Earlier this year Growth Partners Arizona (GPAz) received over $650,000.00 in funding from the Opportunity Finance Network Finance Justice Fund to invest into Arizona communities. Growth Partners Arizona was able to harness this funding to expand it’s focus on rural communities, bolster lending to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) individuals, and support underserved small businesses. In this blog, we’ll explore how GPAz has leveraged funding to create positive change in the state and execute their growth strategy.
Becoming a Statewide CDFI Partner/Lender
The role GPAz plays in supporting local access to capital needs is crucial in addressing economic disparities and promoting financial justice in underserved communities. The first goal for GPAz was to expand lending efforts in rural communities. In order to achieve this the organization had to grow awareness and start building trust within these communities. Rural communities often face limited access to financial services, hindering economic growth and prosperity. GPAz recognized this challenge and used its funding to expand into rural communities. In August they sponsored the Rural Policy Forum which provided the organization an opportunity to connect with mission-aligned leaders and organizations. The team is now working with local partners to develop a long-term strategy to bring innovative lending programs and access to capital workshops to Arizona’s rural communities.
The second goal was to expand alternative lending programs in the state to combat systemic financial disparities. Growth Partners Arizona invested $100,000.00 into the BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund to expand the reach and impact of the program. Over the past two years the fund committee has approved over 50 no-interest microloans to BIPOC entrepreneurs in Southern Arizona totaling almost $400,000 in funding. “We understood the important role we must play in improving access to capital for BIPOC-Owned businesses. This is why investing in the BIPOC-Loan fund was important for us”, said Andre T. Whittington, CEO Growth Partners Arizona.
Investing in this fund was critical but also ensuring current loan products support the needs of small businesses and nonprofits was just as important. The team wanted to go beyond referrals from financial institutions. So they focused more on relationship building, becoming more agile through technology, and improving the borrower’s experience. This resulted in increased loan applications, stronger brand awareness, and intentional capital deployment. The shift in focus not only increased lending activity, it also improved experiences for both potential borrowers and community partners.
Growth Partners Arizona is on pace for a record year and have their sights set on becoming the go-to local CDFI lender for small businesses and nonprofits in Arizona. While this will require much work the team feels confident in their ability to continue to foster strong relationships and deliver amazing customer experiences.
CDFIs are powerful agents of change in the realm of finance justice. In Arizona, GPAz’s effective allocation of funding has catapulted their focus in rural communities, expanded opportunities for BIPOC individuals, and provided a lifeline to underserved small businesses. Their dedication to financial inclusivity exemplifies how targeted investments can lead to a brighter and more equitable future for all Arizonans. As we look ahead, it is imperative that more resources and attention are directed toward CDFIs like GPAz to amplify their positive impact and continue the journey toward finance justice.