CDFIs Provide Millions in Small Business Lending—So Why Haven’t You Heard of Them?

2 min read • May 05, 2014 • Guest Post

Community development financial institutions—or CDFIs—got their start 30 years ago. They’ve been quietly funding small businesses, nonprofits, affordable housing, and community facilities, as well as creating opportunity along the way.

CDFIs are private financial institutions 100% dedicated to delivering responsible, affordable lending to help low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged people and communities join the economic mainstream.

For people and communities rich with solutions to social and economic issues but short on capital to finance these ideas, CDFIs are a lifeline.


CDFIs have been flying largely under the radar for years, despite their impact. OFN’s network of more than 200 CDFIs has provided more than $30 billion in financing through 2012, which started or expanded nearly 94,000 businesses and microenterprises, and helped create or maintain nearly 600,000 jobs.

Because of our track record of success, banks, foundations, and corporations partner with us, helping to expand our reach and visibility. In 2011—at the height of the jobs crisis—OFN worked with Starbucks to launch Create Jobs for USA, an initiative to create and retain U.S. jobs. We’re currently collaborating with Goldman Sachs to expand the capacity of CDFIs to meet the growing demand for small business financing.

CDFI Lending In Action

The most powerful proof of our impact lies in the many inspiring stories of CDFI borrowers.

Viola Tucker and her husband Mel opened Tucker’s Truck Driving Academy in 2013. But they almost didn’t. Despite having more than 45 years of professional experience in office management, customer service, and trucking, when it came time to apply for a start-up loan, banks—seeing only a weak credit history, not the Tucker’s passion and determination—turned them down.

Luckily, the Tuckers were referred to CDFI Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC), which focuses on financing female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color underserved by traditional lenders.

The CDFI provided the Tuckers with a loan and financial education.

“We are very fortunate to have been able to start a business. For us to take a leap of faith at our ages, and have WWBIC there to catch us, was truly a blessing,” said Viola Tucker.

Loans—and More

For entrepreneurs like the Tuckers, CDFIs step in when mainstream financial institutions won’t—or can’t. During the recession when banks’ small business lending was constrained (even the SBA was unable to provide smaller dollar loans), CDFIs made these loans, and made them successfully. Part of the secret to their success is TA, or technical assistance. CDFIs offer financial education—such as business plan writing courses, or one-on-one credit counseling—that strengthens knowledge needed to successfully pay back a loan, and successfully run a business.

The word is getting out. CDFIs not only provide needed capital and guidance, but they also strengthen communities and create jobs in some of the country’s most distressed areas. They create opportunity for all.

Visit OFN’s web site to find a CDFI near you.


Mark Pinsky

Mark Pinsky is President & CEO of Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), the national network of high-performing community development financial institutions (CDFIs). Since 1995, Mark has led OFN and the CDFI industry through a series of transformations that have resulted in the growth of industry assets and financing, as well as the dramatically increased ability of Member CDFIs to expand product and geographic coverage to more disadvantaged people and communities. Under his leadership, OFN continues to reaffirm its core purpose—aligning capital with social, economic, and political justice.A former Chair of the Consumer Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, Marks serves on an array of national and local boards and is the Founding President of Congregation Tzedek v'Shalom in Newtown, Pennsylvania.