What do we do now? Five things CDCs can do to get ready for CDPA Implementation

In the nine days since Governor Patrick signed the Community Development Partnership Act into law, a number of my members have asked me "what should I do now?" It's a good question. With $67.5 million available for community development over the next seven years, every community developer in the state should be asking that question.  While the regulations and guidelines have not yet been written and the tax credits don't even take effect until January 2014, there is still much to do to get ready. Here are five things that I would suggest:

1. Re-read the statute: While I'm sure everyone read the bill before it passed, I would recommend that community developers re-read the actual CDPA statute now to make sure they really understand what it said. Those words are now law and they will matter as the program gets implemented.

2. Get certified by the state as a CDC: To participate in the CDPA program, a local non-profit organization must first be certified as a CDC under MGL Chapter 40H. So far, 17 organizations have been certified under this program which was first launched at the beginning of 2012. Ten more organizations have applications that are pending. However, we know that there are at least 30 more organizations that will likely qualify and potentially many more, including groups that have not traditionally considered themselves to be a CDC. This requirement is not simply designed to create a bureaucratic hurdle like those new voter suppression laws being adopted around the country. This requirement, which is modeled after the highly successful CDFI model, was created to achieve two goals. First, it ensure s that the recipients of CDPA resources are organizations with meaningful community representation on their board of directors - a core value of the CDPA program model. Second, it ensures that these resources flow to organizations for whom community development is a core purpose and one to which they are committed for the long term. CDPA funds organizations, not programs, so it is essential to fund community development organizations.

3. Start planning to plan: At the core of the CDPA is the requirement that applicants submit a multi-year business plan to DHCD. The statutes spells out in some detail the elements that must be in those plans, including the requirement that local residents and businesses play a signficant role in its development. Many CDCs already operate with well thought out business and/or strategic plans so this requirement may not be difficult for them. Others will need to develop new plans or revise existing ones to meet the requirements of the program. This requirement was included because CDPA is structured to fund organizations, not just individual programs, so it requires an organizational plan. This element was modeled after what we have learned from the Boston Foundation, Neighborworks America and other funders who provide "enterprise level" funding or venture philanthropy.

4. Reach out to private donors: The newly created Community Investment Tax Credits are not worth anything unless you can find donors to use them. For many CDCs, this will require a new approach to fundraising in which they move beyond government and foundation sources to find corporate, small business and individual donors. MACDC, the United Way and others will be helping to promote the program to donors, but every CDC should be thinking about how it will develop its own fundraising campaign.

5. Get ready to lift your game to a new level: The CDPA is designed to be highly competitive and to drive the field to new levels of impact. It is not meant to simply sustain business as usual. The Legislature, the Governor, the private donors, the United Way and our community residents are all going to expect these new resources to result in new and expanded results. What's exciting about CDPA is that these stakeholders are not simply lecturing CDCs to "do more with less," but rather they are saying and we are saying to ourselves that we should use this new, flexible, multi-year resource to reach toward our aspirations.

MACDC will be working closely with DHCD, DOR and other stakeholders to develop the regulations, guidelines and RFPs needed to implement this exciting new program. We would expect DHCD to issue the RFP for the one-year grant program in the fall of 2012, with the tax credit program to be rolled out during the second half of 2013.

My next blog post will offer ideas for what other stakeholders should be doing now that CDPA has been signed into law.

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