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Community Report

Our mission is to make every community in America a place of opportunity

To make that vision possible, we must create pathways out of poverty. NeighborWorks America and its network of more than 245 grassroots nonprofits have been committed to this mission for 40 years. Among our key learnings is that everything is interconnected. No one strategy can be successful by itself. That's why we embrace and support a "comprehensive community development" framework, in which we focus on both places and people, supported by systems and programs that facilitate success.

“People are the building blocks of community; individuals and families must thrive for places to thrive.”


Promoting stable homes

Many barriers can prevent individuals and families from having a safe, stable place to call home. For those who seek to own their home, coming up with a down payment can be a major stumbling block. Many NeighborWorks members offer down-payment assistance. One of our major such programs, called LIFT and offered in partnership with the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation, celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2017. During its lifetime, the program has provided $370 million in down payment assistance to more than 15,500 households and provided homebuyer education to more than 52,500 people.

Once a home is purchased, foreclosure can be a major threat in times of economic hardship. As the housing crisis and resulting recession ramped up, Congress turned to NeighborWorks America to launch the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling program to expand the support available to families at risk. For 10 years, NeighborWorks distributed grant funds to selected organizations, which in turn provided counseling and legal services to struggling homeowners. As a result, 2.1 million households received foreclosure-mitigation counseling. Although the program wound down in 2017 as the number of foreclosures significantly declined, NeighborWorks America continues to offer training programs for housing counselors, and many of our member groups provide assistance to struggling homeowners.

For many lower-income Americans, renting a home or apartment is the most affordable option. Yet finding well-operated, conveniently located rental homes is a growing challenge for working Americans across the country. In fiscal year 2017, 165,479 rental homes were owned or managed by the NeighborWorks network. To help assure a stable living environment for these tenants, NeighborWorks America convenes its members to study and share learnings about how to reduce the necessity for evictions—sparing families the upheaval of forced relocation when they fall on hard times.


Building financial security

Financial security is a bedrock requirement for a sustainable, affordable home as well as almost every other achievement in life. A NeighborWorks poll found that a third of U.S. adults don't have any emergency savings. NeighborWorks America helps make it possible for its members to provide the counseling and education needed to build financial security.

In 2017, we partnered with EARN, a national nonprofit that works at the intersection of financial inclusion and technology, to pilot a program supported by JPMorgan Chase. The joint pilot encouraged participants to save for emergencies by combining one-on-one coaching with a 2-for-1 dollar match. Seventeen NeighborWorks network members enrolled 252 renter residents, who earned $36,000 in matched rewards by year's end. As one saver said, "We just hadn't developed the habit needed to save over the longer term … But now, I think saving will be a permanent change for us."


Nurturing health

There's strong evidence that integrating health interventions into housing improves health outcomes, reduces housing insecurity, and cuts costs to Medicaid and Medicare. That's why NeighborWorks America launched a collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps Program.

The centerpiece of the collaboration was a demonstration project designed to help our network members build health equity among residents. Grants worth $1.3 million from NeighborWorks and the foundation were funneled to 28 local nonprofits. A "Healthy Learning Community" was created to educate and spur dialogue through webinars, conference calls and a summit that brought them all together. Among the many improvements observed in the participating communities was a 63 percent net reduction in hospital use for 47 formerly homeless individuals enrolled in a partnership between Saint Joseph's Carpenter Society, a NeighborWorks network member; the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers; and other New Jersey organizations.

455,100 total housing and counseling services provided

22,700 new homeowners

“'No man is an island,' the saying goes. Places are the nexus of social connections that create vibrant communities. ”


Stepping up when disasters hit

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared 2017 the most expensive year on record for natural disasters in the United States, with the bulk of the damage, $265 billion, from hurricanes. In the summer of 2017, hurricanes Harvey and Irma blasted the southern U.S. coast. They were followed by Hurricane Maria, which rocked Puerto Rico with an even greater hit. The cost of the damage easily eclipsed the previous record, set during the summer of 2005, when Hurricane Katrina inflicted massive devastation on New Orleans. And the numbers don't fully reflect the mental and emotional pain.

NeighborWorks network members are grassroots organizations that step in to fill many unmet needs in times of emergency and stay involved long after first-responders have moved on to the next crisis. NeighborWorks America supports them by providing unrestricted grants, training, technical assistance and opportunities for peer exchange. When the 2017 triple hurricanes hit, we quickly organized four training courses in the Houston area on housing rehab post-disaster and how to counsel homeowners needing financial assistance and other guidance. Knowing that cash is often the most useful, we also awarded $800,000 in grants to 20 organizations, which used the money for projects ranging from rehabbing and repairing damaged buildings to lining up furniture donations. An example of the latter, demonstrating the power of our network, is the cooperation shown when one of our members in Las Vegas suggested that Caesars Entertainment donate furniture from hotel rooms undergoing renovation to our organizations in Houston. The furniture then was distributed to residents in need with the help of volunteers from our members in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.


Combating persistent rural poverty

There are 353 U.S. counties where at least 20 percent of residents have lived in poverty for the previous 30 years—with 85 percent of them rural. That's why NeighborWorks convened a forum in Memphis, with critical support provided by the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation and Tennessee Housing Development Agency, titled "Hope in the Delta: Turning the Tide on Persistent Rural Poverty." The forum built on a white paper published by NeighborWorks. In the paper, four leaders of organizations serving the hardest-hit rural areas in the country (Appalachia, the "colonias" in the southwestern-most United States, the Mississippi Delta and Native-American lands) shared their insights.

In the months following the forum, NeighborWorks' Rural Initiative has partnered with our homeownership and lending team to better support community development financial institutions, which play a vital role in delivering flexible, below-market capital to the nation's most economically challenged rural communities.


Building community through creativity

Creative expression through art is a force multiplier. As part of a comprehensive community development strategy, it can connect people across differences, amplify residents' voices, animate public and private spaces, revitalize neighborhoods, honor history and so much more. In 2017, we invested in research to document the best ways to harness that creative power, with support from The Kresge Foundation.

Guided by a multidisciplinary working group, we went into the field to survey the many ways creative arts can contribute to vibrant, equitable communities—what makes them effective, what lessons they offer others and how they can be replicated. Then we sought to identify how NeighborWorks' unique strengths can be leveraged to facilitate and encourage this spirit of innovation. The key to success is residents, community development organizations, funders, businesses, artists and other partners using creative expression to come together and catalyze positive change.

What's next? In 2018, we're continuing our conversations and developing a plan to share and act on what we've learned. It will be a year of creative exploration and inclusive community-building.

165,500 rental homes owned/managed

71,300 homes repaired

“Our work to allow people to thrive and nurture vibrant places depends on effective programs and efficient, equitable systems.”


Facilitating long-term success

Nonprofit organizations must increasingly live with uncertain funding sources as grants from public and private sources becoming scarcer. It's part of the NeighborWorks mission to help our members stay viable, so they can continue to serve their communities. That's why, as a leader in the nonprofit housing field, we set out to explore the concept of "sustainable business"—in which organizations earn an income through revenue-generating activities to advance their social missions. This is the focus of a special winter 2018 supplement of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, presented by NeighborWorks America, which highlighted case studies of success and lessons learned.

Our work in this arena began in 2012, when NeighborWorks America launched our Sustainable Homeownership Project (SHP) with the support of Capital One. Network members who participated in the pilot achieved significant successes. Over the course of three years, they increased their average number of successful homebuyers by 64 percent, lowered their cost-per-customer by 43 percent and grew the expenses covered by earned revenue by 101 percent.

The pilot focused on homeownership-related services; however, the successes and lessons learned can be applied to various lines of business.

"[For organizations that participated in SHP], the social-enterprise transformation has translated into growth and excitement about the future," writes Rachel Mosher-Williams, senior director of learning and impact at Community Wealth Partners, a NeighborWorks network member in the supplement.


Helping organizations stay strong

Nonprofits need checkups just like people do. NeighborWorks organizational assessment teams offer an objective, independent, unbiased review that helps nonprofits be more effective agents for change. The teams apply a methodical process, working closely with organizations to gather information about their governance, leadership, management, financial health, strategic planning, and policies and procedures.

Assessments, both initial and periodic, are required of all of our members, but we also offer them for other nonprofits for a fee. A strong nonprofit sector is in the interests of everyone we serve. In fiscal year 2017, NeighborWorks conducted overall, organizational assessments of 184 network members and financial evaluations of all approximately 245. In addition, we reviewed nine nonmember nonprofits.

"The [NeighborWorks] assessment process made our entire staff and board reflect. The questions helped us to really see where we were and to take the information from the many lessons learned and use that to work smarter and more intentionally going forward," says Sally Mackin, executive director of Alabama's Woodlawn Foundation.



Training professionals to be at the top of their game

The backbone of the community development field are the professionals in the trenches, working day in and day out to serve their customers, clients and residents. To stay effective in their work, however, they need training and education. That's where NeighborWorks America excels.

In fiscal year 2017, the NeighborWorks America training division awarded 17,020 certificates to participants from 2,395 organizations. We offered 106 place-based training courses in 39 cities across 24 states, with sponsors ranging from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to lending institutions, to state housing finance agencies, to local governments. A particular area of growth during recent years, however, has been our online offerings, allowing professionals to advance their skills at their own pace, anywhere, anytime, day or night. Sixty different courses were offered, which were taken by 3,705 individuals who then will serve their communities.

181,400 customers counseled and educated

17,000 training certificates awarded

“We have to take residents from 'I don’t think anything will change' to 'I saw something change.'” —Jim King, Fahe