Over the past two years, Opportunity Fund has been busy designing, launching, and expanding our cross- sector collaboration with Lending Club, the largest online marketplace, and Craft3, a peer CDFI, to expand access to capital for small businesses. We’ve also taken time to reflect on the challenges we faced—and the lessons we learned—in building a first-of-its-kind technology platform to enable this unique referral partnership. Earlier this spring, Opportunity Fund’s research team conducted in-depth interviews with 18 stakeholders across all three organizations to better understand why and how this partnership came to be, and how what we learned can help facilitate future cross-collaborations
We used a partnership assessment framework to help us develop our interview questions, organize the findings, and assess the key takeaways. Essentially this framework states that effective partnerships maximize five key attributes:
We found that there are some essential attributes for a successful CDFI-Fintech partnership:
– A deep commitment and integration at all levels of the organization (leadership and staff, as well as other resources) is critical. This includes a willingness to invest significant resources in “non-program” staff.
– Full buy-in to the value of online lending for current and prospective customers, despite the tradeoffs inherent to a virtual lender-borrower relationship.
– An ability to make the business case to potential private sector partners.
For CDFIs and Fintechs:
– Mutual respect and trust are key ingredients. Partners must have willingness to share and a desire to help each other grow.
– Alignment around the shared vision of serving more small business owners together than either party could alone.
– A commitment to transparency and responsibility in lending.
– All partners need to have the flexibility and agility to iterate, adapt when things don’t go as planned, and be patient with the process.
– A genuine mission-oriented goal plus a compelling business case for pursuing a CDFI partnership
We shared these and other findings about the partnership in a webinar for peers, partners and funders. To learn more, download the slides.
Later this summer we will release a paper detailing more about the partnership outcomes and relevant lessons for CDFIs, funders, and other stakeholders.