What is a CDFI?

  • CDFIs are helping people succeed when

  • others wouldn’t give them a chance.

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

By financing community businesses—including small businesses, microenterprises, nonprofit organizations, commercial real estate, and affordable housing—CDFIs spark job growth and retention in hard-to serve markets across the nation.

CDFIs are profitable but not profit-maximizing. They put community first, not the shareholder. For more than 30 years, they have had a proven track record of making an impact in those areas of America that need it most.

The Four Sectors of the CDFI Industry

As with mainstream lenders, a variety of institutions has emerged to serve the broad range of needs in emerging domestic markets. Although they share a common vision of expanding economic opportunity and improving the quality of life for low-income people and communities, the four CDFI sectors—banks, credit unions, loan funds, and venture capital (VC) funds—are characterized by different business models and legal structures:


Community Development Banks

Community development banks provide capital to rebuild economically distressed communities through targeted lending and investing. They are for-profit corporations with community representation on their boards of directors. Depending on their individual charter, such banks are regulated by some combination of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision, and state banking agencies. Their deposits are insured by FDIC.

Community Development Credit Unions

Community development credit unions (CDCUs) promote ownership of assets and savings and provide affordable credit and retail financial services to low-income people, often with special outreach to minority communities. They are nonprofit financial cooperatives owned by their members. Credit unions are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), an independent federal agency, by state agencies, or both. In most institutions, deposits are also insured by NCUA.

Community Development Loan Funds

Community development loan funds (CDLFs) provide financing and development services to businesses, organizations, and individuals in low-income communities. There are four main types of loan funds: microenterprise, small business, housing, and community service organizations. Each is defined by the client served, though many loan funds serve more than one type of client in a single institution. CDLFs tend to be nonprofit and governed by boards of directors with community representation.

Community Development Venture Capital Funds

Community development venture capital (CDVC) funds provide equity and debt-with-equity-features for small and medium-sized businesses in distressed communities. They can be either for-profit or nonprofit and include community representation.