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2024 Conference Highlights

NYS CDFIs: Making It Possible

Monday, March 25th & Tuesday, March 26th

Albany Marriott Hotel

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CDFI Coalition leadership and Platinum Sponsors at the conference included (from left, rear): Catherine Domenech, Wells Fargo; Greg Maher, Leviticus Fund; Colleen Ryan, Consulting Executive Director, NYS CDFI Coalition; Aisha Benson, NFF; Giovana Bracchi, La Fuerza CDC; Nancy Carin, Business Outreach Center Network; Yanki Tshering, Accompany Capital; Ian Benjamin, Community Capital of NY; Luisa Perez, Wells Fargo; Michael Haynes, Center for NYC Neighborhoods. (From left, front) Melanie Stern, Spring Bank; Tyra Johnson Hux, LISC; Linda MacFarlane, Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region; and Jules Epstein-Hebert, Inclusiv.

Conference Summary

On March 25-26, CDFI leaders from across the state gathered for New York’s premier statewide community development event, and this year the panels and workshops focused on the urgent effort to develop a transition to a cleaner economy and more resilient future without leaving millions of people behind.

The conference kicked off with welcoming remarks from Linda MacFarlane, the Chair of the Coalition’s Board of Directors, and Colleen Ryan, the Coalition’s Consulting Executive Director.

The Plenary Session addressed changes to CDFI certification with Amy Szabo, Chief Client Services Officer for Friedman Associates. Last year, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s CDFI Fund released a revised CDFI Certification Application, and Amy urged attendees to look at the process not as re-certification, but as certification as if for the first time. She noted that the new requirements cleared up most ambiguity from the certification process, and that it was an opportunity to remind staff and board members about what it means – and what is required – to be a CDFI.

The luncheon panel was titled “Building Community Wealth Through Community Investment” and was moderated by Eric Dahl of M&T Bank. Panelists Linda MacFarlane of the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region, Ruth Kassel of the Capital Region Community Investment Trust (CIT), and Community Development attorney David Craft discussed the CIT’s “Owing to Owning” curriculum which helps neighborhood residents learn how to become investors for as little as $10 a month. The CIT empowers community members to purchase real estate in their own neighborhood and work together to determine the highest and best use of that property.

Madeline Marquez of Ponce Bank served as presenter and moderator for Session I – “Financial Mastery: Knowledge + Action = Power.”  With panelists Aisha Benson of NFF and Giovana Bracchi of La Fuerza CDC, Madeline led a discussion of how financial knowledge is good, but action is necessary to transform knowledge into tangible outcomes. Through making informed decisions or a plan for the future, they shared the tactics that empower their clients to make a difference not just in their own finances, but in the world around them.

Session II featured an “Innovation Showcase” and was moderated by Steve Garibell of TD Bank. Panelists Yanki Tshering of Accompany Capital, Melanie Stern of Spring Bank and Dan Apfel of Genesee Co-op FCU discussed the innovative products, practices, and partnerships that they developed to address challenges in their communities. Of special interest were lending programs that addressed mobility – whether for delivery eBikes in greater NYC, new and used autos upstate, or low-cost loans for wheelchairs, scooters and other assistive technology.

Based on follow-up survey results from the 2023 conference, the 2024 gathering built in more time for networking among industry leaders and stakeholders. An “All Hands Live” reception preceded the Keynote event and gave CDFI executives from across the state the chance to compare notes, express frustration, and collaborate on some of the biggest challenges of their careers.

The Keynote Panel, “What’s Possible: Community Lenders and Climate Resilience,” explored how Community Development Financial Institutions are uniquely positioned to support and sustain efforts to address urgent climate needs in their communities.

The panel featured chapter authors from an upcoming publication titled What’s Possible: Investing Now for Prosperous, Sustainable Neighborhoods and was moderated by environmental justice pioneer and advocate Aaron Mair.

Panelists referred to their chapters outlining the theory, practice, and role of CDFIs in addressing the challenges facing communities on the front lines of climate change. Adam Kent of the Natural Resources Defense Council discussed “What Community Development Can Teach Us About Creating Climate-Resilient Neighborhoods,” Jamal Lewis of Rewiring America discussed “Mitigating the Financial Impact of Energy on Family Budgets on the Path to a Clean Energy Future,” and Krista Egger of Enterprise Community Partners, discussed “Beyond Demonstration Projects: Change at Scale.”

Published by Enterprise Community Partners, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the book will be available in May 2024.

The Keynote Panel was preceded by welcoming remarks from Tyra Johnson Hux of LISC, Julian Macrone of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and Catherine Domenech of Wells Fargo, as the Wells Fargo Foundation served as Platinum Sponsor of the conference. A lively question and answer period was followed by a cocktail reception.

Day 2 of the conference opened with greetings from a special guest at the breakfast, when State Senator Andrew Gounardes of Brooklyn, Chair of the Committee on Budget and Revenue, took time out from NYS Budget negotiations to thank CDFIs for their work on making communities more resilient.

Session III leveraged the insight shared by the Keynote Panel the night before with “Preparing Your Community for Green Investment.” Hannah Kramer of Inclusiv served as presenter and moderator, and with panelists David Davenport of NY Green Bank, Monica Edwards of TruFund, and Emily Robichaux of OFN, noted that ensuring a more equitable future means ensuring that all communities are investing in sustainable systems, technologies, and solutions. They described Inclusiv’s Center for Resiliency and Clean Energy; TruFund’s efforts to advance energy-efficient projects on a national scale; OFN’s use of its Finance Justice Fund to bring underinvested communities into the climate economy; and the New York Green Bank’s Community Decarbonization Fund.  

OFN kindly offered a free seat in an upcoming Climate Lending 101 webinar for a raffle to conference attendees, which was won by Kerry Quaglia of Home HeadQuarters in Syracuse.


Session IV featured Mark DiGiovanni of ATX Advisory Services, who provided a roadmap of the technology landscape for CDFIs. ATX helps mission-based lenders effectively use their technology platforms and data and has deep expertise with many sectors of the industry including small business lending, affordable housing, and social change. The presentation provided practical tips on how CDFIs can improve efficiency, accountability, and scalability.

Participants left the conference with a box lunch for their trip home, and a better understanding of the role CDFIs must play in supporting actions to reduce carbon emissions, especially in our most vulnerable and often overlooked communities.


Thank you to our sponsors whose support helped make this conference a success!




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