NEXT Opportunity Award
The NEXT Opportunity Award is a multi-million dollar pool that includes low-cost, long-term debt and unrestricted grant funding.
This year's NEXT Opportunity Award recipients are three CDFIs with compelling strategies for expanding responsible, affordable consumer financial services into more underserved communities. Each Awardee demonstrates a high capacity, strong financial performance, and a high level of readiness to implement its plan.
The Awardees are:
- Sunrise Banks (Minneapolis, MN)
Sunrise Banks won $2.2 million to expand TrueConnect, a small-dollar, affordable employer-based loan. This convenient alternative to predatory loans integrates with employers’ payroll systems through proprietary software that Sunrise and its technology partner designed to scale. Sunrise successfully piloted True Connect with three employers and plans to expand the product nationally, starting with new employer partnerships in Ohio, California, and Minnesota.
- Freedom First Federal Credit Union (Roanoke, VA)
Freedom First Federal Credit Union (FFFCU) won $1.725 million to expand its new low-cost workforce development loan to tackle high poverty and unemployment rates in areas of rural Virginia. Piloted in partnership with a tractor-trailer training program, the loan offers affordable short-term financing for job certificate or licensing programs that give people a better chance at obtaining or advancing in livable wage jobs. The loan also exposes borrowers to FFFCU’s full range of consumer financial products and services, which can help individuals and their families get ahead. The credit union plans to expand this product into more fields, such as healthcare and welding, through partnerships with additional employers.
- Lower East Side People's Federal Credit Union (New York, NY)
Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union (LESPFCU), New York City's largest community development credit union, won $1.725 million to expand its full range of consumer financial products and services to three neighborhoods—Manhattan's East Harlem; Jackson Heights in Queens; and Staten Island's North Shore—where there is great need for affordable, responsible financial services, loans, and education. LESPFCU's expansion strategy of opening new branches, expanding its innovative mobile bus services, and developing new community partnerships can serve as a model for other community development credit unions. The CDFI's membership is primarily low-income immigrant communities.
Congratulations to the three CDFIs!
"The 2015 NEXT Awards represent an important milestone for the consumer financial services industry. By recognizing and investing in these game-changing CDFIs, OFN and its NEXT partners are not only helping to increase the availability of high-quality, responsible financial products and services for under—or unbanked American households, they're also solidifying the role CDFIs can play in combating predatory lenders who undermine the financial health and well-being of vulnerable individuals and communities across the U.S."
—Jennifer Tescher, President & CEO of the Center for Financial Services Innovation and NEXT Selection Committee member
Applications Open: January 27
Applications Close: March 11, 5:00 PM ET
Evaluation Period: March-July
Selection Committee Meeting with Finalists: July 17
Awardees Notified: July
Visibility Campaign: August- November
Wells Fargo NEXT Awards Celebration: November 10, 2015 at OFN's Annual Conference in Detroit, MI
Applicants for the NEXT Seed Capital Awards must meet certain eligibility requirements. Below is a summary of the application guidelines.
- CDFIs do not need to be a Member of OFN to apply for the NEXT Awards.
- CDFIs cannot apply for both the NEXT Seed Capital Award and the NEXT Opportunity Award in the same year as they require different stages of development for an applicant’s expansion strategy.
- The CDFIs that won a multi-million dollar NEXT Award in 2007–2014 may not apply for the Wells Fargo NEXT Awards through 2016.
- CDFIs that are awarded the NEXT Seed Capital Award in one year may apply in future years for the NEXT Opportunity Award.
2015 Eligibility Requirements
- Charitable Purpose
Applicant is a US tax-exempt organization with a current 501(c)(3) determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service. An organization without this tax status may be eligible if it is a U.S. Treasury CDFI Fund certified CDFI. Native CDFIs that are CDFI Fund certified must not be tribally controlled.
- Community Development Mission & Impact
Applicant has a primary mission of community development and strives to have a positive impact on low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged people and communities.
- Finance-based Strategy
Applicant is a private non-governmental financial intermediary that uses financing as an integral part of its community development strategy.
- Three Years of Financing Experience to Achieve a Community Development Mission
- Audited Financial Statements for 3 Years
An applicant must upload its audited financial statements for at least three years. If the applicant is a credit union, the credit union can substitute both a 5300 report and supervisory committee audit for an audited financial statement.
- Discipline and Performance
Applicant is currently in compliance with all financial covenants, reporting requirements, and performance obligations stipulated by public, private, and philanthropic providers of capital and grant support.
- Current Plan
Applicant is operating under a business plan or strategic plan that was written or updated within the last five years.
- Total Assets More Than $5 Million
- OFN’s Goals
Applicant affirms Opportunity Finance Network’s goal to ensure that low-income, low-wealth and other disadvantaged people and communities have access to affordable, responsible financial products and services.
2015 Selection Criteria
Successful candidates will be CDFIs with a history of significant accomplishments that present the most compelling applications explaining their plans to expand their consumer financial services strategies. Applicants must demonstrate a high degree of readiness to successfully accept and use a flexible grant and debt award from the NEXT Awards.
The NEXT Opportunity Award Selection Committee will evaluate eligible applicants according to the six criteria below.
- Rationale for Expansion
A clear description and analysis of the unmet market need that applicant plans to address with a consumer finance strategy, including why current sources of capital are not providing the unmet market need.
- Coverage Strategy
A compelling strategy to expand affordable and responsible consumer financial products and services. The expansion strategy must have financing as a primary component.
- Use of Funds
A compelling use of funds that demonstrates how the applicant will use the NEXT Opportunity Award to advance the applicant’s coverage strategy in ways that otherwise would not be possible. Applicants must specify award amount requested.
A credible and compelling analysis of projected impact from applicant’s coverage strategy over a three-year time horizon, as well as a solid track record of tracking impact over the applicant’s history.
- Readiness and Viability
A strong management team and other resources in place or planned to execute applicant’s coverage strategy within a six-month timeframe of receiving an award. A strong grasp of internal and external challenges and how this strategy will impact financial management, sustainability, and risk to the organization.
- Financial Strength and Performance
Strong financial performance and risk management, and a sound business model that positions the organization for sustained growth, innovation, and success.
In evaluating strategies against the criteria above, the NEXT Awards will prioritize strategies that incorporate one or more of the following: Innovation, Replicability, and Scalability. Please see application guidelines for more information.
The NEXT Opportunity Award Selection Committee include senior executives from Wells Fargo, Prudential, the MacArthur Foundation, and The Kresge Foundation, and as well as highly regarded CDFI leaders and experts in CDFIs, banking, philanthropy, financial markets, and consumer finance. This distinguished and diverse group of experts brings a wide range of expertise and perspectives to the process of selecting the Wells Fargo NEXT Award recipients. Specifically, they will assess the qualifications and merits of the applicants relative to the selection criteria, conduct in-person interviews with finalists, and select the award recipients.
2015 NEXT Opportunity Award Committee
Vice President, Strategy and Impact
Associate Director, Program Related Investments
Director, Innovative Capital
The Kresge Foundation
Program and Portfolio Officer
Mission Driven Investments
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Executive Vice President and Group Head
Corinne Florek, OP
Religious Communities Investment Fund
Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund
Senior Manager of Customer Impact
President & CEO
Latino Community Credit Union
President & CEO
Opportunity Finance Network
Vice President, Social Investments
Senior Vice President
Senior Vice President
President & CEO
Center for Financial Services Innovation
Can loans to microenterprise and small businesses count under the definition of consumer financial services, particularly if they are helping these businesses move away from high-cost, online payday lenders that lack transparency and can trap small businesses in a cycle of debt?
In general, loans to microenterprise and small businesses cannot count under the definition of consumer financial services. The only potential exceptions are if the loan product or strategy has the intent of helping consumers manage their individual or family expenses and/or liquidity, or if the product or strategy has broader applicability to consumers (that are not seeking small business loans) to help them manage their expenses and/or liquidity.
Can I apply for a NEXT Opportunity and NEXT Seed Capital Award?
CDFIs cannot apply for both the NEXT Seed Capital Award and the NEXT Opportunity Award in the same year as they require different stages of development for an applicant’s expansion strategy.
I know that an organization is not eligible to apply for both the NEXT Opportunity and NEXT Seed Capital awards. Can two affiliated but legally separate organizations apply? Both are CDFIs—a community development credit union and 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
Two affiliated organizations that are separate legal entities can apply for the NEXT Opportunity Award and the NEXT Seed Capital Award as long as each is a 501(c)(3) and/or CDFI Fund Certified.
Does my organization have to be a 501(c)(3) to apply?
An organization must be tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service code or certified by the CDFI Fund to be eligible to apply for a Wells Fargo NEXT Award.
My CDFI won a million dollar NEXT Award. Are we eligible to apply for the NEXT Opportunity or NEXT Seed Capital Award?
The CDFIs that won a multi-million dollar NEXT Awards in 2007–2014 may not apply for the NEXT Awards through 2016. CDFIs that won a smaller award are eligible to apply for the NEXT Opportunity Award.
Can CDFIs submit a co-application with another CDFI?
CDFIs cannot submit a co-application. One CDFI must apply and if applying for the NEXT Opportunity Award must have assets greater than $5 million. However, a CDFI can mention in its proposal how it plans to partner with another CDFI in its CDFI coverage strategy.
We are a financial capabilities nonprofit that works with community credit unions. Could we apply with a credit union partner for the NEXT Awards?
An organization needs to be a CDFI to apply. A CDFI cannot submit a co-application. However, a CDFI can mention in its proposal how it plans to partner with another CDFI or non-CDFI in its coverage strategy.
If an organization doesn’t have audited financials, can it still apply for the NEXT Awards?
For the NEXT Opportunity Award, three years of audits are required. If the applicant is a credit union, the credit union can submit both a 5300 report and a Supervisory Committee Audit to substitute for an audited financial statement
If my organization receives an award, will I be notified before the OFN Conference?
Yes, Awardees for the NEXT Opportunity Award and the Award for the NEXT Seed Capital Award will be notified before the OFN conference.
Is a tribal entity eligible for a Wells Fargo NEXT Award? My organization is an LLC organized under the Tribe.
A Native CDFI is eligible to apply if it is a separate organization from the Tribe and the Tribe does not have any form of control over the CDFI. The Native CDFI must satisfy all other Eligibility Requirements.
Does my organization have to be Aeris-rated to be eligible to apply?
Applicants do not have to be Aeris-rated to apply.
My organization is in the process of being Aeris-rated for the first time. Do I need to provide all of the documents as part of my application?
A CDFI’s final Aeris report must be available by the application deadline or the CDFI must provide all of the requested documents as part of its application.