Authored by John Fitterer
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2013 MACDC Annual Meeting & Conference

November 26th, 2013 by John Fitterer

On Friday, November 15, MACDC hosted its Annual Meeting and Conference at Clark University.  The day was a great success with well over 200 of our members, friends and supporters coming together to share ideas, network, reconnect and celebrate. 

To receive materials and PowerPoints from the day email John Fitterer at

2013 MACDC Photo Contest Winners

November 20th, 2013 by John Fitterer

This year, MACDC held a photo contest open to all of it members.  The goal was to try and capture a visual representation of the work we do as a field. This year, MACDC staff chose five categories in which our members could submit and enter their images.  We received numerous entries and the decision making process was not easy. These images are not only fanastic visual representations of our field's work, but are also wonderful photographs of the amazing people and neighborhoods that make up the communities in which we live and work.

Before and After

Description: Before and after pictures of any physical space improvement project.

Winner: HAPHousing
Built in 1901, this Victorian home fell into disrepair. HAPHousing was able to acquire it from the city, renovate it and sell as an affordable property.

Building Communities

Description: Pictures of community meetings/group activities, such as gardening, street clean ups, demonstrations, etc.

Winner: Nuestra CDC
The photo is of a dance-off at the May 18, 2013 Mural Fest that took place at Bartlett Yard, the future site of Nuestra Comunidad's Bartlett Place. Bartlett Events was designated by the Boston Art Commission as an official temporary public art destination for Summer 2013.

Bartlett Place is an innovative urban mixed-use development that will create a brand new neighborhood bridging Roxbury's bustling Dudley Square and the adjoining historic Fort Hill community. On a site that today is an urban wasteland, the new Bartlett Place will create a vibrant, sustainable mixed-income community.

Photo credit: Jeremy Alliger, of Alliger Arts, a partner in the Bartlett Events initiative

Community Leaders & Entrepreneurs

Description: Photos of leaders or entrepreneurs in the community

Winner: Somerville CC
This photo was taken by Chinh Bui during the graduation of this year's Leadership Development Institute (LDI) hosted by SCC in April 2013. The photo shows both SCC staff and graduates of the program. Now in its seventh year, LDI has evolved to include an established core curriculum and several supplementary workshops geared to develop strong leaders in our community. We are excited to bring together another group of leaders and give them the skills to make change in Somerville and beyond.

Individuals and Families

Description: Photos of individuals and families working with CDCs

Winner: Community Development Partnership
The man in this picture is a farmer who owns Nestwood Farms, a two acre farm in Truro, MA. He sells his produce at the local Farmers Market in Wellfleet. Businesses we've worked with through our Micro Loan and Technical Assistance Programs participate at this Farmer's Market.

Because of Your Agency

Description: Pictures of a project that defines a CDC's impact

Winner: The Neighborhood Developers
Highland Terrace is located in a former industrial district that has become the city's newest mixed-income neighborhood. Once the site of a brass manufacturer and a dairy, the 53,000 square foot parcel was an eyesore in the heart of this transitioning residential neighborhood. As part of a community planning process in partnership with the City of Chelsea and neighborhood residents, Highland Terrace and the abutting Box District Park were conceived as more compatible uses for the neighborhood. Altogether, the 260 new homes in the Box District have created 384 construction jobs, and the new residents of the neighborhood are supporting an estimated 128 local jobs.

CITC NOFA Released

November 11th, 2013 by John Fitterer

MACDC members,

Here it is!  The first ever NOFA for the Community Investment Tax Credit.

Please note that DHCD will be holding an informational session at our annual meeting in Worcester on Friday, November 15.  If you have not yet registered please do so on our website.

PS - If you are not yet a DHCD-certified CDC you still have time. DHCD has generously given you until December 10 to submit your certification application.

PPS - Don't forget to check out MACDC's CITC resources.

Housing Corporation of Arlington's Capitol Square Apartments Receives National Recognition

November 7th, 2013 by John Fitterer

Housing Corporation of Arlington's Capitol Square Apartments received an honorable mention as a Historic Tax Credit Development that Best Demonstrates Financial Innovation from Novogradac. The Historic Rehabilitation Awards were created to commemorate outstanding achievement in the rehabilitation of developments using the historic tax credit. The Awards highlight projects that exemplify financial innovation, major community impact, and success in overcoming challenges.

The acquisition and redevelopment of the buildings required a combination of funding sources and included a large number of public and private financing partners. Having undergone renovations costing $10.7 million, Capitol Square Apartments now provides housing to 32 low-income families and individuals.

Is Your Nonprofit A Jack of All Trades and Master of None?

October 17th, 2013 by John Fitterer

Have you ever tried explaining what your organization does only to sound like you’re listing items on a menu?  “We have this program and that service….”  “Oh, and did I mention we run a loan fund for small businesses and provide supportive housing for the elderly?”  If you’re not careful you can sound like the “Jack of All Trades, Master of None."  If you don’t have a cohesive narrative, anyone listening to you will just become confused and tune out.  The question you need to answer before you respond to any question about what your organization does is – “What is the constant central theme that defines why I’m here?”  Once you can answer that in a sentence, you’re on the road to clear engagement.

Start with the people that you’re directly working with and don’t go too far astray.  For example, you can say, “Our organization was founded by the area’s residents to help lead the community’s revitalization.  We focus on building homes, commercial space and helping the residents with job opportunities and career advancement.”  That sentence might not fit your organization exactly, but I’m not saying “We provide services ranging from x, y and z.”  I start and end my statement with what’s most important to us: How we work with and champion a community and its residents.

Oftentimes, I also like to engage people by talking expressly about why CDCs, for example, are so different from each other.  CDCs should be instruments of redevelopment for each community in which they’re working.  Communities have different needs from each other, or at the very least have different emphasis on similar needs.  While one community may be continuing to address the foreclosure crisis, another community may have large vacant factory spaces.  These two organizations could be working within adjoining communities and still have significant differences in focus.  Use this to stand out a bit and talk about how you’re responding to the needs of your community specifically.

Finally, a cohesive message is only as good as the messenger.  Make sure that ALL staff, ranging from property managers to accountants, know how to present the organization.  It is not good enough if only the executive director or communications director can effectively talk about the organization  

Nonprofits, in general, and CDCs, specifically, can be tough organizations to define and to explain.  A CDC grant writer will tell you that it can seem like well-crafted butchery fitting an organization’s purpose into a 2,000 character text box in an online application.  Take the time to really think about how you can concisely present an accurate description of your organization that doesn’t sound like a list of items on a menu.  Be engaging, direct and to the point.  At the beginning and end it should be about people and how your organization helps make change happen by being a central resource that local people use to transform their community.

To read more about this topic, check out Joe Kriesberg's post "Is there a common theme that unites the CDC sector?"

Stop saying you work at a CDC!

September 27th, 2013 by John Fitterer

CDCs are leaders in tearing down walls, literally and figuratively, and creating communities where ALL people can live with dignity while participating in and benefiting from our economy.  This is the ideal vision of what CDCs are striving to achieve.  But most people don’t have the faintest clue who we are or what the acronym CDC means.  The general public’s understanding of a CDC, if they have one at all, most likely is centered on affordable housing.  We, as a field, aren’t very good at telling the public what we do.  Why we do it. What we’re doing and what we’ve done.

Let’s start with acronyms. What is a CDC?  Well, of course, it’s the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.  So are we handling Ebola strains in super-hermitically sealed labs?  No. If you search Google with the term “CDC,” we’re not even a Wiki entry on the first page, or the second, or the third.  The CDC acronym for our field doesn’t work by itself.  This means that you have to KNOW what CDC means in order to begin to get the results in Google relevant to our field.  The problem is worse than this one acronym because we have multiple acronyms just in our names:  NDC, NHS and CED.

Next is the statement “affordable housing” and how it applies to our field.  Do CDCs get involved and lead significant affordable housing projects in their community?  Sure.  But we aren’t affordable housing groups exclusively.  There are many organizations that are producing and preserving affordable housing. The term by itself is inaccurate to describe a CDC. It also can paint an ugly picture in people’s minds about what we do.  Affordable Housing often is associated with big government and gray tenements.  We don’t want to define our field with negative mental associations.  Finally, no one should talk to someone outside of our field or real estate development in general of housing units.  It’s a term that’s cold and used for budgeting and planning purposes.  Leave it there.

Then how do we explain to people what it is that we do effectively, clearly, concisely?  Obviously, this is a hard and complicated question to answer, but we must change the way the general public relates to our work if we want to attract new people to it. I’m not going to answer the question completely in one post, but we can start with the power of a quick defining statement and how it can effectively be used to tell our story a bit more clearly.

MACDC is a big acronym that says what we want to say to elected officials and people involved in our work, but absolutely nothing to anyone else.  It’s why we have adopted a statement that captures what we do without any acronyms and without talking about affordable housing:  “MACDC is an association of mission-driven community development organizations dedicated to creating places of opportunity where ALL people can live with dignity while participating in and benefiting from our Commonwealth's economy.” I can start a conversation off with someone who doesn’t know the field and not get stuck with stereotyping, negative connotations and perplexing acronyms.  This easily leads me into giving examples just about everyone can immediately grasp:  supporting fisherman on the Cape, cleaning up Brownfield sites, creating thousands of new homes across the state and helping families of all backgrounds compete in our economy.  People like hearing about all of this.  AND people relate to what I’m saying immediately.

CDCs are leaders in tearing down walls, except when it comes to sharing with the general public what we do and why. Let’s free ourselves from these language puzzle boxes and get out there and let people know what we do and why.


I want to hear from you and what your CDC or nonprofit is doing to overcome these communications challenges.  We’re always looking for better ways to express what it is we’re up to as a field.  Post comments here and let’s get the conversation going!

What we can learn from Apple iPhone Commercials

August 19th, 2013 by John Fitterer

I like stories and I find that the best stories, the ones worth reading again, connect with me on a deeper level.  It’s not the hero’s adventure or the amazing experiences the protagonist has going up against their antagonist that catches and holds my attention as much as it is the emotional link that is created somehow between the story and me.  Because we live in a world of commercials and crass advertisements of every kind, it’s hard not to be bitter, cynical and downright irritated at our blatantly overexposed, oversold world.  It’s almost impossible for me to become connected to anything in any commercial.  But on occasion, something will catch my attention and linger with me just a little bit.  This is true with Apple’s recent iPhone commercials where they move away from the tech and just show how their product has changed our lives.  I think that CDC staff engaged in prospecting for new donors through the CITC program can learn from this marketing approach because we can easily get caught up talking about housing units and how we run one program or another, when what really matters, what really catches people’s attention are the people that we work with and help out through our efforts each and every day.

In order to understand a little bit more about what I’m talking about, check out the Apple commercials on their website.  The story here is about music and our lives in one commercial and photographs in another.  We are connecting to our world and sharing it with others in ways that simply didn’t exist six years ago when the iPhone first debuted.  Apple knows how profoundly they’ve changed our world and they’re able to capture that in video collages or thumbnails sketches that glimpse at how significant these changes are to our lives.  But our work in helping transform our communities isn’t any different.  When we build a home or a new store front, when we prevent a family from losing their home through foreclosure, when we work with a small business and help them finance a new location or expand online, we’re helping change the way people live, grow, share and support each other.  This is the message that Apple captures in their commercials, and we shouldn’t shy away from sharing our own stories with the world.

I can hear many of you pushing back that we can’t afford to capture our work this way.  Apple has tons of money to spend on marketing and we don’t.  This is true.  But the stories aren’t any different.  Find the time to collect the stories and the experiences behind your work and learn about the many ways you can share them with people.  Thanks to smartphones, we can capture events and without too much editing publish them to YouTube and then release a notice to the world through Twitter.  Will your end product look as polished as Apple’s?  No, but it doesn’t need to be.  Our stories, told compellingly, will engage very well without a multimillion dollar marketing budget.

We owe it to ourselves and our organizations to take the time to learn how to share with others what it is we do and why.  As we reach out to new donors, we’re going up against other worthy nonprofits with great missions.  We must learn how to connect with people not simply because we do lots of great stuff, but because at the end of the day, we are helping revitalize communities one individual and family at a time.

MACDC Members Receive Funding for Small Business Development

August 19th, 2013 by John Fitterer

Thirteen MACDC members will be receiving nearly $450,000 in new funding to support their Small Business Technical Assistance programs thanks to a new round of funding announced by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC).   The funding is part of a larger $700,000 state program administered by MGCC that provides grants to CDCs and other nonprofits working to start and grow small businesses in low- and moderate-income communities across the state.

"This funding will allow us to work with more small businesses that have potential to develop and hire more employees. This award is for Franklin County, Valley and Hilltown CDCs as we continue to work together to better serve businesses in western MA." - John Waite, Franklin County CDC

MACDC members that will receive funding under the program are:

  • Franklin County CDC
  • Valley CDC
  • Hilltown CDC
  • Quaboag Valley CDC
  • Twin Cities CDC
  • Greater Gardner CDC
  • RCAP
  • CTI
  • SMOC/Martin Luther King Center
  • CEDC – Southeastern Mass.
  • Community Development Partnership
  • Jamaica Plain NDC
  • LISC (on behalf of local CDCs in Boston)

MACDC has championed the Small Business Technical Assistance program since we were able to first get it established in 2006. Since 2011, the program has been managed by MGCC which also provides discounted capital to CDCs and CDFIs engaged in small business development lending. MGCC is a quasi-public agency established in 2010 to support small businesses throughout the state. In addition to supporting CDCs and CDFIs, MGCC is a direct lender and technical assistance provider to small firms and makes nearly $20 million in loans per year.

MACDC Wins Nonprofit Advocacy of the Year Award

June 1st, 2013 by John Fitterer

On Monday, June 10th, MACDC was awarded the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network's Nonprofit Advocacy of the Year Award for our work championing the Community Investment Tax Credit, which provides $66 million in new funding opportunity for CDCs across the Commonwealth. We're thrilled to be recognized for our work on this program as we strive to engage new champions and donors to help support the phenominal work of our members.

Tell Your Story with a Map

May 1st, 2013 by John Fitterer

As a fundraiser, I want to tell my story as clearly and concisely as possible. This can be quite challenging, particularly because CDCs are diverse organizations with a number of programs addressing numerous causes in their community. One tool that I've used for years is maps, and with new data sources, the power of maps keeps growing.

Maps help remove many of the storytelling barriers by showing complex data almost instantly.  Where are the homes you’ve built located?  What are the busy transportation corridors in your service area?  Where are there gaps in critical services, such as poor access to supermarkets, pharmacies and job hubs?  Plot this information out quickly to tell your story concisely and compellingly by sharing your successes and opportunities for future projects and programs.  For a place-based organization, like a CDC, it’s a powerful tool to know how to use.

I recently attended a presentation at the Boston Foundation by Professor Sarah Williams of MIT.  Her project, “Million Dollar Blocks”, is on display in New York’s MOMA.  In this project, she mapped out the addresses of New York residents who are incarcerated.  Those areas with phenomenally high rates of incarceration are called Million Dollar Blocks (CLICK HERE to see one of her maps). (Check out more work by Professor Williams and her colleagues) This is a map that tells a story and conveys an enormous amount of information in seconds.  For civil rights advocates and professionals in Community Economic Development this isn’t necessarily revolutionary information.  However, by presenting it in such a convincingly clear and concise manner, it tells a powerful story in seconds. If you’re a nonprofit looking to reduce incarceration rates, strengthen community engagement and organizing efforts, create opportunities for advancement and raise funds toward these causes, this could be a very compelling part of your presentation. 

Many of us can’t afford GIS mapping tools, but take the time to learn about some of the resources that are available online for free.  Google Fusion Tables are worth learning more about.  You can upload a spreadsheet with data points, property listings etc. that are geo-located in minutes.  The Commonwealth offers numerous data sets through their Oliver system for free.  Also, MAPC has the DataCommon project.  The Boston Foundation with MAPC runs the Indicators Project, which looks to be expanding some of its services for the entire state in the near future. Of course, has resources, such as the FactFinder.  Classes are offered frequently for Census resources, some of which are through the Mel King Institute, and MAPC’s DataCommon.

It only makes sense for CDCs as place-based organizations to use maps to advance how they share their projects, programs and, of course, performance to mission.  With free online resources to get you started, learning how to use these tools is well worth the time commitment.


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