Nonprofit PPP loan recipient “reimagines” programs, positions – Life Remodeled, Detroit

Life Remodeled focuses on the intentional and equitable revitalization of Detroit neighborhoods “distinguished by their significant need and radical hope.” Projects are determined by the community’s need and vision, and Life Remodeled assists by renovating and repurposing former community assets into community hubs, repairing owner-occupied homes, and beautifying the neighborhood. IFF sat down with Founder and CEO Chris Lambert to learn more about how the organization is responding to COVID-19 and how the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) may help them through this moment in history.

 

IFF: How did COVID-19 and the related shutdowns affect your organization?

Lambert: First, our finances. We are projecting a 26% loss in 2020, and that represents a very significant number for us – more than $700,000 out of our nearly $3 million budget. Those losses are from canceled fundraisers, lower donation projections, and less income through leasing at our Durfee Innovation Society.

We also immediately began to reimagine our organization in terms of programs, positions, and people. I’m really proud of our staff for putting aside their own self-interests and truly deciding what would be best for our organization. There were significant changes, and some positions initially disappeared. We prepared to be a more streamlined, efficient, and effective organization because we’re preparing for the possibility of a greater depression than the Great Depression, but of course we’re hoping for the best. The changes we’ve made are designed to help be ready for whatever may come.

 

IFF: Why did you decide to pursue a PPP loan, and how do you think it will help your agency?

Lambert: To have access to PPP was truly a blessing. When we’re making changes and cuts as an organization, we don’t want to cut all the way into the bone and make the organization less effective. The balance of the PPP allowed us to keep the positions that really are essential to making significant impact in Detroit neighborhoods.

 

IFF: What was your experience like in getting the PPP loan?

The balance of the PPP allowed us to keep the positions that really are essential to making significant impact in Detroit neighborhoods.

Lambert: We first applied for the PPP loan with a banking institution, and we were not happy with the level of transparency; we knew we were qualified, but we weren’t getting any communication in terms of where we were in line, or if we were even in the queue. After the first round of funding ran out, we were concerned if we stuck with our current banking institution that we might not get PPP funding.

We were already aware of IFF, dating back to when we were considering loans for our current project. That’s when we first learned about CDFIs, and IFF is the most well-known in our area. We were really drawn to the level of transparency at IFF and felt confident that canceling our initial application with the bank and moving to IFF would get us the financing right away – and it did.

 

IFF: What’s one thing you’ve learned in this climate?

Lambert: The process that we went through to reimagine our organization in the new normal ended up leading to us making several decisions that made our organization’s operations more efficient. For example, we have the Durfee Innovation Society, which is a one-stop shop of opportunity that houses 36 nonprofit and for profit organizations that help collaboratively move the needle in the local community. Prior to COVID-19, we had several people who were responsible for managing the space, and our nonprofit tenants weren’t clear on who to go to for what. We had an all-hands-on-deck approach that was good at first, but left holes for accountability. Coming into COVID-19, we took a deep dive into our accountability chart and and job descriptions, which led to restructuring decisions. That lead us to more efficiency than we’ve ever had.

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