New Year with Our Newest Member 

Lou Tisler, National NeighborWorks AssociationLou Tisler, Executive Director of the National NeighborWorks Association, talks with NACEDA’s Patrick Landes about his inspirations from 2019 and his aspirations for 2020.

The National NeighborWorks Association (NNA) is NACEDA’s newest member. NNA unites NeighborWorks affiliates to advocate for housing and economic opportunities for individuals, families, communities. Partnering with national and state housing coalitions on programmatic or policy matters, NNA engages in policy discussions on issues and regulations impacting its member organizations. NNA also advises NeighborWorks on program design and resource allocation strategies to meet the needs of network organizations.

What is one of your New Year’s traditions?
There are only two times a year that our family makes it a point not to do any traveling — Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Christmas Day, because I want our daughters to wake up and experience the magic of Christmas in their own home. New Year’s Day because it is a day of retrospection, restoration and revival. It gives us all a time to reevaluate the previous year and set goals for the new year. It’s also a good time to watch as much football as possible and call it recovery.

What inspired you in 2019?
My daughters, who are known collectively as "A Squared" because both of their names begin with the letter "A." At ages 11 and 13, they are so innocent, unjaded, and caring. And, on top of that, though they miss me when I'm in DC and travelling to other places for my work responsibilities, they understand and are supportive of my work. When somebody asks them what I do, they just say, "My dad helps people." They know that the people that we're helping may not be as fortunate as they are. That really makes me continue to work harder and it really permeates into my relationships with colleagues, our members, and friends.

I am also inspired by the incredible work of NNA’s members. They take every $1 dollar in Federal appropriations that NeighborWorks America receives and leverage that into an average of $60. So that means that last year they channeled almost $9 billion into affordable housing and community development in 4,400 communities across the country. That ability to leverage resources for low-income communities is the reason that NeighborWorks is considered the Network of Excellence. It's incredible to work with people who have so much impact.

Do you have a favorite memory for 2019?
I would say that my favorite work-related memory was achieving the membership goal identified in our 2020 strategic plan goal in 2019. We added to the value of our membership and achieved a membership level that had never previously been seen at our organization. We have various cost savings benefits for our members. In 2019 we developed for the first time, a revenue-generating lending product through a partnership with a national lender. We continue to look to develop cost-savings and revenue-generating member benefits. There's nothing better than to hear from a new leader or CEO who is just coming into their position at a NeighborWorks organization who says, "I don't know why we weren't a member previously. Count us in for the new year." Membership doesn't only mean writing that check, but it also means being involved. Everybody pulls together and really becomes involved. It really helps the network as opposed to each organization on their own.

A personal memory that I really enjoyed is my trip to Washington, DC with my daughters. I actually live in Ohio. For the past two years, we've taken a trip to DC and there's always something new to see. We had a great time in the Eastern Market neighborhood, exploring the various food and experiences there.

Lou Tisler, National NeighborWorks Association Hill DayWhat are you excited about in 2020?
I'm always excited about the new year. It's really a chance to start out fresh, purging and unsubscribing to begin the year with less noise. On top of that, at the end of the first quarter of 2020, we're going to host our 24th annual Hill Day. We'll take over 180 network leaders, representing just about every state in the nation and Puerto Rico, to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. It’s our version of the Super Bowl. Our Hill Day sets the stage for the rest of the year.

What is your New Year's wish for National NeighborWorks Association?
I wish for our membership to continue to grow and continue to build on the work of those who came before us. I wish to continue to have an engaged and hardworking Board of Directors who see that creating an even more impactful network of excellence will positively affect the communities and neighborhoods where we work. And finally, I wish to continue to build on NNA's value proposition. The network has increasingly important benefits. If we can push that needle just a little bit and 90% or 95% of those who could be members are in the boat, then it will be an incredible year.

What is your New Year's wish for NACEDA?
My wish is that the NACEDA membership will take Frank's challenge to heart and mobilize their networks to comment on the alarming changes proposed to CRA rules. The Community Reinvestment Act is one of the foundational supports of affordable housing and community development. It allows access to capital investments, access to banking products and services, access to physical banking spaces, and to build a trusting relationship with banking institutions. What has been proposed tears away at that fabric from all those access points. It is of utmost importance that every member of NACEDA, every board member of every member, and every individual organization and their board of every member of NACEDA, take the time to write a letter to the OCC and FDIC following the points that Frank and NACEDA are putting together. The more letters are received, the more NACEDA will elevate itself at all the national, regional, and local levels. My wish is that everybody sees the importance of this engagement.

What is your New Year's wish for the country?
I have been trying to ponder this for some time. I just keep coming back to the idea that a bridge over troubled water should be constructed to span the divisiveness in our country and in our communities and bring us closer together. There are good, caring people on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of many issues. It's our job to find them and play matchmaker with the issues that they care about to benefit those we serve. I can't break out into the Simon & Garfunkel tune, but we must stop being obsessed with winning some sort of philosophical fight and pull together to pull people up. We must find the people who want to do that and shine a light on them.

Is there anything else that you are particularly looking forward to in the future?
I'm excited that there is a movement towards new leadership in many organizations. I am seeing a lot of people retiring and that's opening up new opportunities. The invigoration and un-jadedness of the new leaders is very beneficial. Whether that's health and human services, social services, or community development organizations, it's going to be a change in our industry and I'm excited that it's going to be a change for good.

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