CommunityWorks – A Wealth of Opportunity
2023 Report to the Community Impact Story
“A Wealth of Opportunity”
Since its founding in 2008, CommunityWorks has promoted a vision of financial equity and economic mobility for all. As a Community Development Financial Institution, it provides capital and coaching to increase affordable housing, home ownership and entrepreneurship in underserved communities.
Latorrie Geer, who became CEO in September 2022 after 10 years with the organization, says in 2023 it will employ new initiatives and partnerships to carry out its mission with a keen focus on people and communities of color.
“We provide equitable financing and one-on-one coaching to help people build wealth and move up the economic mobility ladder, creating opportunities for them to thrive,” she says.
The organization’s 2023-2025 strategic plan calls for a renewed commitment to understanding the needs of communities in order to deepen its impact. The organization has strengthened efforts to reach communities in need of capital to support business owners and affordable housing development. Since Geer took the helm, the team has reorganized and grown its lending and business support services team and added a department dedicated to business development.
“We were hearing people say, ‘We didn’t know you existed,” so we created a new department to be sure they are aware,” Geer says. “CommunityWorks wants to connect lending with needs in the community including affordable housing, childcare and other community services.”
Also in 2022, the nonprofit expanded its ability to serve by opening the CommunityWorks Learning Center at JudHub in Judson Mill. Many of its trainings and in-person events are held there, including a weekly offering from the Women’s Business Center called “What’s Your Why Wednesdays?” for entrepreneurs.
“Our Women’s Business Center serves 15 counties of the Upstate from ‘napkin’ ideas through startup and growth phases,” Geer says. “By attending training in a cohort setting, they are building a network they can continue to lean on once they leave the class.”
CommunityWorks continues to extend its impact in multiple ways through partnerships with other organizations. It has raised limits on the size of loans it can make by partnering with other financial entities. It works with nonprofits like Homes of Hope as well as for-profit builders to provide capital to support developments that include affordable housing. It offers a down payment assistance program for first-time home buyers, and partners with Upstate government agencies and employers like Prisma Health to administer down payment assistance programs for them.
In addition to growing its team, physical space, and partnerships, CommunityWorks is extending its advocacy efforts, enlisting its senior leadership and board to act as ambassadors.
“We keep up to date with what’s being done at the local, state, and federal level around affordable housing and small business systems that have kept low-income and black people from achieving economic mobility,” Geer says. “When legislators are considering adding funding for workforce housing or protections against predatory lending, we give them the data they need to make informed decisions.”
To date, CommunityWorks has helped more than 8,330 people with an estimated cumulative economic impact of $386 million. Seventy percent of its clients are low income, 71% are female and 74% are black.
“We want to be clear about who we’re serving, how we’re serving, and be ready to share that information,” Geer says. “We look forward to a future of greater stability, hope, and opportunity.”
The Community Foundation of Greenville and some of its fundholders support CommunityWorks through both philanthropic gifts and impact investment, which provides capital for it to lend and yields a return when the money is repaid.