Community Finance Fellowship
Changing the face of finance
Mission Driven Finance launched the Community Finance Fellowship to diversify talent in our industry—and get capital into overlooked and underestimated communities where it doesn’t usually flow. Five exceptional individuals joined us as full-time paid members of our team in San Diego for one year starting in March 2020 (yes, during shelter-in-place orders). Designed to give early professionals a strong start to careers using finance as a tool for change, this program provides fellows formal training and critical on-the-job experience with the full life cycle of making private impact investments.
We wake up every day looking for ways to build thriving communities by investing in small businesses, social enterprises and nonprofits—particularly by mobilizing capital into those communities that have been overlooked and underestimated by the traditional financial system. This isn’t about fintech and apps. This is about authentic connection and deep engagement with people and place in ways that acknowledge and counteract bias and exclusion.
We must change the face of finance. For us at Mission Driven Finance to find those bold visions and innovative enterprises that aren’t getting capital (but should), we need more people on our team with lived experiences in more communities. We expect each fellow to help us connect with communities and businesses we might not otherwise.
Our fellows will get paid, hands-on experience working in finance to directly create economic power for overlooked and underestimated communities. We want to break that vicious cycle of “you can’t get a job until you have experience and you can’t get experience until you have a job,” especially for our industry. Here, you can learn and grow in a supportive work environment, and move on to your next chapter with great skills to continue changing the face of finance and how capital moves in communities.
For more information about the fellowship and application process, see this post and the FAQ below.
See how our 2020 cohort of Community Finance Fellows are doing—read from our blog:
Frequently asked questions
Who is Mission Driven Finance?
We are an impact investment firm dedicated to building a financial system that ensures good businesses can access sufficient affordable capital. Built from the ground up with a single purpose—to make it easy to invest in your community—all our funds and structured products are designed to close financial gaps that close opportunity gaps. We work with local and national investors to help them create the impact they want and work with small businesses and communities to help them get the capital they need. Mission Driven Finance was launched in 2016 in San Diego, CA and is a Certified B Corporation.
Who should apply?
This fellowship might be right for you if:
- Committed to changing your community.
- Eager to learn how finance can power a vision for a thriving community.
- Looking for skills to advance your career path.
- The world to understand how amazing your community already is, and see its potential to be even greater.
- Your community to be stronger and healthier—and you know that access to capital could help make that happen.
- To learn about how investments can get structured and made.
- To explore new ways to invest to create impact.
- To change the field of finance to better reflect the life you’ve lived and lives you’ve seen in your community.
- A desire for action, not just more talk (though dialogue is also important).
- A growth mindset. You are inquisitive, wondering, and ready to explore how to increase deal flow in your community.
Mission Driven Finance is an equal opportunity employer. We encourage all qualified candidates, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, sex, disability, veteran status, or gender identity to apply for this position. We welcome smart people with non-linear/non-traditional experience and educational backgrounds to apply, as well as members of Indigenous communities, people of color, New Americans (immigrants, refugees, asylees), and those with lived experiences in overlooked and underestimated communities.
What would I do as a Community Finance Fellow?
Fellows will support the full life cycle of investing in communities through:
- Community engagement and research to find new potential investments
- Screening, underwriting, and presenting investment opportunities
- Monitoring, reporting, and communicating about the success of active investments
Fellows will have access to:
- Formal training in impact, management, and financial analysis
- “Learning-by-doing” as key members of our borrower services team
- Broad mentorship through one-on-one meetings with our staff
- Home base projects matching fellows’ areas of interest and aptitude with available opportunities
- Tangible collaborations with our team to put learnings and skills into practice
- Facilitated community of practice to reflect on this experience
What is a fellowship program?
Fellowships are typically short-term opportunities that could last from a few months to a few years, allowing fellows to gain specific professional skill sets and the sponsoring organization to expand leadership in its field. While there are other models where you study independently or get together with other fellows periodically, we’ve designed this program to be full-time cohort-based learning so you can dive deep into the nuances of community finance and learn from our team and from your peers.
What am I committing to as part of the fellowship?
- To be a full-time paid team member and employee of Mission Driven Finance for the duration of the fellowship.
- To be an open and active participant in the cohort with the other fellows.
- To making your community better.
How would I spend my time as a fellow?
We anticipate fellows spending roughly 25% of their time (over weighted to the beginning of the year) in formal learning, reflection, and writing; 50% in learning-by-doing the entire investment life cycle as part of our borrower services team; and 25% in deeper focus projects with 1-2 team members. As this is a pilot program—and you, brave soul, are applying for the inaugural cohort!—this breakdown of time will change. All fellows will have a balance of time with internal Mission Driven Finance efforts, supporting potential borrowers moving through our underwriting and investment process, and interacting with external community partners.
How will fellows be matched to projects?
We will attempt to match fellows to projects and opportunities that best match their skills and interests, while at the same time working to ensure a wide range of experience. You’ll be able to rank work type & impact area preferences in the application.
What are example projects I might work on? What might I be expected to produce?
All fellows will work on identifying and screening new borrower prospects; underwriting for impact, management, and finance; drafting credit memos to present for formal investment decisions; and surveying/monitoring active borrowers.
In addition to that core work, potential projects for deeper focus include:
- Looking for tools to improve our portfolio monitoring processes
- Improving connections with capacity-building resources for potential borrowers
- Deepening relationships around Islamic finance
- Sourcing & supporting new investments in early childhood education
- Producing our investor and community reports
Finally, fellows will occasionally write and (with support from our marketing & communications team) publish thought leadership blogs to inform the field about investing sensitively with underestimated communities and inclusive leadership development. This can also elevate fellows’ profiles to future employers.
What is a community of practice?
A community of practice is a group of people who share a profession or skill—literally a community of practitioners. While the entire fellowship is a community of practice, fellows will participate with our partners at Harder+Company Community Research in structured dialogues and activities to formalize peer learning and reflection. Additionally, through these structured touch points we hope to identify ways to enhance the fellowship practice while it’s happening and capture lessons learned for future cohorts and the field at-large.
What happens after the fellowship?
Mission Driven Finance is invested in each fellow’s development through this year and beyond. After our formal year together, fellows will have stronger resumes and the confidence to secure a finance sector job with a focus on building communities. This could be in the investment field, community development, banking, philanthropy, local government, finance department of a nonprofit, financing inclusive infrastructure—you name it!
While we do not provide direct job placement support, we will provide space for these activities during the “offboarding” period. After this year, fellows may receive some continued mentorship and coaching. We anticipate adding ongoing alumni connectivity with each other and with new fellows through communication, gatherings, and recruitment and selection of subsequent fellowship cohorts. We want our alumni to keep agitating for inclusive opportunity as they continue to grow in their new roles.
Will I be able to get a job with Mission Driven Finance?
There is no guarantee of any post-fellowship employment at Mission Driven Finance. However, if a relevant position does open up after the program, fellows are welcome to apply.
Will I be launching my own investment fund?
Fellows will primarily work on active Mission Driven Finance funds and share their insights where applicable to help us hone the investment theses for new funds. While you won’t launch or manage your own fund, you’ll get to collaborate on living, breathing portfolios and transactions, which we hope gives you the skills to formalize an investment fund in the future.
Will I get to decide which investments get made?
Final investment decisions are made by the Mission Driven Finance Investment Committee based on input from the borrower services team, including fellows. Fellows will conduct critical research and analysis to present borrower credit memos and make the case for particular investments and transaction structures.
Will I only be working on San Diego investments?
Not necessarily! Even though fellows will be based in San Diego, they might work with Mission Driven Finance partners around the country to facilitate and analyze deal flow.
What experience do I need to have?
We are looking for people with a combined five years of lived, learned, or labored experience that indicates your ability to succeed in the fellowship.
- Applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED, but there are no other academic prerequisites.
- At least two years of volunteer or paid work experience preferred, ideally focused on designing, dreaming, or delivering leadership to local community efforts. This experience can be in the public, private, nonprofit, academic, entrepreneurial, artistic, and/or technological sectors.
- Fellows must be at least 18 years old. There is no maximum age, but we expect fellows to be relatively early in their careers and seeking this stepping stone.
Do I need to have already worked in the financial industry?
No, but an understanding of some basic financial principles is recommended, such as comfort with spreadsheets and understanding budgets and projections. Most important: a high willingness to learn what you don’t know. Numbers are fun, y’all.
Do I need to be an entrepreneur or have already worked in a social enterprise?
No, we are more interested in fellows who see the value of finance as a tool for change within communities than those looking to start their own business.
Is there a financial cost to be a fellow?
Nope! In fact, we’ll be paying fellows living wages to work with us full-time for a year.
Is the fellowship need-based?
While we take an inclusive approach and encourage a wide variety of experiences, we do not award based on need. We are looking for people with promise and potential along with demonstrated commitment to their communities.
When you say living wages, what exactly do you mean?
All fellows will be working on a full-time non-exempt status and paid at an annual rate of $45,000/year, which roughly translates to $21.63/hour. Fellows will have access to company standard benefits including time off, expense reimbursement, and the option to join group health, dental, and vision insurance plans. Health insurance is partially covered via employer contribution, while dental and vision insurance is paid by the fellow.
I can’t work full-time in San Diego. Can I still apply?
Unfortunately, no. For this inaugural cohort, we are seeking five fellows committed to a year of full-time employment and learning in person in San Diego.
Is this opportunity designed for local / long time San Diegans?
Not necessarily. While we are looking for applicants with connections to underinvested communities, not all of these communities or borrowers we currently work with are located in the San Diego region. For example, we have borrowers located in Oakland and Baton Rouge. See our portfolio to learn more about our borrowers.
In addition to those who have local connections, we are also interested in folks who have demonstrated the ability to build bridges and form meaningful relationships. Perhaps you have experience in a specific industry or know how to network when you arrive in a new place to build those connections with communities here and beyond.
If I don't live in San Diego County (yet!), will you pay to move me out?
Alas, for this inaugural cohort, we will not be able to provide any relocation or housing assistance. You must be able to arrange your own housing during your fellowship. We can’t help pay for your relocation costs, but we encourage you to look within your networks for ideas if you are intent on moving to San Diego.
Is English proficiency a requirement?
Yes, we are an English-speaking office so you must be able to converse comfortably in a professional office environment in both verbal and written form. However, we are looking for fellows who are also proficient in other languages and cultures, and we do not require fellows to have English as a first language.
How often will I participate in community outreach and field work?
Fellows may be attending on average three community events per month. "Events" and "outreach" are broadly defined. We find that finance is not accessible for many, so we often have one-on-one or small group meetings with community champions, for which we may have fellows join. We hope you will help us identify more community champions with whom we can have these meetings.
In addition to community outreach, fellows will play a key role in screening and assessing potential impact investment opportunities specifically around our loan fund. You will have opportunities to engage with nonprofit and small business leaders to understand what their capital needs are.
Are there specific districts you are trying to impact with your investments?
While we see that certain geographic areas are underinvested in San Diego County and beyond, we are also interested in impact areas such as workforce development, quality job creation, early childhood education, affordable housing construction, addressing the social determinants of health, etc.
We are interested in thinking creatively to solve problems. One example is learning how to work with Islamic financing principles to support the work Somali Family Service is doing.
Do I need to have a car?
You do not need to have a car to be a fellow, but you need to be able to reliably get to our office in Old Town San Diego and to attend occasional meetings around the county.
Do I need to have my own computer?
We will provide laptops and other technology support for use during the fellowship to those who need them.
Do I need to be eligible to work in the U.S.?
All fellows will need to show documentation of the ability to work in the U.S. including completing an I-9. We are unable to offer work visas at this time.
What if I don’t meet all of the listed qualifications?
We care most that you are passionate about changing your community with better access to capital and that you are hungry to learn. If you meet some, but not all, of the qualifications, go ahead and apply. We just require that you can work full-time for one year in our San Diego, Old Town office, generally 9–5 Monday–Friday with some occasional evening or weekend events.
What is the timeline for the application and selection process?
We are currently preparing for the second cohort of the Community Finance Fellowship. To get the latest updates, be sure to sign up to receive updates here.
How many fellows will be selected?
2021 updates to come!
How should I submit application materials?
2021 updates to come!
Can I edit my application after submission?
2021 updates to come!
If I’m accepted, can I defer?
2021 updates to come!
Who can I contact with questions or troubleshooting?
Feel free to send us a quick note at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call us at 858-880-0252 during regular business hours.
Review the Mission Driven Finance website
Don’t wait until the last day to start your application
We hope that the application is straightforward and doesn’t take too long to fill out. Build in time to proofread, review, and deal with any unforeseen technical issues. Your thoughtful responses on the application will help us keep a tight selection timeline and find great fellows.
Show us why you are incredible
Yes, we want to know what you want to get out of this fellowship program to grow yourself and your community. But we also want to know that you will be a thoughtful contributing member of our team that can help us be better impact investors too. Demonstrate how your personal connection to the community you hope to serve can have ripple effects here.
Be straightforward—use plain language
While most of our team is fluent in jargon that is research-informed, synergistic, and intersectional, we actually don’t like to read it. The more simply and powerfully you can convey your hopes and dreams for you and your community, the better.
(hat tip to Echoing Green for these tips)
If you have other questions not addressed in the FAQ, send us a note.