Finance Fund works to spark lasting change in distressed communities

 

Diana Turoff has heard too many times that Finance Fund is the best-kept secret in town. That’s why, since she became president and CEO in 2016, she’s spent a lot of time sharing the organization’s story with the community.

“That ability to make those connections is something I truly enjoy, and it’s always thrilling to see a successful partnership come to light that then creates real social and economic impact,” Turoff says.

Lending a hand

Finance Fund — and its affiliate lending arm Finance Fund Capital Corp. — is a statewide Community Development Financial Institution that connects underserved communities with public and private sources of capital in order to improve access to healthy food, health care service, education and affordable housing.

Under its small business umbrella, the nonprofit grants loans of up to $250,000. It also helps expand or build grocery stores in food deserts like Vinton County and administers grant programs and a new markets tax credit program. The Franklinton social enterprise Fortuity Calling LLC, which includes a child care center with the ability to care for sick kids, recently took advantage of that tax credit.

“Overall, what we do is we ensure innovative products and services result in significant impact in the distressed communities that we serve,” Turoff says.

Last year, Finance Fund expanded into real estate development. In its first project, the nonprofit is helping turn two blighted Franklinton hotels into 100 units of affordable housing for at-risk youth ages 18 to 24 years old. Wraparound services, such as employment and job training and mental and physical health services, will help address barriers to success.

“We’re very excited about this project. Construction and rehab have already started, and we expect to be able to move residents in by the end of the year,” she says.

A sustainable model

Finance Fund takes on more risk than a traditional lender, and projects often take longer to come together. But by providing a lot of support, staying flexible and mitigating risk by partnering with entities like local Community Development Financial Institutions, Turoff says losses and write-offs are in line with those of traditional financial institutions.

“We’ve been around for 30-plus years,” she says. “We believe that people are important. We believe that we have a responsibility to help people gain equal access to a quality life, and we believe that we can facilitate positive system change.”

 

By the numbers

In 2018, Finance Fund and its subsidiaries invested $26.8 million and supported 45 projects. This resulted in:

  • 69,000 people served
  • 1,820 jobs created
  • 326 affordable housing units
  • 180,000 square feet of commercial real estate
  • 157,000 square feet of community facilities
  • 107,000 Ohioans with healthy food access

Since its 1987 inception, the organization has made direct investments in excess of $450 million in 85 counties, impacting the lives of 770,000 people in low- to moderate-income communities.