How Community Developed Financial Institutions are Fueling Small Businesses and Impacting Underserved Communities

October 18, 2021

The CDFI Fund was established by the Riegle Community Development and Regulatory Improvement Act of 1994, as a bipartisan initiative. In partnership with federal and private sector capital, the CDFI Fund allows injection of financing into neighborhoods that otherwise would lack access to financing. Through this initiative, small businesses can receive funding that may have otherwise been difficult to come by. 


What is the CDFI Fund

The Community Development Financial Institution Fund plays a vital role in creating economic prosperity in otherwise underserved communities. In partnerships with Credit Unions, Small Business Lending Funds, among other Private Financial Institutions that are 100% devoted to serving low-income and underserved communities. These institutions fuel communities with financing which in turn sparks job creation and economic opportunity. 

Types of CDFI Programs


Bank Enterprise Award Program 

The BEA Program provides awards to FDIC-insured institutions for eligible investments


CDFI Bond Guarantee Program 

The CDFI Bond Guarantee Program is a source of long-term, patient capital for CDFIs.


CDFI Program 

The CDFI Program provides Financial and Technical Assistance awards to CDFIs.


CDFI Rapid Response Program 

The CDFI Rapid Response Program is designed to quickly deploy COVID-19 relief capital to Certified CDFIs.


Capacity Building Initiative 

The Capacity Building Initiative is a source of training and technical assistance for CDFIs.


Capital Magnet Fund 

The Capital Magnet Fund encourages the development of affordable housing in low-income communities.


Native Initiatives 

The Native Initiatives provides awards, training, and technical assistance to CDFIs serving Native Communities.



New Markets Tax Credit Program 

The New Markets Tax Credit encourages economic and community development in low-income communities.


Small Dollar Loan Program 

The Small Dollar Loan Program was created to help Certified CDFIs provide alternatives to high cost small dollar loans.


How do you qualify as CDFI

To be eligible to become a CDFI, organizations must meet the following criteria -

  • Have a primary mission of promoting community development
  • Be a financing entity
  • Provide both financial and educational services
  • Serve and maintain accountability to one or more defined target markets
  • Maintain accountability to a defined market
  • Be a legal, non-governmental entity at the time of application (with the exception of Tribal governmental entities)


Who can benefit from working with a CDFI?

CDFI’s specialize in serving small businesses that may not otherwise qualify for traditional financing. According to NerdWallet, if your business is not lacking resources or access to financial services then a CDFI may not be the right path for you due to longer processing times and requirements. 


Take a look at the CDFI Locator to see if there is a certified institution near you!

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