Client Innovation: Social Enterprise in the Spotlight with NeighborWorks America

Here at CiTTA Partnership, we’re all about empowering our clients’ sustainable social impact. So there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the successful ways our clients continue to drive social innovation forward.

This winter, our past client NeighborWorks America (NWA) partnered with the Stanford Social Innovation Review to share all of the exciting details of their nationwide Sustainable Homeownership Project. CiTTA was honored to have helped during Phase 2 of the Project in an 18-month long engagement.

Meeting of the Minds – and Hearts

We’re always passionate about clients whose mission we fully support, and this was definitely the case with NWA. NWA is a congressionally-chartered, $250-million nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for people to live in affordable housing, improve their lives and strengthen their communities. They’ve assisted 4 million families with affordable housing in the past 40 years!

But like so many nonprofit organizations in today’s economic climate, the ability to reach and serve those in need is threatened by unreliable funding. As Marietta Rodriguez, the Senior Vice President of National Initiatives at NWA, writes in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, market demands are changing in a way that meant NWA had to change too. She states:

Our network members wanted to know how they could help their communities better prevent and withstand such crises. At NeighborWorks America, we understood that local nonprofits would need to improve and scale their affordable housing services — something they could not do without reengineering the way they were doing business.  

NWA already had many strengths: an extensive nationwide network of over 245 affiliate organizations committed to revitalizing communities from the ground up. But they needed sustainable income generation, 24/7 engagement with their clients, and improvement and scale in affordable housing services.

CiTTA was excited to meet them in their strengths to support these goals.

Building Strategic and Sustainable Business Models

NWA turned to the Social Enterprise Model in the first phase of its Sustainable Homeownership Project. This phase solidified a cultural shift: from seeing clients as people who would seek them out to seeing customers they could market home ownership services to, and as a result, serve more effectively.

CiTTA came on board for Phase Two of the Project to build, test and refine social enterprise models for their homeownership service lines.

This Phase focused on piloting these business models within 25 select network organizations, and these all ranged in size, capitalization and services provided. That’s why it’s so important that we began with primary research and grounded decision-making in data – taking care to identify the common elements that would best serve the majority of the organizations yet tailoring unique aspects to different markets whenever necessary.

Working closely with NWA and these 25 pilot organizations’ leadership throughout our 18-month long effort, we developed sustainable social enterprise business models for four service lines: Homebuyer Education, Homebuyer Counseling, Lending and Realty.  

In these business models, we detailed service/product descriptions and delivery approaches, customer segments and customer value propositions, and key success elements such as:

  • Market assessment
  • Partnerships
  • Competitive positioning
  • Revenue streams
  • Pricing models and sales and distribution channels, and
  • Internal capacity building and future scaling considerations.  

We also analyzed the investment requirements, financial projections, and regulatory compliance needs, as well as risk assessment and management.  

CiTTA provided a large set of tools and guidelines for the nonprofits to conduct future assessments. This included an extensive financial projection model tool that each nonprofit can further tailor for their own use in projecting sales volume, fixed and variable costs, income, break even points, and so on, to help them set goals and make future investment decisions.

We are proud that the groundwork we helped lay led to a successful launch of Phase 3 of this Project, in which an expanded set of affiliate network organizations participated, with the potential of a nationwide roll-out, resulting in large-scale impact in communities throughout the country.  

Taking Innovative Tools Forward

It is so exciting to hear is that NWA has been able to run with what’s come out of our partnership and expand on it, thereby really sustaining maximum social impact.

As the SSIR article highlighted, much success has already been observed with this effort at NWA, where, to date:

  • The NWOs that engaged in the the Project have a home-buyer growth rate 3 times higher than those not taking part.
  • Their earned revenue increased 101 percent.
  • And perhaps the most important of all, they are helping twice the number of people become homeowners!

CiTTA is extremely proud to have partnered with NWA and remains supportive of their work over the long term. We congratulate them on their 40th anniversary and look forward to hearing about more success in the years to come!