In March 2012 after a rigorous process, the Community Forward Fund Assistance Corporation (CFFAC) received registration with the Ontario Securities Commission and is now pursuing registration in several other jurisdictions across Canada.

In April, along with several of their partners and supporters, they marked the official opening of their Fund at a celebration hosted by Citizens Bank at their Toronto offices. With about 50 people in attendance, the evening was capped with speeches by Yasir Naqvi, MPP of Ottawa Centre, Monica Patten, newly minted Chair of the CFF board, Chris Dobrzanski, CEO of Citizens Bank, Patricia Else, Director of Grant Operations at the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and Nora Sobolov, CFF CEO.

In her speech, Nora thanked the many supporters who have believed in the Community Forward Fund from its inception and especially law firm Blakes for their support in the OSC application process. She reflected on why the fund is needed and provided a number of examples from the organizations that are currently applying for loans or using the financial coaching services of CFF. She was pleased to report CFF is now reviewing several new loan applications and hope to complete loans in the spring/early summer.

Here is the text of her speech:

Arlene [Wortsman, Co-Founder with Nora of the Community Forward Fund] and I would like to echo your thanks to all of our partners, supporters, board and advisors, without whom our fund would never have developed, let alone be open and registered with the Ontario Securities Commission, with other registrations proceeding across the country.

The thanks we give for being here today is so important. But why are we here? Why this, why now? I’d like to take a moment to tell you why:

– A 10 year old organization, providing a home for 17 community charities and nonprofits, faces eviction from their home. Its opportunity, to buy a building, provides them with income and a stable place, but to make their project a reality they need both conventional and unconventional financing

– A small environmental organization has a wonderful opportunity to take part in the Ontario government’s microfit program and at the same time to demonstrate the possibilities of solar power, but needs a loan to buy the equipment to make it work.

– A prominent artists’ organization and educational program for area low income children is redeveloping part of downtown Hamilton with its new artist run centre, but is waiting for a grant that is delayed.

– A healing centre, social enterprise and shelter for aboriginal women purchases much needed space, repurposing an old religious school for this purpose, but needs to understand its full financial picture to have access to the grants and loans it requires.

These are a few of over 100 organizations who have met with us from across the country, looking for a way to stabilize, thrive and grow organizations that have a tremendous impact on their community. Some of them have become loan candidates, some have need of financial coaching and advice, and a few have already taken loans through the support of two of our founding collaboration partners, Vancity and Hamilton Community Foundation. These are well run organizations, with good programs, good sources of revenue, very if I may say entrepreneurial and creative who, like most in the non-profit and charitable sector, are experts in how to make their dollars go that extra mile. Some have had loans in the past and like most in the non-profit and charitable sector, have never defaulted on any financing. But these groups couldn’t obtain the financing they needed through traditional channels. There was a gap, in some cases rather small, in others larger but in all cases it was critical and it made all the difference. And they are not alone. They join:

– 360 organizations and individuals in our database who have sought us out or attended one of our workshops or educational sessions

– 33 organizations in our pipeline for loans or financial coaching

– over 40 have sought out and received short financial reviews

– Four foundations who have already committed 7 million, and another 15 organizations in review or due diligence looking for an intermediary to help them loan to their communities in a financially viable way,

We have already surpassed our first year goals and feel confident we will continue to do so to achieve our initial goal of 20 million dollars

Now some have said that 20 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the sector need, and no doubt it is. But what a drop… one that fills a gap that otherwise could continue to grow. That gap can mean great losses to the community, in support, in jobs, in lost potential growth, in productivity.

Financing, as those of us who have worked in the private sector know, is about a market, because in the lifetime of any business, there is a need for many types of financing. Having the right piece at the right time can make all the difference in the world. Whatever our eventual size, if it is 20 million or 100 million, we will work to support a strong financial foundation for the social sector that is critical to our communities and our country and we will happily work with our colleagues in every sector to make this happen. We know that it is essential that you and the organizations you represent continue your work granting, lending, financing, and supporting, the sector needs us all.

We thank you for your encouragement, we thank you for our support and we thank you for joining us to celebrate. Most of all, we thank you for standing behind the non-profit and charitable sector in good times and bad. Together, we will make a difference and we hope our work together with yours will make a critical impact in our communities for years to come.

Thank you.