We support Native CDFIs because they’re dynamic, trusted partners for opportunity.
We’ve been honored to support the work of grantee First Nations Oweesta Corporation (Oweesta) and to collaborate with its executive director, Chrystel Cornelius (pictured above), for quite some time. Together, we’re supporting the work of Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs), which drive economic opportunity for Native communities.
Rooted in the cultural and historical context of Native communities, Native CDFIs are weavers that connect the elements necessary to build thriving local economies. Forty percent of the Foundation’s grantmaking goes to Native-led organizations.
Oweesta is a flagship partner that helps the field grow
Oweesta amplifies the beauty and promise of Native CDFIs.
It’s a Native CDFI intermediary that offers financial products and development services exclusively to Native CDFIs and Native communities. Access to resources, tools, and other support provided by Oweesta helps Native communities build financial assets to strengthen their well-being. Oweesta serves more than 70 certified Native CDFIs.
“We’re the only intermediary lender within the nation specifically serving the Native CDFI industry,” said Cornelius. “Our very mission is to support Native CDFIs across the country.”
Oweesta’s Native Gathering Day provides learning and networking opportunities before and during the OFN Conference
Oweesta is hosting up to 120 people from Native CDFIs for Native Gathering Day. It occurs on September 26, immediately preceding this year’s Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) Conference, a convening of CDFIs from across the U.S. that opens up access to mainstream capital for all communities.
“Native Gathering Day is the one time of year when people from Native CDFIs can get together, talk about their programs, meet face to face, talk about their opportunities and challenges, and really problem solve together,” said Cornelius.
It’s also a chance for Native CDFI representatives to share stories of impact within tribal communities and establish new relationships with potential funding partners, such as banks, foundations, and investors. Native Gathering Day can be a game changer for Native CDFIs.
Why we’re jointly sponsoring 11 scholarships for Native Gathering Day and the OFN Conference
Oweesta offers annual scholarships, which the Foundation sponsors, to help cover travel expenses to the annual OFN Conference. Many Native CDFIs don’t have access to operational funds that allow them to attend national gatherings like OFN’s. This year, scholarships have been awarded to roughly 20 people—representing eleven Native CDFIs—from across the Foundation’s footprint of eight states and 75 Native nations.
Cornelius believes these scholarships support expanded attendance at a rare and important moment of bringing Native CDFIs together. “This is really a time when our Native CDFIs are going to have opportunities to meet possible finance partners . . . to tell their story about the impact they’re having in their tribal communities and talk about opportunities for partnerships and potential investments,” said Cornelius.
She added that these new partnerships could translate to “larger financing endeavors and offer opportunities to provide technical assistance or training.”
Oweesta’s soon-to-be-launched Native CDFI Capital Pool will provide more support
The Native CDFI field is experiencing a major growth spurt. To keep up with growing financial needs, Oweesta is pioneering a new pilot project with Native CDFIs: the Native CDFI Capital Pool, which aims to raise $10 million and will be launching in the coming months. It offers better access to the lending capital necessary to strengthen Native CDFIs’ financial capacity and support their long-term sustainability goals. It’s just another way Oweesta is fueling the growth and development of Native CDFIs.
An ongoing effort to support Native CDFIs
Our support for Oweesta, the scholarships, and much more are part of an ongoing effort to build awareness and opportunities for Native CDFIs. We’ll be engaging you regularly throughout the coming months with profiles, useful tools and information, research, and chances to network and engage. Native CDFIs are a best-kept secret that everyone should know about.
Also, later this fall, stay tuned for an announcement from us about a NEW collaboration we’re finalizing that will yield MAJOR new funding for Native CDFIs!