CDFI Fund Director Donna J. Gambrell retired at the end of December, 2013. Her last message to the CDFI community is below.

As we move into the holiday season and to the end of 2013, I am thankful for the opportunity to look back and reflect upon all that the CDFI Fund has recently accomplished. This past year has been a time of change and growth for the CDFI Fund, as we successfully made the first awards under the CDFI Bond Guarantee Program, expanded our offerings available in the Capacity Building Initiative, recertified over 500 CDFIs, and implemented new enhancements to the application materials for the CDFI Program and the Native American CDFI Assistance Program (NACA Program).

The CDFI Fund had a very successful year utilizing our award programs to strengthen the community development industry. Through the fiscal year (FY) 2013 rounds of the CDFI Program, NACA Program, and Bank Enterprise Award Program, and the calendar year 2012 round of the New Markets Tax Credit Program (NMTC Program), we awarded over $200 million in funding and $3.5 billion in NMTC allocation authority. We also successfully approved guarantees for $325 million in bonds for investments in low-income and distressed communities across the nation through the new CDFI Bond Guarantee Program.

The CDFI Bond Guarantee Program is unlike any other program that the CDFI Fund has administrated, and has the potential to transform the lending capabilities of the CDFI industry. Three Qualified Issuers were selected to make bond loans to four Eligible CDFIs, providing new access to long-term capital that was previously unavailable. The bond loans can be used for a wide spectrum of community development activities, from supporting small businesses to investing in community and housing facilities to providing financial services. The infusion of capital that will reach CDFIs as a result of the CDFI Bond Guarantee Program will have tremendous impact on the CDFI industry as well as economic and community development projects nationwide. The CDFI Fund is currently requesting public comments on the CDFI Bond Guarantee Program application materials, and I encourage you to provide input. We plan to open the FY 2014 round in early 2014.

Throughout 2013, the CDFI Fund also delivered on its commitment to building the strength of CDFIs through training and technical assistance opportunities. We expanded our series of in-depth trainings that we provide through the Capacity Building Initiative to include topics such as microfinance, small and emerging CDFIs, Minority Depository Institutions, financing community health centers, and specialized training for Native CDFIs. These trainings will allow many CDFIs the opportunity to strengthen their internal capacity to serve their communities and to expand the services that they offer to their customers.

The diversity of the Capacity Building Initiative trainings are the result of excellent feedback from the CDFI industry on what topics will be the most useful for the overall development of CDFIs. I am proud of how responsive the CDFI Fund has been to the needs of our stakeholders, paying attention to what will serve the industry best as we improve and streamline our offerings.

Improvements can occur on many levels; for example, the development of the revised CDFI Program and NACA Program applications for FY 2014 was also a key accomplishment.

In revising the application, CDFI Fund staff paid close attention to comments that we received from a request for public comments on the previous CDFI Program and NACA Program application. Commenters indicated that the fillable PDF format created challenges for Financial Assistance and Technical Assistance applicants. For fiscal year 2014, the CDFI Fund developed a clean, streamlined Excel application that reduces the burden of data entry. In addition, to make the new process as user-friendly as possible, revised, extensive application guidance and robust webinars have been made available to provide applicants with step-by-step instructions for completing the new application.

I believe that the new application is a big step forward to easing the burden for applicants as well as maintaining strong quality controls and evaluation standards for the CDFI Program and the NACA Program. At the completion of the FY 2014 application round, we anticipate releasing a new request for public comment to gain feedback on the revised application, and I look forward to hearing from CDFIs on their thoughts on the application process and how we can continue to improve our services under these important programs.

One of the most monumental undertakings of FY 2013 was the task of recertifying the majority of certified CDFIs. This project will set a clean baseline for the number and types of certified CDFIs operating in the country, maintaining the integrity of what it means to be a CDFI: organizations continuously dedicated to serving their target markets of low-income communities and populations. The CDFI Fund's Certification staff has dedicated long hours to reviewing the hundreds of applications submitted and ensuring that organizations were notified of their status in time to meet CDFI Program and NACA Program deadlines. An updated listing of certified CDFIs will be posted in the next couple of weeks.

As we end this year and prepare to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the CDFI Fund in 2014, the one thing that is always constant is change, which brings me to my closing remarks, and ones that I convey with mixed emotions.

After 37 years as a public servant, I will be retiring from the federal government on December 28, 2013. As the longest serving CDFI Fund Director, and as the first African American woman to lead the organization, I am immensely proud of our extraordinary achievements over the past six years. The CDFI Fund has seen its appropriations quadruple, has effectively managed existing and new award programs, has made customer service and innovation an integral part of our culture, and has supported the CDFI industry in a way that has transformed low-income communities all across this country.

My special thanks to the CDFIs and CDEs that are making a difference in their communities every day. I hope our paths cross again. And a special salute goes out to the CDFI Fund employees. They have been-and will continue to be-the best staff ever!

Donna J. Gambrell
Director, CDFI Fund

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