NCRC turns banks into social justice backers

Nonprofit moves big money by letting neighborhoods lead the way; will philanthropy follow suit?

Written by: Troy Price

Date: January 08, 2019

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series of posts featuring NCRP nonprofit members.

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) has pushed banks to provide $84 billion in lending and philanthropy for low-to-moderate-income communities and communities of color in the last 2 years.

The organization leverages a 600-member network of community institutions to build equal access to credit, capital and banking services for marginalized people.

But big numbers haven’t given NCRC a big head: All of its work remains grounded in grassroots organizing.

Banks are funding communities they’ve traditionally ignored thanks to NCRC

NCRC was born in 1990 to protect the renewal of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), the landmark bill that outlawed redlining in marginalized neighborhoods.

NCRC continues to pursue a just economy where all can prosper in several different ways. The big-ticket item has been 6 community benefit agreements with 6 different banks the organization has signed since 2016.

These agreements are specific, measurable increases in lending, investments and services for communities that financial institutions have traditionally ignored. For example:

  • Fifth Third Bank committed $30 billion to mortgage lending, affordable housing development, small business loans and more for low- to moderate-income communities and communities of color. It also agreed to open 10 new branch locations to serve these communities.
  • Huntington Bank pledged $16 billion for community development between 2017 and 2022. This bank also committed to opening 10 new branches in marginalized neighborhoods.
  • Louisiana-based IBERIABANK will put $6.7 billion towards mortgage lending, small business lending and community development, with an eye for hurricane-impacted areas.

NCRC takes advantage of public comment periods to get banks to meet with communities

These bank wins didn’t come out of thin air. They’re the fruit of a distinct commitment to grassroots community organizing.

Many of the community benefit agreements arose when the banks were purchasing other banks, during which time the public could comment on the acquisitions.

NCRC saw these openings and burst through the door. They set up more than 200 meetings with community stakeholders with the 6 banks alone.

The organization understands that a large share of a person’s identity is connected to where they live: It’s where they shop, where their friends live and where their kids play.

By seizing on strategic opportunities at the neighborhood level, NCRC is leveraging individual community investment to create systemic financial reform.

NCRC also convenes other nonprofits

The organizations supporting these communities have bought in too. Nonprofits of different stripes, like housing developers, community development corporations and financial institutions, and civil rights and advocacy groups have all joined NCRC’s large network of members.

Every year they convene for the Just Economy Conference and an annual Hill day, where they lobby members of Congress. The conference drew in more than 1,100 attendees earlier this year.

NCRC offers trainings and workshops for organizations that want to study the Community Reinvestment Act or boost their financial service offerings for low- to moderate-income communities and communities of color.

Taken altogether, the community benefit agreements, Just Economy Conference, and trainings and workshops are putting neighborhoods in the driver’s seat of the economic justice movement.

Takeaways for Philanthropy

So what does this mean for philanthropy?

1. When local communities have opportunities, they can hold big businesses accountable.

2. NCRC and its allies have demonstrated an ability to create such opportunities.

3. If funders want to see neighborhoods lead the fight for social change, they should partner with NCRC and its allies.

Troy Price is NCRP’s membership and fundraising intern. Follow @NCRP on Twitter.

NCRP members