Opportunity Fellows Program

  • An innovative leadership program for the CDFI Industry



The Opportunity Fellows Program, an innovative leadership program for the CDFI Industry, will train a diverse cohort of CDFI leaders to lead transformational change and address inequities in access to capital in underserved communities.

Through the program, participants will develop the skills and perspective to:

  • Create transformational change and innovation toward the vision of opportunity for all
  • Develop skills to facilitate greater equity and inclusion for racially and ethnically diverse communities
  • Lead innovation and change in their organizations, their communities, and the CDFI industry

The Opportunity Fellows Program is offered by Opportunity Finance Network with generous support from BBVA Compass. The program will be offered for one cohort of Fellows in 2017, and for another cohort in 2018.

For more information about the Opportunity Fellow Program, please view the recording of Informational Webinar we held on December 5, 2016. You may also contact us at Leadership@ofn.org if you have any further questions.

Program Experience

The Opportunity Fellows Program offers a distinctive learning experience for a cohort of approximately 24-27 leaders who are at different levels in their organizations. Over the course of six months, the cohort will gather for two in-person training sessions (March 7-9, 2017 and September 19-21, 2017) and one gathering at the OFN conference in November 2017.

The in-person training sessions will involve a rich curriculum with expertly facilitated interactive training modules. The training will combine sessions designed for leaders at the same level with sessions that involve all three levels in the cohort.

Over the course of the program, participants will be challenged to explore innovations and develop plans to lead transformational change at their CDFI and in their communities.

The curriculum is being developed jointly by OFN, our academic partner, and experts in equity, inclusion and training. The training experiences will be augmented by panels and “fireside chats” with leaders of civil rights and economic development work locally, nationally, and internationally.

Each in-person training session will include pre-work and assessment activities. The in-person training sessions will be supplemented by management skill building through access to world-class online learning resources.

High-level Curriculum Topics

Session One: (March 7-9, 2017): Why transformational change and innovation are essential

  • Transformational change and innovation
  • Role of values and mission in leadership
  • Understanding equity from a systems and policies perspective

Session Two: (September 19-21, 2017):Developing the skills to translate transformation into reality

  • Understanding leadership styles and communication approaches
  • Role of emotional intelligence and influence in leading successful change
  • Cultivating cultural competency internally and with our stakeholders

OFN Conference Gathering (November 14-17, 2017): Leaders will gather to reconnect and celebrate completion of the program

Program Structure


  • The Opportunity Fellows Program works with three levels of CDFI leaders—Executive, Mid-Career, and Emerging Leaders.
  • Each year, a cohort of 24-27 leaders, who collectively represent the diversity of the communities served by CDFIs, will be selected.
  • Individuals from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply.


  • The 2017 program consists of two three-day sessions and a gathering at the OFN Conference in November 14-17, 2017.
  • Dates for the three-day sessions are: March 7-9, 2017 and September 19-21, 2017.


  • In-person training sessions will occur in Birmingham, Alabama.
  • The OFN Conference will be in Washington, DC.


  • Travel stipends are available to offset participant travel expenses. Hotel and meal costs will be covered through the program.


  • The program curriculum is co-designed by Opportunity Finance Network and our academic partner, the Collat School of Business at University of Alabama at Birmingham.
  • Other partners include the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Race Matters Institute, BBVA Microfinance Foundation, and other national leaders in community development.

Who Can Apply—Eligibility Criteria

Applicants must work for certified CDFIs in the United States or mission-driven lenders that are OFN members.

Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to leading transformational change and facilitating greater equity, inclusion, and diversity at their organization, in their communities, and in the CDFI industry. In addition, a recommendation letter from a representative of the leadership must be included.

The Opportunity Fellows Program works with three levels of CDFI leaders:

Executive Leaders

  • CEOs or Executive Directors.

Mid-Career Leaders

  • CDFI department heads, team leaders, program managers, and line of business leaders.
  • Accountability for day-to-day operations, as well as, strategic goals.
  • Minimum of three years of supervisory experience and currently supervising others.
  • Mid-career leaders will have at least ten years of professional experience, of which at least three years are in the opportunity finance industry.

Emerging Leaders

  • Early-career CDFI professionals recognized by their organization’s leadership as highly capable and having high-potential to contribute meaningfully to the mission of the organization.
  • Emerging leaders will have at least three years of professional experience, of which at least one year is in the opportunity finance industry.

We seek to select a cohort which represents the diversity of the communities served by CDFIs and encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds to apply. Preference will be given to applicants who have not participated in a CDFI industry leadership program in the past five years.

Selection Criteria

Participants in the Opportunity Fellows Program will be evaluated based upon the application they submit and the letter of support provided by a leader in their organization. Candidates will be evaluated by a selection committee with diverse identities and perspectives including deep knowledge of the CDFI industry, expertise evaluating leadership potential, and experience with leadership development.

Successful applicants will:

  • Demonstrate a desire to lead transformational change and innovation in the opportunity finance industry.
  • Articulate clear and ambitious goals for what they want to accomplish in their careers in the opportunity finance industry.
  • Value the opportunity to work with peers and those at other levels in a collaborative way.
  • Be recognized by their supervisor and peers as an individual with leadership potential or—for current leaders—the potential to grow their leadership capacity.
  • Commit to learn and apply skills to facilitate greater equity and inclusion for racially and ethnically diverse communities.
  • Have the organizational commitment to support exploring new approaches to leadership, transformational change, and innovation.
  • Represent a range of backgrounds, experiences, and institutions.


BBVA Compass

  • The leadership team of BBVA Compass, the Corporate Responsibility and Reputation team, and the bank’s Community Advisory Board have provided rich feedback on the design of the program and may be involved in some of the training experiences.
  • The BBVA Microfinance Foundation will also be involved in the program.

Collat School of Business at University of Alabama at Birmingham

  • With deep experience delivering leadership programs that emphasize innovation and transformation achieved through collaboration and teamwork that blend organization, stakeholder, and functional perspectives, UAB has worked closely with OFN to tailor a program for the CDFI industry.
  • The Dean of the Collat School, Dr. Eric Jack, Senior Associate Dean Karen Kennedy, and Professor Grant Savage have immersed themselves in the industry and will be involved with the delivery of the program along with other specially selected faculty. http://www.uab.edu/business/home/school-profile/deans-office

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

  • With a mission “to enlighten each generation by exploring our common past and working together to build a better future,” the BCRI will provide a valuable backdrop for exploring the structural and systemic foundations of inequality.

Race Matters Institute

  • Race Matters Institute helps organizations develop policies, programs, practices, and protocols that achieve more equitable outcomes for all children, families, and communities.
  • RMI has worked extensively with OFN and others in the CDFI industry to begin to adopt systemic changes aligned with our goals of equity and justice.


Opportunity Fellows Program Partners


Apply and Key Dates

An overview of the program guidelines and application process can be downloaded here.

The process to apply is two-fold:

  • First, the applicant completes an application through the online application by December 23, 2016. The application also requires a current résumé.
  • Second, a leader from the applicant’s organization submits a letter of support to Leadership@ofn.org by December 23, 2016.

Key Dates are:

  • Applications available: November 29, 2016
  • Applications and Letters of Recommendation Due: December 23, 2016
  • Decisions made: Late-January 2017
  • Acceptance of offer deadline: Early February 2017
  • First training session: March 7-9, 2017
  • OFN Conference: September 26-28, 2017
  • Second training session: October 24-26, 2017

All applicants must commit to attending the full training sessions and OFN Conference.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is transformational change defined for the program?

  • Transformational change involves structural or systematic change. This type of change can be complex, involve making big investments, and charting new territory where the outcome is uncertain.

How are equity, inclusion, and diversity defined for this program?

  • Diversity is appreciating and valuing different identities and perspectives. Inclusion is engaging all voices in all levels of action. Equity is the mission-based and results-focused impact on policies and practices to be inclusive for diverse audiences.

What are the key dates?

If I have participated in another Leadership program for CDFI leaders, can I apply for this program?

  • Preference will be given to those who have not participated in a leadership program designed for CDFI leaders in the past five years. It is fine to have participated in community based leadership programs.

If my organization is in the process of applying for certification, can I apply for the program?

  • We would encourage you to apply for the program in 2018 after certification has been achieved.

What if I have a conflict with one of the training dates or the OFN Conference?

  • All applicants must commit to attending the full training sessions and OFN Conference. If there is a conflict, the applicant should not apply in 2017 and wait for the 2018 cohort application to open in late 2018.

How can I find more information about the Opportunities Fellows Program?

  • For more information about the Opportunity Fellows Program, please view the recording of the Informational Webinar we held on December 5, 2016, which can be found here.

2017 Class and Selection Committee

Nationally recognized experts in Community Development chose the 25 Fellows from close to 100 highly-qualified applicants. They are:

Executive Leaders:

  • Thelma Adams Johnson - ACT! Albany Community Together Inc.
  • Rex Fowler - Hartford Community Loan Fund
  • Greg Maher - Leviticus 25:23 Alternative Fund, Inc.
  • Mary Ellen Judah - North Alabama Revolving Loan Fund
  • Mary Jo Cook - Pacific Community Ventures
  • Harold Pettigrew - Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif)
  • Wendy Baumann - Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corporation

Mid-Career Leaders:

  • Raquel Valdez - BCL of Texas
  • Melinda Clemons - Capital Impact Partners
  • Norma Hernandez - Craft3
  • Justin Chen - Enterprise Community Loan Fund
  • Oswaldo Acosta - Latino Economic Development Center
  • Lisa Riley - LiftFund
  • Nadine Atieh - Low Income Investment Fund
  • Tastonga Davis - Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon
  • Alex Dang - Opportunity Fund
  • Roman Ruiz - Self-Help Federal Credit Union

Emerging Leaders:

  • Jennifer Angarita - Boston Community Capital
  • Heather Rademacher Taylor - First Nations Oweesta Corporation
  • Matthew Singh - Low Income Investment Fund
  • Adam Kopp - Mercy Loan Fund
  • Grant Bennett - PeopleFund
  • Maggie Parker - The Real Estate Council Community Fund
  • Brittany Bennett - Self-Help
  • Roberto Antonio Hernandez - Working Solutions

Selection committee members included:

  • Donna Gambrell, former director of the CDFI Fund
  • Carl Crosby, EVP of Talent and Culture for BBVA Compass
  • Matt Hull, executive director of the Texas Association of CDCs
  • Tom Espinoza, president of the Raza Development Fund
  • Donna Fabiani, EVP of Opportunity Finance Network
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