Building a New, More Equitable Normal for Small Business and Nonprofits

  • Posted by Tyana Smith
  • On June 10, 2020
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The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the effects of centuries of racist policies. These deep roots of inequity continue to have real consequences for many communities today. 

For many communities—particularly Black, Indigenous, New American, and communities of color—the “normal” business practices before COVID-19 were exhausting, extractive, and exclusive.

There continues to be a disconnect between where capital is needed and where it is flowing. Communities that were intentionally and unintentionally excluded from financial systems before the COVID-19 era are still being left out of many relief efforts today. A host of long-running structural issues have contributed to this disconnect—notably, the steady decline of community banks since the 1980s

This loss of community-connected lenders coincides with the rise of large, national banks with few incentives to provide small businesses the financial and relational capital they need to grow. 

If we don’t act fast, this crisis will rob our communities of vibrancy, diversity, and strength for many generations to come. The current global recognition of the deep roots of racism reinforces how critical it is to use all the tools in one’s toolbox to advance racial justice. As such, finance can and should be used as a tool for change in advancing economic and health equity in our communities.

Together, we can turn the tide.

The San Diego County COVID-19 Small Business & Nonprofit Loan Program (SBNLP)* is one tool we’re putting to work quickly. The SBNLP is designed to help the small businesses and nonprofits at the heart of our community get back on track by extending government and philanthropic resources.

The COVID-19 crisis has made it clear that the foundations of business-as-usual were built to serve an ever-shrinking portion of society. Therefore, our response to this crisis should not be “what can we do to return to normal?” For the vast majority of us, normal was broken. 

We need to think and invest differently to bounce back stronger than ever. Supporting businesses and nonprofits that are community-focused by truly listening to their needs and responding accordingly is the best way to ensure that we develop a new, better normal that serves us all.

The SBNLP incorporates the experiences of many community-based borrowers who shared their frustration and dismay with historical discriminatory lending practices that have excluded many serving our communities.

How do we ensure the survival of organizations we love?

Our society is at a crossroads. Do we cling to old ways of thinking in an attempt to make things “normal?” Or do we use this crisis to reflect and build a stronger world? 

We’ve chosen the latter. Our approach to investing—focusing on equity and inclusion by deploying capital to benefit communities that the financial system has ignored—was built for moments like these.

If you’d like to support a San Diego County nonprofit or a small business in the unincorporated area, please encourage them to visit the SBNLP website for more information.

*The SBNLP was launched in collaboration with The San Diego Foundation, Mission Driven Finance, Accion Serving Southern California, the office of San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and the rest of the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors, the California Southern Small Business Development Corporation, and the San Diego & Imperial Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

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