficiently direct federal funds to communities most in need.”Alejandra T. Castillo, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, from an EDA blog post in November 2022
About the Community of Practice
This initiative entails a robust schedule of training and professional development programs designed to enable Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) operators to better address the need for flexible, accessible, recovery and growth-oriented small business financing across the country. This Community of Practice (CoP) will build RLF organizational capacity, increase qualified high-impact deployment rates of RLF funding, and build an effective and sustainable RLF cohort.
The primary goal of the CoP is to increase the capacity of RLFs to meet the needs of their local economic development strategies by:
- Increasing organizational capacity;
- Increasing the volume of loans and loan capital;
- Establishing a peer-to-peer group of RLFs to collaborate on needs, capitalization strategies, organizational capacities, and program impact; and
- Increasing understanding of broader economic development strategies through access to national expertise on topics of key interest to RLFs.
To achieve these goals, the CoP will have three primary activities:
- Establish a Virtual National RLF Network
The RLF portal establishes a virtual community for economic development professionals. It provides RLF operators opportunities for inter-organizational conversations, access to topics of interest, and expands their involvement within the broader community development financial institution (CDFI) industry.
- Provide Training and Resources
A curated training program will include public workshops with topics relevant to all organizations. The CoP will also provide more focused training for three to four cohorts of 60 RLF operators throughout the life of the CoP. Finally, RLFs can connect with Grow America Field Directors and ask for guidance or technical assistance.
- Publish an Organizational Self-Assessment
The CoP will create a self-assessment for organizations to identify their strengths and determine the topics that the CoP should highlight. The self-assessment will be used by the cohorts to guide curriculum and by organizations, including EDA, to better understand the needs of RLFs.
The Organizations leading this Community of Practice
Grow America (formerly NDC). Grow America is the program lead for this CoP. Grow America is an RLF and CDFI with a history of providing technical assistance to government agencies and other CDFIs and RLFs. Grow America has leveraged $4.6M in EDA grants and made $20M loans.
Grow America applied to manage the RLF Community of Practice to bring its business lending and finance training expertise to increase the capacity of EDA-funded RLFs.
Community Reinvestment Fund, USA (CRF). CRF is a national leader in providing online systems and support to community lenders. CRF has worked with hundreds of lending organizations to assess, improve, and optimize lending operations. CRF will work with RLFs on organizational capacity building as well as review of online operations.
Drexel University’s Nowak Metro Finance Lab. Nowak is a national source of economic development program and finance “best practices” work around the United States. Nowak staff will work with RLFs on organizational development, and other economic development areas impacting RLF growth.
Catalyze Community. Catalyze is a national firm providing consulting and advisory support on models and products for the innovative finance community. Catalyze led an EDA-supported effort exploring alternative capital sources. Catalyze will assist RLF organizational development needs and help develop curriculum.
RLF Advisory Committee
To increase the level of collaboration among RLFs, the CoP developed an Advisory Committee of Peer Leaders to work with their RLF colleagues. The Advisory Committee will extend the capabilities of the leadership team, mentor RLFs, and act as an on-going support to the RLF network.
Nine RLF Peer Leaders, representing ten states, were selected for the Advisory Committee.
|RLF name||Peer leader||State|
|Catawba Regional Council of Governments||Tyler Lewis, |
Program & Lending Officer
|Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado||Brian Rose, |
|Region XII Council of Governments||Richard Hunsaker, |
|South Central Tennessee Development District||Eddie Fitzgerald, |
Loan Officer and CDC Manager
|South Plains Association of Governments||Kelly Davila, |
Director of Regional Services and Economic Development
|Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region Corp.||R.T. Hamilton Brown, |
Regional Economic Competitiveness Officer
|Superior California Economic Development, Inc.||Ryan Richardson, |
|Three Rivers Planning and Development District||Matt Koon, |
Loans Division Director
|Valley Partners, Inc.||Teresa Miller, |
These higher performing RLFs will use their experience to help other RLFs improve their expertise, origination underwriting skills, and organizational strength. Peers will provide workshops, review self-assessments, and develop and deliver content to cohort groups. This will help other RLFs grow and connect them to the broader capital systems in the CDFI industry.
Overview of the Timeline
|1st Quarter 2023||Selected CoP Partners. Launched peer-to-peer nominations for our Advisory Committee.|
|2nd Quarter 2023||Launched RLF portal and selected Advisory Committee. The first workshop will be hosted on in June 14.|
|3rd Quarter 2023 – |
completion of CoP
|First cohort meets in July. The self-assessment will be published for all RLFs to complete. The workshops and cohort trainings will continue through the CoP.|
For more information, please contact RLF-CoP@growamerica.org
This RLF Community of Practice is operated by Grow America using Federal funds under award ED22HDQ3070190 from the Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.