Back when I was new to CRA and running a CRA program at a large bank, it was easy to get distracted by the many ways to be of service. Sure, we created CRA service goals but I wondered if just serving on boards and committees would be enough. Sure, the hours compile and satisfy our CRA goals and performance targets but I still wondered what else could I be doing that would result in tangible impact in my community.
I was fortunate enough to work for a mentor that I now have the honor of considering one of my besties for life. We got into a lot of “good trouble” together, as John Lewis would call it. She used to work for the Federal Reserve Bank leading their community affairs program so she cast a great vision for what was possible.
What was possible turned out to be some of the most impactful programs and relationships I have forged to date. We partnered with local nonprofit organizations and got many CDFIs certified all in the name of community development and to be of service to our local communities. We carved out donation set-asides for CRA qualified projects and stood up shared computer centers in our highest-minority and lowest income census tracts in partnership with local social service agencies. We made equity-like investments in CDFIs and met with micro-entrepreneurs who benefited from start-up capital from those CDFIs. There are so many more stories to share; it was through this work that I fell in love with community development.
There were also many times when we would walk down the halls of the bank and some of the executives would say “I wonder what those ladies have up their sleeves now!” Yes, we were determined. Determined to try new things and push the boundaries in the name of community development. We forged the first individual development accounts in our state in partnership with nonprofit organizations, we woke up in the wee hours of the morning to log in to secure our FHLB allocations for first time home buyers, we applied for CDFI Bank Enterprise Awards in order to reinvest more dollars into disadvantaged communities, and so much more!
So how would you like to be of service to others? What else can you do to encourage more impact in your local communities? Have you maximized the common CRA service programs that are sure to support your CRA goals? Here are a few links to resources mentioned above to help lay the foundation for a solid CRA service platform to help you elevate your impact.
As I am sure you might have noticed, I am obsessed with supporting CRA professionals in their CRA journey. Let me know if you have any questions or if I can support your community development service efforts!
And remember, don’t get distracted with the plethora of options, just take one project at a time to level up your CRA program. Stay focused on your desired outcome and continually adjust to maximize your impact.
I like to think that we are all change makers and that are all of service to each other and those most fragile in our communities. As CRA professionals we have the opportunity to get into “good trouble” for the greater good.
Cheers to you and this work,
P.S. Did you see I have a free course for bankers who are new to CRA? Click the button below or share this article with a colleague that might have inherited their bank’s CRA program and are not sure where to start!
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