To all our Investors, Partners, and Friends,
Sometimes clients say things we never forget. A few years ago, the executive director of a small shelter in rural Missouri told us: “In our work to help people become safe today and strong tomorrow, we often cite the quote that ‘it is not shelter from the storm, but learning to dance in the rain,’ and IFF helps us keep dancing.”
That statement was rattling around in my head a lot during 2020, a year of crisis and challenge that will be remembered for years to come. For over three decades, IFF has helped many nonprofits through leadership changes, capital campaigns, state budget crises, construction challenges, and so much more. The challenges we faced in 2020 were different, and more numerous, and more intense, perhaps than any in our history. But the tools and values we brought to bear were the same as always: to help nonprofits keep dancing.
Because of who we are as a community development financial institution, as well as a development corporation, with a continuum of levers to pull — flexible financing and services, supportive programs, dynamic partnerships — we were able to turn on a dime and show up for nonprofits when they needed it, where they needed it, and how they needed it. That looked different in different sectors and markets across the Midwest, and we hope this report illuminates some of those stories.
First, there was the PPP, the now common acronym for the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program. While much has been written about this program’s flaws, there’s no doubt it kept many small businesses and nonprofits alive to fight another day. It was administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, an agency that typically leaves out nonprofits. But nonprofits needed it, wanted it, and were struggling to get it from traditional financial institutions. This is exactly the kind of challenge that IFF was founded to solve. So, we did what we have often done in our history: we found a way to meet the need, and we were successful because we leveraged our long-existing partnerships with CDFIs and philanthropy.
Second, there were our programs: the technical assistance and capacity building that CDFIs so often do, with philanthropic support. IFF’s programs target specific groups — for example, early educators in Detroit, or arts and culture leaders in Chicago — but they all have one thing in common: supporting the long-term financial sustainability of nonprofits. Pivoting these programs to not only be delivered in a virtual environment, but also to provide timely supports during a global pandemic with myriad consequences for nonprofits, was a crucial part of our work in 2020.
Finally, there was what we call “business as (un)usual.” Because amidst all the chaos, the work simply continued. Nonprofits still needed to find, finance, and refurbish their facilities. Construction was never halted in most Midwest states. And communities continued to rely on social safety net organizations, which faced greater need with fewer resources with a resiliency that was both inspiring and heart-wrenching. If ever nonprofits needed IFF’s support, it was in 2020.
And woven through all these strands of continued and evolving work, was our commitment to racial equity. Communities of color have historically paid a higher price for capital and experienced a disproportionate share of economic and health hardship, and they were put under even greater strain in 2020. At IFF, every decision we made and every program we pivoted asked the questions: Is this an equitable approach? Are we letting our perceived urgency or lack of resources prevent us from being more equitable? What more can we do to level the playing field?
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Communities thrive when the nonprofits that support them are strong. People relied on nonprofits more than ever during the storms of 2020, and IFF was proud to help them keep dancing in the rain.
Thank you, and stay safe,
Guadalupe Preston, IFF Board Chair
Joe Neri, IFF CEO