NCN Hosts Webinar to Discuss SSBCI Programs

On Wednesday April 13, 2022, Native CDFI Network (NCN) hosted Pilar Thomas, Jeff Bowman, and Sanford Livingston to discuss the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). The webinar was co-sponsored by Oweesta, the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations and Clearinghouse CDFI.

Jeff Bowman, President and CEO of Bay Bank in Green Bay, WI, began the meeting by sharing practical advice on rollout of SSBCI from both a banking and tribal perspective. Jeff also shared tips to prepare financials for the SSBCI application along with sample spreadsheets. Jeff is active with several organizations that facilitate economic and small business development.

Pilar Thomas, Native attorney and SSBCI expert, followed with detailed information on the program and advice for developing the narrative portion of the SSBCI application. She shared two template agreements that tribal governments and Native CDFIs can use for partnering to access the technical assistance and capital deployment funding the SSBCI program offers.

Sanford Livingston II, CEO of Nor-Cal Financial Development Corporation, closed the webinar with a few detailed remarks and insights into SSBCI and opportunities in the state of California. In addition to overseeing the administration, programs and development plan of Nor-Cal FDC, Sanford has overall strategic and operational responsibility for staff, programs, expansion, and execution of its mission.

Download presentations and resource materials:

View the session video in its entirety below.

 

Interview #2 Tonya Plummer | Montana Native Growth Fund

Interview #2 Tonya Plummer | Montana Native Growth Fund

Interview #2

TONYA PLUMMER | Montana Native Growth Fund

 

The Native CDFI Network (NCN) developed the “Native CDFIs: Difference Makers for Indian Country” interview series to cast a much-needed spotlight on the many positive benefits that Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs) create for tribal communities and the leaders who help make Native CDFIs the transformational success stories they are.

Tonya Plummer

In this latest edition of “Difference Makers,” NCN sits down with Tonya Plummer (Assiniboine, Sioux and Cree), who serves as Executive Director of the Montana Native Growth Fund (MNGF), a Native CDFI based on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana. Tonya brings specialized skills and insight from her career experience in all aspects of mortgage banking, and a passion to inspire a renewed and culturally empowered rise in tribal homeownership as a cornerstone of growing tribal economies.

An enrolled tribal member, Tonya held a key role in guiding the Fort Belknap Indian Community to become the first rural plains tribe to adopt the Hearth Act and create the tribal legal infrastructure needed to support mortgage lending. She is a bridge-builder, creating networks of opportunity and key partnerships to bring capital and development services for home ownership, small business and food sovereignty.

In this heartfelt conversation with NCN, Tonya shares how Montana Native Growth Fund is not only helping tribal members grow their financial assets but also providing them the hope and tools they need to achieve their dreams at home in their tribal community.

NCN: Welcome, Tonya, and thank you for joining us today.

Plummer: Thank you for having me.

NCN: Let’s start with you: Why do you what you do? How did leading Montana Native Growth Fund become your life’s calling?

Plummer: I do what I do so that every child at Fort Belknap can have their own home they own someday. The concept of being grounded in community and culture through homeownership and of experiencing a deeply rooted security and hope for the future have been longtime passions of mine. I spent years and years in mortgage banking learning to originate, process, underwrite, working compliance, learning all sides of lending, and it felt not very purposeful. To be asked to come and figure out a home ownership mechanism for Indian Country, at that point I understood what all of those years of underwriting financial statements in a dark basement meant and what they were preparing me for. That’s when it became a clear calling.

NCN: As you know, there are roughly 70 federally certified Native CDFIs across the country and many more “emerging” ones following in their footsteps. Why did tribal nations and communities feel it necessary to create CDFIs, and what fundamental role do they play?

“We empower the potential of our people so that they can own their own home, start their own business, run a ranch, and grow their own food on our own tribal lands.”

Plummer: I think CDFIs are such natural bridge builders between state and federal governments and tribal governments. CDFIs are the ideal conduit for capital flow that brings life to our communities. I feel like as the West was won and tribal economies crashed again and again and again, we were left with very, very little. And that meant extreme dependance on the federal government as domestic dependent nations. So it’s taken a couple of generations to revive ourselves from that story. Today, as a part of self-determination, CDFIs are standing up this resilience structure every day and really serve as lighthouses in our communities.

NCN: What do policymakers and the general public need to understand about Native CDFIs and the difference they make?

Plummer: It’s a good question. I didn’t even know what a CDFI was when I was asked to start this work. We chose this model because it was the perfect model for us to accomplish what we needed to accomplish. Often, we think of growing economies and economic development and asset building and wealth creation and all of these things that traditional finance structures and financial institutions are supposed to do, and we forget the emotional and social infrastructure that needs to be developed to sustain that financial growth. It’s inherent in the name – it’s community development and a financial institution. To empower those finances to do what they’re intended to do in the community, we have to develop that social and emotional infrastructure. So the model of a CDFI is so unique and so beautiful. It is often misunderstood, and I find myself having to clarify that often when I’m out talking to folks.

NCN: Tell me about the Montana Native Growth Fund. What is its mission, and how does it work to foster prosperity in your community?

Plummer: Our mission is to build strong, sustainable Indigenous communities. We encourage the growth of our people. We elevate the voice of our people. We empower the potential of our people so that they can own their own home, start their own business, run a ranch and grow their own food on our own tribal lands. We do this by focusing on financial empowerment.

We focus on visioning. We think of ourselves as advocates and cheerleaders for our people. We provide a safe place for people to sit down and dream bigger than they ever thought was possible. We adopt a coaching approach when we’re working with our clients. We try to work with our clients as holistically as possible to restore a balance in the way they view themselves, their place in the community, what they and their family can give back and what being a community member really means. We feel like when we do that really well, we inspire a different kind of a growth that makes the rest almost easy. And then we come in with financial products to make that work.

NCN: Can you talk a bit more about the various financial products Montana Native Growth Fund provides? Home ownership and mortgage lending are a big part of it, but can you elaborate on that piece and some of the other financial products you offer?

Plummer: The impetus for the creation of our organization was mortgage lending and a homeownership product, but that’s a heavy lift to start with. We realized a lot of folks weren’t ready for higher levels of credit and needed to take some baby steps towards that. Our tribal enterprise had been offering zero-interest clothing loans for folks to get a clothing wardrobe for their first job, so we revamped that to a workforce support loan and paired it with an essential business skills course and increased that to $1,000 as opposed to the $500 it was at previously. We found most people used it for car repairs, sometimes appliance repairs – anything that would help them get to work and stay working.

Montana Native Growth Fund’s Tonya Plummer with Joanie Rowland, executive director of the Apsaalooke Nation Housing Authority, at the first planning session for the Montana Native Homeownership Coalition. (Courtesy: Montana Native Growth Fund)

Then we found some folks had a lot of old, poor credit that was hindering them from the kind of growth they wanted to achieve, so we rolled out a “fresh start” loan that allowed them to consolidate that poor credit, potentially acquire an asset with it. That became a part of the smart goals that we identified when we went through the initial visioning process with them. Building in those payments and helping them understand how it was helping them grow made it more understandable, and they felt like they were owning their own growth process. From there, we realized that being able to qualify for a homeownership loan meant either starting a side hustle or upscaling their side hustle. A lot of folks have big dreams besides their day-to-day, eight-to-five job. We hadn’t intended to work in business lending, and we quickly found we needed to amend that thought process. We’ve started to roll out a small business program to encourage these early entrepreneurs, and then also understanding our tribal enterprise is growing and there are some larger businesses that need to grow as well. We would like to meet the full spectrum of need there.

NCN: How would you summarize for someone the impact that the Montana Native Growth Fund has made and is making on the community as a whole?

Plummer: Well, if you can imagine yourself in a dark tunnel when you can’t see anything and one person shines a light at the end, and now you can see a little, and then another light comes on and another light comes on. Eventually, the whole place is light, and you feel like you can get where you need to go and we can see each other and we can see a path forward. That’s what I feel like is happening right now. Some of our clients are improving their credit scores 100 points in a year. They’re beginning to feel like they can do things they never thought were possible. And that spirit is contagious in the community. Almost all of our incoming clients are by word of mouth. Folks are saying, “You know, hey, they helped me with this and I feel so much better now. You should go talk to them.” So we’re seeing it spread, and it’s exciting.

NCN: Can you share with us an inspiring success story of an individual client that you’ve worked with that epitomizes the impact that you’re making?

Plummer: I will choose one. Her name is Elisha. She was homeless. Upon graduation, she thought she could make it in the city, wanted to get out and found that was very difficult. So she came back home but was sort of couch surfing, took a job at the tribal enterprise and worked that way for a few months before she came to us. She just needed to be stabilized, so we helped her with housing counseling. Our staff is working towards becoming certified housing counselors. And she was able to find an apartment. We connected her with the Emergency Rental Assistance Program with the housing authority and then also provided her a workforce support loan to help her get stabilized with furniture and a bed and those kinds of basic things that she would need, and then she went through the same visioning process where she listed out where she wanted to be five years, 10 years from now. Most of the time our clients start using a spending tracker, they track where their money is going for about a 30-day period and then have a follow-up with us. Her growth has been exponential in those follow-up appointments. And so now she is thinking, “Maybe I could own a home here for a while. It might not be my forever, but I can do more than I thought I could ever do.” She came back home to the reservation and found the hope and success she needed because a Native CDFI was there to encourage her and pull resources together to help her grow and make an impact in our community.

NCN: NCN recently published a report documenting the extraordinary difference Native CDFIs have made in helping Indian Country respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you shed some light on where Montana Native Growth Fund fit in and the role it played in helping the community deal with the pandemic?

Plummer: We actually emerged in the midst of the pandemic. We became legal in the middle of 2020 and immediately found the demand for homeownership was so big because our families were overcrowded and in a housing crisis. They could not isolate, they couldn’t social distance. A lot of folks began thinking, “I got to get out of here, I got to get my own home.” So we had an immediate flow of interest there. And then the opportunity to provide even just smaller dollar consumer products. A huge portion of what we provided was COVID relief-related, and had we not been able to provide that service, I imagine our median credit scores would be going down. Folks would be in even a greater financial crisis than they already were experiencing.

NCN: What do you envision as the growth plan for your organization?

Plummer: For a long time, we have been partnering with our tribe to pass the Hearth Act to streamline residential leasing and work on shoring up internal processes there. We also have an MOA with our tribal enterprise and our housing authority on larger-scale residential development. We are the financing piece of that and also the counseling piece. They’re doing the actual home building. We’re not stepping into that space, but we bring that unique perspective so that things are seen all the way through to the end game. That truly means establishing that home ownership is economic development. It’s not just a conversation of housing and creating housing units, it’s getting these folks in homes that they own, where they feel they can give back to their community and stimulate significant increased demand for goods and services. That, in turn, stimulates businesses and the building of the economy.

It’s the reason I picked Elisha as one of our favorite success stories because we truly believe tribal members should not have to move away to be successful or feel like they’ve really experienced life. We should be able to grow up and have a career and grow our families right here at home. I feel so passionately about that. We did a housing needs assessment, and we asked the question, “Does Fort Belknap feel like home?” We had a significant number of tribal members that took that survey. Seventy-five percent of folks living on reservation said, “Yes it feels like home,” and the same percentage of folks living off reservation said the same. That shows an extreme connectedness to community. I hate to say if we build it, they will come. But there’s definitely a market out there that’s bigger than those on the tribal housing waiting list right now. These are folks who are paying a mortgage, working a job off reservation. There are highly trained professionals who would come home if we had the ability to do it. Talk about stimulating economy! Montana Native Growth Fund sees itself as a conduit for growth within our community and a key part of reviving a robust tribal economy.

NCN: Taking a step back and looking at the whole of Indian Country, what do Native CDFIs need to realize their full potential and maximize their impact?

Plummer: Number one is funding so we can get the products that we offer within our communities out there. We’re the ones who are doing that deep work in those communities and understanding how to design products that really do work, doing smart, relationship-based risk mitigation. The more we have to get out there to grow the communities, the more impact will begin to see. In addition, though, I think increased collaboration between Native CDFIs. Not feeling like we’re siloed within our individual communities but working together. I think we’re always stronger together, and that’s a very Indigenous concept of reaching out and lifting each other up. Finally, we need increased understanding within the nation at large and especially within our federal entities about who Native CDFIs are, the impact that we have in our communities and why it is absolutely crucial they increase their outreach to us and recognize Native CDFI’s as the ideal partners to facilitate some of the programs that are intended to get deep into the communities that we serve.

To learn more the Montana Native Growth Fund, please click here.

NCN Hosts Webinar featuring the U.S. Department of the Treasury

On Friday, April 8, 2022, NCN hosted James Colombe, Policy Advisor for the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Colombe discussed the implementation of the State Small Business Credit Initiative program in Indian Country. He shared updates about the program and fielded questions from attendees regarding its implementation and impact on CDFIs and their clients.

View the session video in its entirety below.

 

Interview #1 Christopher Coburn | Mvskoke Fund

Interview #1 Christopher Coburn | Mvskoke Fund

Interview #1

CHRISTOPHER COBURN | Mvskoke Fund

 

The Native CDFI Network (NCN) developed the “Native CDFIs: Difference Makers for Indian Country” interview series to cast a much-needed spotlight on the many positive benefits that Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs) create for tribal communities and the leaders who help make Native CDFIs the transformational success stories they are.

Christopher Coburn

In this first edition of “Difference Makers,” NCN sits down with Christopher Coburn (Muscogee Creek and Cherokee), who has served as CEO of the Mvskoke Fund since 2017. Christopher has spearheaded the Mvskoke Fund’s rapid growth over the past five years as this federally certified Native CDFI has expanded beyond small business lending to now offer agribusiness and consumer loans to Native clients across an 11-county service area in Oklahoma. Christopher has more than 25 years of management experience in various industries, including consumer and commercial banking, higher education, public utilities, and marketing. He also personally has owned and operated two small businesses. In this insightful conversation with NCN, Christopher explains how the Mvskoke Fund has grown through the COVID-19 pandemic, and why he views the CDFI industry as his most rewarding career challenge yet – helping others overcome financial obstacles and achieve their goals.

Welcome, Christopher, and thank you for joining us today.

Christopher Coburn: Thank you for having me.

NCN: So let’s start with you: Why do you what you do? How did you come to lead the Mvskoke Fund?

Christopher Coburn: Well, it’s how I was raised. You know, I’m a blend. There’s not a Mvskoke word for “blend,” but I am. My great grandparents were a full-blood Cherokee and a full-blood Creek. Schoolteachers, pastors, things like that on that side of the family. Scottish second-generation immigrants, maritime-type people. Father’s side had nothing. Entrepreneurs, always. “Hey, I got to make a buck. We’ve got to eat – figure it out.” I’m the product of that. But also throughout my career, all my jobs have been service oriented. What I’ve seen as both a working professional and a business person is “How could I honor the legacy of my ancestors? Of giving and doing?” The original entrepreneurs were Native Americans in my opinion. So how can I teach that? Well, I’m 50. All my parents and grandparents are dead. When I walk around our campus and I see a little old lady or a little old man and have a five-minute conversation with them, I feel like I’m honoring them. I’m living the values they put into me and we’re making a difference for the world. And to me, that honors our Creator and that honors our purpose. That’s why I do what I do.

NCN: There are more than 70 federally certified Native CDFIs, across the country, and many more “emerging” CDFIs following in their footsteps. Why did tribal nations and communities feel it necessary to create CDFIs, and what fundamental role do they play?

“We are teaching people to get what they want, and how to have pride in getting that, with financial vehicles and technical assistance to make that possible.”

Christopher Coburn: From a tribal perspective, it’s a matter of leveling the playing field. I think redlining originally was with red people, as far as locking certain people out of opportunities. There’s a lack of respect paid to a Native individual that’s suffering when they go to any type of organization for help. So if someone’s had a bad experience, a medical issue, some kind of catastrophe that causes a cascading effect to their credit or whatever else, they’re not treated as human or equal. It’s all volume-based at most commercial banks and even a lot of larger credit unions, where it’s not person-based. The biggest thing that’s different about Native American culture is we value the person. Every person is designed to have value. I think what is so transformative about CDFIs in the Native American culture is we’re helping them better themselves. It’s not an entitlement program. It’s an empowerment and lifestyle program, teaching them tools to compete in an economy that none of us designed. We are teaching people to get what they want, and how to have pride in getting that, with financial vehicles and technical assistance to make that possible.

NCN: From your perspective, what should policymakers and the general public understand about Native CDFIs and the difference they make?

Christopher Coburn: Policymakers, people on Capitol Hill, and others hear so many acronyms they get numb. Community development is the first half – the “CD” part. “FI,” or financial institution, is the second part. Both are equal and complementary in purpose. So we exist to serve the community, to help them develop opportunities, to help them develop as individuals, to help them get resources to better their lives. And through that we do technical assistance and coaching and training and creating opportunity, but we’re also very much a financial institution. So how do you balance the financial need to perform well with high-risk activities that shift people in the credit market from disparaged or damaged credit and no credit to creating opportunities for them? It’s a balance.

NCN: Let’s turn to your CDFI specifically. Tell me about the Mvskoke Fund. What is its mission, and how does it work to foster prosperity in the communities it serves?

Christopher Coburn: We were created in 2013 and [federally] certified at the end of 2014. I took over in 2017 and it was basically a reboot. I brought in a banking mindset. For us to do as much good as we can with what we’ve got, we’ve got to be good financial stewards, and we need to bring a product to market that the clients need. And if clients aren’t prepared for it yet, we need to help train them and help them be ready to be prepared for it and leverage that to succeed. Crazy thing is on the financial side, if they’re trained well and they’re excited and they’re in the market, they’re doing what they want to do, it’s not hard to pay us back. And then we make that little bit of margin on our lending products that we turn around and reinvest back into us. So we’re a net nonprofit, but I don’t have a nonprofit mentality, I have a service mentality. We’re training, we’re services and lending. We have a training culture – we’re always learning. We provide services, so we’ll do technical assistance at no cost. And we do lending. But we do all that so we make good loans to make maximum impact, to create more money for our clients and for the organization to grow to serve more people.

We started as a small business microenterprise lender, which is $50,000 or less. We still consider that our bread and butter. But we’re now in agribusiness, and we’re edging our way into consumer lending. Tons of payday lending and predatory lending in our area for cars, for small loans. We’re trying to break that cycle, and some of that’s generational. And then about 20 percent of our clients still aren’t banked at all. So there are check-cashing fees and other things. There’s a lot of cultural and systemic things to break up.

NCN: How do you see the Mvskoke Fund continuing to grow?

Christopher Coburn: Our goal here is maybe in another two or three years to start a credit union or a bank. So we will be full service, from low end to normal – cars and houses and stuff. It’s a mindset shift. We need to deal with the capacity of the individual to compete in the marketplace. The crazy thing is many people don’t understand what a tribal economy is. A big tribal government buys thousands and thousands of whatever – widgets. Well, one tribal citizen has a company that can make hundreds of widgets, and if you just work with them, they could keep that money in the community, in the tribe. And then they could hire others to do more widgets. But there’s steps in between the thousands and the hundreds that people aren’t willing to take. So Mvskoke Fund works a lot with our own clients. If we sponsor a training, we’ve got four or five restaurants and several food trucks among our clients. Who am I going to hire for the food that day? I’m going to hire one of my loan clients and then when they start serving the food, I’ll ask them to speak for five minutes on what are they trying to do for their family and their community. That’s a tribal economy.

NCN: Your CDFI supports tribal citizens from all walks of life in various ways. Can you share with us an inspiring success story of a client you work with?

Christopher Coburn: We had a client and he had a dream of having a business and he could not get a loan because he couldn’t even get a [driver’s] license. He had a marriage fall apart, dependency issues within the family. He got out of that, had a lot of legal fees with an area out of state. He decided to move back home to the reservation, got back involved with the ceremonial grounds in his community and his culture. He got some men that cared about him around him and steered him the right way. When I first met him five years ago, he was sober and he was riding a motorized bicycle everywhere in a town of 12,000 people. He wanted a business loan. We couldn’t do that because you can’t buy vehicles and things like that because you need a license, you need insurance. So we designed our first pilot of a consumer loan to help him clean up his legal fees and get all of those things taken care of in that other state so he eventually could get an Oklahoma license. That was the first loan. It did not make financial sense, but we had done well enough in other areas that we were willing to take those risks that a bank wouldn’t take. He did what he should. He didn’t get just one job, he got two jobs. He got an apartment, got promoted several times, and eventually when he did get his license, for two years he had to have a breathalyzer on his car to start it. We helped him get all of that. Well, then when he was close to paying off that initial loan that nobody else would have made, he came back to us with the same idea. So we put him through a management class, a QuickBooks class, a few other things. About 18 months ago, we did the full business loan he originally wanted – a pickup truck, trailer, zero-turn lawnmower, chainsaws, weed-eaters, the whole bit. He’s still keeping his day job, and he’s building that [landscaping] business on the side to make a future for him and his family.

The Mvskoke Fund hosts its “Spending Frenzy” financial literacy immersion experience in November 2019. (Courtesy: Muscogee Nation)

NCN: The Native CDFI Network recently published a report documenting the extraordinary difference Native CDFIs have made in helping Indian Country respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. How did the Mvskoke Fund shift gears to address the pandemic?

Christopher Coburn: We doubled our lending volume from the previous year, and we were on the phone with tribal citizens from around the country trying to point them to PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] lenders and helping them figure all that out. We got no revenue from that – they were just trying to survive. So we really got noticed more within our giant tribe of 90,000-plus members by us going the extra mile. We doubled our volume in lending, and then we about tripled our volume in online TA [technical assistance]. And guess what? That’s only picked up, and we’re still just the same four staff.

NCN: Mvskoke Fund recently launched a business incubator of sorts. Tell us more?

Christopher Coburn: We are not a full-scale incubator like an industrial park. What we’ve had is clients that are struggling, and they got a 15-year-old computer or something else, and they just need a space with computers and other things where we can work alongside them. We’re making a space at our home for our clients to come and get help as they need it, kind of like a study hall with professors that are right around the corner. In essence, that’s our version of an incubator because that’s what our clients need.

We also needed a space we controlled where we could have lots of classes, so we’ve got a space under our nonprofit umbrella that’s dedicated towards training, and our three focus areas are going to be small business, agribusiness, and consumer. We’re going to tackle those socioeconomic issues and we’re going to train as much as we can. It’s sort of the “Field of Dreams” thing. We know they’ll come because we’ve got a giant tribe and lots of people. We serve 11 of 77 counties in Oklahoma, including most of metro Tulsa, and any other Native American, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, we’ll help them, too. Our pipeline is not going to ever disappear. I don’t have to market to them. What I have to market is our success stories so that funders jump in and we can keep scaling it up.

NCN: From your perspective, what do Native CDFIs need to realize their full potential? What support do they need to achieve their missions and maximize their impact?

Christopher Coburn: I think it’s different for different CDFIs. Early on, I couldn’t get grant capital to save my life. Now I’m able to get grant capital for TA and some lending products. My big need is CRA [Community Reinvestment Act]-type direct investment. I can’t keep up with serving as many people as we need to serve with the staff size I’ve got. We need to accelerate our growth to catch up to the pipeline. I would really love some foundation or some bank to do some direct investment and say, “Hey, we would like to donate X,” or “Hey, we’ll do like some of the federal programs, we’ll lend you half a million for 30 years at one or two percent for operations.” Because I can generate revenue from activity that can go toward operations, but it’s a fraction of a point. I can’t scale up fast enough to take care of who I need to without an injection of patient capital that believes in what we do. It’s the foundation side, the CRA side for banks – the belief in what we do. We need some angel investors so that we can have enough cash to operate from. Right now, we’re just moving money as fast as we can and doing what we can and we’re doing it well.

To learn more about Christopher Coburn and the Mvskoke Fund, please visit https://mvskokefund.com/

NCN This Week: April 5, 2022

In Case You Missed It:
NCN’s 2022 Policy Priorities
The Native CDFI Network recently released its Policy Priorities for 2022. The NCN Board of Directors and Policy Committee developed this comprehensive set of priorities at NCN’s Mid-Winter Policy Round Table event in Washington, D.C. in February. Designed to strengthen the policies and expand the resources supporting Native CDFIs across the country, these priorities include calling on Congress to make the highly successful USDA 502 Native CDFI Direct Lending Pilot Program a permanent national program available to all federally certified Native CDFIs, and allocating $30 to $50 million in annual funding for the Native American CDFI Assistance (NACA) Program.

To view NCN’s 2022 Policy Priorities, please click on the link below.
2022 NCN Policy Priorities

NCN to Launch “Difference Makers” Interview Series
The Native CDFI Network is excited to announce its launch later this week of its new “Native CDFIs: Difference Makers for Indian Country” weekly interview series. Featuring in-depth interviews with the chief executives of Native CDFIs across the country, the series casts a much-needed spotlight on the many positive benefits that Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs) create for tribal communities and the leaders who help make Native CDFIs the transformational success stories they are. First up this Thursday is Christopher Coburn, CEO of the Mvskoke Fund!

Native CDFI Leader Jonelle Yearout Joins NCN Policy Committee
The NCN Board of Directors recently appointed Jonelle Yearout, who serves as Executive Director of the NiMiiPuu Community Development Fund in Lapwai, Idaho, to serve as Regional Delegate for the Northwest Region on NCN’s Policy Committee. Yearout replaces outgoing Northwest Regional Delegate Shalynn Kellogg. NCN thanks Shalynn for her important contributions to the Policy Committee’s work.

An enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe, Yearout is passionate about solving challenging social and economic issues for the Nez Perce Tribe, her fellow tribal members, and surrounding rural communities. Her mission-driven focus is on delivering innovative products and services that raise up her people’s voice and enable them to create a brighter future.

Congratulations, Jonelle, and welcome to the NCN team!

NCN Policy Committee Member Tonya Plummer Appointed to State of Montana Board of Housing
On February 7, 2022, Tonya Plummer was appointed to the State of Montana’s Board of Housing by Montana Governor Gianforte.

She will participate as one of seven appointed board members and utilize her experience in housing, economics, finance to contribute to the board. An enrolled tribal member of Assiniboine, Sioux and Cree heritage who serves as Executive Director of Montana Native Growth Fund, a Native CDFI based on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and focused on Native housing and homeownership, Plummer brings the unique perspective and voice of Montana’s Tribal communities.

Tonya’s service will help make Montana a better place now and for future generations, and NCN congratulates her for her appointment and for her service.

NCN’s Pete Upton and Robin Danner to Speak on Panel at USDA Tribal Consultation on April 11th


NCN Board Chair/Interim Executive Director Pete Upton and NCN Policy Committee Chair Robin Danner will participate on a Tribal Caucus panel on Economic Development as part of next week’s virtual April 2022 USDA Tribal Consultation on Barriers and Equity. The Tribal Caucus – co-hosted by Native CDFI Network, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, and the Native American Finance Officers Association – is scheduled for Monday, April 11 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. EDT, and is being held in conjunction with the Tribal Consultation focused on Economic Development that will take place later that afternoon.

To register for the Tribal Caucus and to learn more about USDA’s six-day Tribal Consultation on Barriers and Equity, please click the link below.
USDA Tribal Consultation

Native American Agriculture Fund Accepting Applications for the 2022 Native Ag Underwriting School
The Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) is pleased to announce it is now accepting applications for the 2022 Native Ag Underwriting School. A joint effort between NAAF, Native CDFI Network, Center for Farm Financial Management, and Intertribal Agriculture Council, the School will take place on May 17-19 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

This three-day training will provide existing and future lenders in Indian Country the tools they need to start or expand their agricultural lending programs. Native CDFI professionals seeking to grow their knowledge of agricultural lending will especially benefit from this training. Current college students and recent college graduates interested in a career in agriculture lending in Native communities are also encouraged to apply.

Applications will be evaluated on experience working with Native farmers and ranchers, interest in advancing the field of agricultural lending in rural and Tribal communities, and commitment to serving Native farmers and ranchers. A total of 40 spots are available for this training.

To learn more and to apply, please click the link below.
NAAF Native Ag Underwriting School Training

Ag Lender and Producer Survey Responses Being Sought
Surveys are underway by Akiptan CDFI for a study to help determine the unmet financing need for Native producers. CDFIs can participate in the lender survey here. Producers can participate in the survey here. A video explaining the study is here. Please share the link, participate and make your voices heard. Surveys close on July 31, 2022.

NCN is Hiring!
To expand the organization’s capacity to support the growing needs of Native CDFIs, the Native CDFI Network has announced three new staff position openings. To review the position openings and apply, please click on the Job Announcements below:
NCN CDFI Program Manager/Loan Officer
NCN Communications Director
NCN Administrative Assistant