Our mission statement describes how we organize our work: both alone and in partnership, NFF contributes to building a more just and vibrant society through tailored investments, strategic advice, and accessible insights. Now more than ever this integrated approach is critical.
Proud to be a Community Development Finance Institution, we provide loans to social sector organizations that meet our traditional lending conditions, appropriate for capital raised from our community banking, private foundation and government partners. Facility loans, working capital loans and lines of credit, and New Markets Tax Credit capital all provide crucial resources to organizations with a track record of fiscal prudence and the size to take on a relatively large loan.
But these programs leave too many organizations unable to meet rather stringent investment criteria. So around our core lending capability, we are building a more diversified financial services practice that offers more appropriate capital to a wider range of organizations. This evolution is taking two forms:
- Working with partners to diversify the investments we make directly: By structuring investment programs that allow us to share risk and operating costs, we can invest in organizations that would otherwise be too risky or too small to qualify for our traditional lending program. These programs can be as simple as a loan guarantee from a private foundation that allows us to lend to their grantees. Or they can involve multiple partners from government, foundations and commercial investors, combining loan guarantees, operating subsidies and commercial investment, to enable us to help a set of organizations in a specific geography or sector access loans and other investments.
- Supporting others to make better impact investments themselves: The growth of the impact investing movement is bringing new institutions and resources to address social challenges through investment. We have been impact investors for more than 30 years, borrowing from banks, government and foundations and lending their money directly. We are now increasingly using our experience to advance others’ direct investing efforts as well. To do so, we identify and vet deal prospects, advise foundations and high net-worth individuals on constructing and executing impact investing programs, and offer comprehensive investment services for funders who recognize the value in outsourcing to experts rather than building in-house capabilities from scratch.
Having the right resources is crucial; knowing how to use them well is equally important. From our early days lending to nonprofit organizations, we quickly realized that organizations and funders often need strategic advice on how to give, get and use resources effectively. We have built a set of analytical tools and a national consulting capability that have helped thousands of organizations and their funders identify, understand and communicate financial trends and needs.
Increasingly, financial diagnostics are the starting point, not the end point, of our consulting work. We help leaders understand their options, make difficult choices, and adapt to new economic realities. Sometimes we work deeply with a single organization, although more frequently we support groups of funders and organizations in specific sectors and geographies to muster informed, collective responses.
Our advisory services include:
- Financial systems assessment that identifies how capital flows in a sector and the changes necessary to ensure sustained social service delivery (especially in the wake of structural reductions in government funding);
- Needs assessment that begins with an analysis of an organization’s business model and funding stream trends, and then provides direction on how these will need to change over time;
- Business planning and financial forecasting to align financial and programmatic sustainability and indicators;
- Capitalization structuring that supports organizations’ strategic and business plans over time;
- Coaching and facilitation to ensure shared understanding and commitment to financial and programmatic success within organizations, between organizations, and between funders and the organizations they support.
Regardless of how many organizations we serve, we will not directly reach even a fraction of all who could benefit from our learning, tools and approaches. We therefore work to influence how capital flows and to promote financial savvy beyond our direct client work. We have invested in promoting social sector innovation and a financial fact-base from our earliest days. Financial literacy training for social sector leaders and their supporters remains crucial and underappreciated. New ideas, such as impact investing, pay-for-success financing, and philanthropic equity are just beginning to gain traction. When based in work on the ground, these ideas can become useful insight. And when we make these insights accessible to the non-finance experts who run organizations and who fund them, they can support healthier debate and, ultimately, adaptive action.
Complete Capital: Putting it all together
Tailored investments, strategic advice, and accessible insight are the components of how we deliver our mission and organize and communicate our services. But “the whole is often greater than the sum of the parts.” We are more effective when we creatively combine our services. And we are most effective when we combine our services with outside resources and partners.
We increasingly recognize that adaptation to new economic realities requires an integrated, flexible approach that combines grants, investment capital, advisory support and innovation. Adaptation also requires collaboration between government, investors, foundations, and intermediaries like us to unlock capital and services creatively and meaningfully. And we must employ our unique role as a trusted advisor and honest partner who can weave together funders and the organizations they support.
We call this approach Complete Capital.
More than a way to rebrand “public-private partnerships”, Complete Capital offers a new approach to addressing complex social problems by combining capital, partners, and ideas in new ways. The Complete Capital approach helps us focus on the question that matters most—“How can we address the social issues we are targeting?”—rather than defaulting to asking “where can we make a loan?” or “who can best use our strategic advice?”
Complete Capital approaches include:
- Complex partnerships that incorporate multiple forms of financial capital coupled with grant-supported consulting services for a cohort of organizations in a specific issue area and/or geography;
- Single-partner programs that integrate investments and grant-supported consulting services for a cohort of organizations;
In some circumstances, simple solutions work well enough. We continue to offer our investment and advisory products separately. But we increasingly see that organizations and systems facing the need to adapt to new structural realities require Complete Capital interventions.
We welcome you to contact us to share your thoughts or discuss how we can work together.