The Kalamazoo Community Foundation Impact Investment Program offers low-interest financing for programs and projects that make a high impact in Kalamazoo County. In May 2021, the Impact Investment program paused to ensure loan policies supported racial equity and achieved the intended community impact.
Pausing the program felt like the right thing to do. Traditional lending practices exclude communities of color, so it made sense for us to reevaluate how we were operating this program.
- Kururama Masomere, Director of Impact Investment at KZCF since September 2021.
KZCF’s Impact Investments prioritize loans for projects that increase affordable rental housing and wealth among communities of color through home ownership and entrepreneurship. Traditional markers for the ability to repay loans – like collateral, securities, assets – often aren't there for loan seekers of color who have historically – and presently – faced extraordinary barriers to building wealth. This, among other factors like risk assessment and tensions between finance and nonprofit culture, made it difficult for the program to honor its racial equity priority.
“Inviting people of color to collaborate with us without having the policies and customs in place for them fully participate as true partners caused a lot of harm. We learned a lot in this process.”
Kururama committed 2021 to developing a structure and process that prioritized relationships and the integrity of the work. She sought direct feedback from loan recipients and participates in roundtables for emerging, Black and Brown developers to share their experiences and discuss how to improve partnership in the future.
Our Learning Journey
In 2021, KZCF hired its first Learning and Culture Officer to support learning, skill-building and application around equity, anti-racism and racial justice at the Foundation.
Stay updated on the Impact Investment Program at KZCF.