Sign of the Times: MacArthur and Wachovia Join Forces

Foundations and corporations have radically different cultures. Perhaps that’s why they rarely collaborate. When the Wachovia NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance funded by the Wachovia and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur came across my desk, I took notice.

The awards recognize excellence among financial institutions that responsibly serve low-income and low-wealth people and communities. Award amounts are based on each organization’s asset size and comprise a combination of grants and low-cost loans.

The 2009 finalists are the New York City-based Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH); the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises (FAHE) in Berea, Kentucky; the Concord-based New Hampshire Community Loan Fund (NHCLF); and ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia (SBEC) in Ilwaco, Washington. The three semi-finalists are Coastal Enterprises, in Wiscasset, Maine; Community First Fund in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and the New York City-based Nonprofit Finance Fund.

The collaboration between non-profit and for-profit funders, especially a financial institution and a blue-chip like MacArthur, is path breaking. It’s also a trend that Arianna Huffington sniffed out at this year’s Davos conference.

Regardless of Wachovia’s motivations, it’s a sign of progress when foundations and corporations find mutual purpose toward a greater good. It means more cash aimed at the problem. It also means more marketing muscle to make people aware the problem exists. And more innovation occurs when partners from different sectors cross pollinate. Very RenGen.