October 4, 2010; Source: MarketWatch | The NPQ Newswire doesn’t often report on press releases, but this release warrants attention even if the mainstream press doesn’t pick it up. The Bank of America has just recruited Ken Wade to be a senior community affairs executive in the nation’s largest commercial bank.

This is a very significant move. Wade was CEO of NeighborWorks America, the national Congressionally chartered nonprofit intermediary that supports a network of some 3,000 nonprofit community development organizations working on affordable housing and foreclosure mitigation. The central role of NeighborWorks in this nation’s response to the subprime mortgage foreclosure crisis was carried out under Wade’s leadership.

At the tail end of the Bush Administration when the subprime crisis was swamping the nation’s housing and financial markets, Congress created an emergency program of foreclosure assistance that it decided to run directly through NeighborWorks, bypassing the tottering HUD bureaucracy under Bush appointee Alphonso Jackson. Given an insanely short timeframe, NeighborWorks designed a system for distributing $180 million in aid to existing housing foreclosure counseling agencies to expand their capacities and services to respond to a tsunami of homeowners facing foreclosure and loss of their homes and investments.

Amazingly, NeighborWorks actually disbursed $50 million within 60 days of the enactment of the legislation—an unheard of feat in the slow-moving bureaucracy of Alphonso Jackson’s scandal-ridden HUD. The story is told in more detail in “Nonprofit Intermediaries: An Untenable Situation?” in the Winter 2009 issue of the Nonprofit Quarterly magazine.

Similarly, Wade led NeighborWorks and its affiliated members into a major implementation role in the second round of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (part of the stimulus package), in which one-third of the program’s allocations involved a NeighborWorks America member. It isn’t an overstatement to say that Wade significantly increased the profile and capacity of NeighborWorks America in the array of nonprofit community development intermediaries, carving out a role as a national nonprofit able to design and run federal housing initiatives that federal agencies can’t or won’t.

For Bank of America, Wade is a steal. He will be reporting to Andrew Pleplar, who relatively recently was promoted from having run the Bank’s foundation arm. In the world of bank philanthropy, Wade and Pleplar comprise a unique and stellar team, likely to raise the community development sector’s expectations for the Bank of America, which is already the standout bank performer in this field—notwithstanding its acquisition of the disreputable Countrywide Savings.

The good fortune of Bank of America, however, leaves NeighborWorks America in an interesting position. How will the agency replace Wade? Since Congress reviews CEO appointments to Congressionally chartered nonprofits, what kind of input will a testy pre- or post-election Congress have in the process? Will a new NeighborWorks executive director change any of the program priorities Wade established? This is one nonprofit “field intermediary” change that we will be watching closely, and we congratulate Ken Wade on six years at the helm of NeighborWorks for a job well done.—Rick Cohen