At the end of 2008, during the worst financial crisis in over 50 years, the CDFI Fund's Community Development Advisory Board formed a special subcommittee to examine the crisis and its effect on CDFIs across the United States. The subcommittee produced a number of important recommendations based upon direct input from all types of CDFIs that attended listening sessions, participated in conference calls, and provided written comments.

One clear issue that emerged from the Advisory Board's outreach was the need to strengthen the capacity of CDFIs through greater technical assistance and training. I made it a top priority of the CDFI Fund to act on this recommendation to address this critical need within the CDFI industry. The result was the creation of the Capacity Building Initiative.

Today, two years since the Capacity Building Initiative was first started, we are able to look back, view its accomplishments, and chart a strategic path forward. The Capacity Building Initiative was a new direction for the CDFI Fund, providing a customized assistance program to complement our competitive award programs. Our objective is to assist CDFIs in overcoming challenges and meeting finance opportunities in their communities.

We started with four training series: "Portfolio Management," "CDFI Capitalization," "Foreclosure Solutions," and "Financing Healthy Food Options."Those original series had over 600 participants attend trainings in 15 states in every region of the country as well as the District of Columbia. Nearly 1,000 people accessed virtual trainings through webinars. In the two years since the Capacity Building Initiative was created, over 1,750 hours of technical assistance have been provided to CDFIs as they sought to apply the lessons of the trainings to their own organizations.

As the original training series wind down their offerings at the end of this fiscal year, I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish with newer additions to the Capacity Building Initiative curriculum. Direct feedback and recommendations from CDFIs has led to the development of several series that my team recently launched or are currently developing.

One group of CDFIs we heard from were those with smaller assets or that are working toward certification. These CDFIs face early challenges as they plan the growth of their organizations. To assist them, I am very excited to announce a brand new training series, "Strengthening Small and Emerging CDFIs," which will focus upon the needs of smaller CDFIs that are operating in some of the most distressed areas of the country. The training will enable them to increase their impact and improve their sustainability. You can find more detailed information about the training series on our website later today. More information about the training locations and how to apply will be provided in the coming months.

As part of the "Strengthening Small and Emerging CDFIs" series, we will work to identify underserved areas in the country and come up with proactive suggestions for filling gaps of service through product development and collaborations with strategic partners. These underserved areas include Appalachia, the Colonias region by the Mexico border, and the Mississippi Delta.

As Director of the CDFI Fund, I've had the opportunity to visit these areas and speak to the CDFIs that work there. My vision is to expand CDFI activity wherever possible, and especially in these struggling, extremely distressed communities. Not only will the "Strengthening Small and Emerging CDFIs" training series try to reach out to the underserved areas identified in the series assessment, but it will also be the CDFI Fund's primary vehicle of providing training and technical assistance to CDFIs that participate in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Border Community Capital Initiative (BCCI). At least one of the "Strengthening Small and Emerging CDFIs" training workshops will be held in the Colonias region along the Mexico border for regional CDFIs and BCCI award recipients. For more information about BCCI, please visit HUD's website.

This new series is very exciting, but we also have three other series that have been announced in the past few months that deserve your attention as well. Earlier this year I was pleased to announce the first cohort of CDFIs participating in "The Leadership Journey: Native CDFI Growth and Excellence" training series. Sixteen Native CDFIs are participating in a two years long process of group meetings, training institutes, and one-on-one technical assistance. The series encourages the executives of these CDFIs to develop leadership skills and resources, enabling them to further staff growth and increase organizational performance.

Our "Innovations in Small Business Lending Series" is getting off the ground, and the very first training opportunity will be held in November in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The series is aimed at CDFIs that have experience in small business lending and are looking to take their operations to the next level. CDFIs interested in learning more about this series and the upcoming training in Minneapolis, as well as the other trainings that will be scheduled throughout 2013, will be able to find more information on our website soon.

Last, but certainly not least, we are also in the midst of developing the curriculum for the "Scaling Up Microenterprise" training series that will offer training sessions shortly. "Scaling Up Microenterprise" will expand the capacity of CDFIs that specialize in microfinance through an advanced training and technical assistance program. The series will focus on decreasing costs, building human capital, and improving business models in order to attract investments.

The Capacity Building Initiative provides more than training to assist CDFIs. We have also developed a robust Resource Bank on our website containing course materials, webinars, supplementary links and references, and third-party expert documents. The Resource Bank has steadily grown, and we now have over 200 unique documents and links on numerous topics from our original set of training series. We will continue to update the Resource Bank as documents and webinars become available, and I hope that you'll take the time to visit what we have on our website.

None of the successes of the Capacity Building Initiative would be possible without the tireless dedication of the Capacity Building Initiative team on my staff. They took on the difficult task of crafting an initiative unlike anything the CDFI Fund has ever done before, in addition to their normal duties. And they are working hard to ensure that the training series offered through the Capacity Building Initiative are all designed to target very timely needs in the CDFI industry.

Each series specifically addresses the needs that CDFIs themselves have brought to our attention-needs that will enable them to best serve their target markets. I welcome continuous feedback on the Capacity Building Initiative and what more we can do to address important areas of growth for the CDFI industry. While we are constantly brainstorming future series, we can't develop them in a vacuum. I strongly encourage you to share with me your ideas for trainings and technical assistance that will best serve your organization.

As we look ahead to fiscal year 2013, I hope to be able to bring even more diverse training opportunities to the CDFI industry, and to have greater dialogue with CDFIs about the future direction of the Capacity Building Initiative. I certainly wish to encourage all CDFIs of all sizes and types to participate in the trainings and take a look at what the Resource Bank has to offer-I do believe there is something there to benefit everyone.

For more information about the Capacity Building Initiative, please visit

Donna J. Gambrell
Director, CDFI Fund

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