Recently, CDFI Fund Director Annie Donovan spoke at the
2017 Opportunity Finance Network Conference about how there were more awardees under the fiscal year (FY) 2017 award round of the Community Development Financial Institutions Program (CDFI Program) and Native American CDFI Assistance Program (NACA Program) than ever before in the history of the CDFI Fund. The
303 awardees operate in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories.
This impressive statistic illustrates the essential goal of the reforms we made to the FY 2017 application: to increase the impact of CDFIs by supporting their growth, reach, and performance. The group of 303 awardees includes 50 organizations receiving Financial Assistance awards for the first time. By reaching more CDFIs, and new CDFIs, the CDFI Fund supports the expansion of affordable financial services and lending across the country. The large number of awardees isn’t the only success story in the FY 2017 award round, however. The CDFI Fund met other objectives, such as:
Serving areas of Persistent Poverty: The Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 required that 10 percent of the funds awarded by the CDFI Fund under the appropriation “shall be used for awards that support investments that serve populations living in” Persistent Poverty Counties (PPCs). PPCs are defined as counties where 20 percent or more of the population has lived in poverty over the past 30 years. These counties can be found in the United States in both rural and urban areas.
For the FY 2017 CDFI Program and NACA Program award round, one third of the awardees - 101 CDFIs – committed to serving PPCs. 92 CDFIs received $20.1 million in Financial Assistance awards specifically for investments in PPCs, which is in addition to the work that CDFIs already do in PPCs. In addition, nine CDFIs headquartered in PPCs received Technical Assistance awards.
Geographic representation: Beyond areas of persistent poverty, the FY 2017 CDFI Program and NACA Program awards will reach a broad swath of low-income communities across the United States. The awardees will serve rural, major urban, and minor urban target markets. In particular, 29% of the awardees primarily serve rural target markets; 14% of Americans live in rural communities, and face particular challenges with access to affordable financial services.
Institutional proportionality: CDFIs can be various types of financial institutions, from banks or credit unions to loan funds or venture capital funds. The revised application was designed, in part, to make it easier for CDFIs to demonstrate the impact they’d be able to achieve with an award regardless of what type of financial institution they are. As a result, the percentage of the 224 CDFIs that received CDFI Program Financial Assistance awards in the FY 2017 round closely mirrored the percentage of institution types that applied:
Table 1: Financial Institution Types that Received CDFI Program FA Awards vs. Applied 1
Customer service: Another objective of the revised application was to make the questions easier to understand, less repetitive, and less time-consuming to complete. The CDFI Fund surveyed the FY 2017 applicant pool to see if we achieved these objectives. Of the applicants that responded to the survey that had previously applied for a Financial Assistance award:
43% thought that the revised application was easier to understand than the old application; 43% thought that the difficulty was about the same;
50% thought that the revised application was less repetitive than the old application; 45% thought the amount of repetitiveness was about the same; and
32% thought that the revised application took less time to complete than the old application; 43% thought it took about the same amount of time.
The survey respondents also provided helpful feedback on the application process and the information the CDFI Fund provides during the application round. The CDFI Fund will be reviewing all of the comments closely as we continue to refine our application materials. Thank you to everyone who responded to the survey for your time and thoughts.
I’m pleased that our applicants thought that we were moving in the right direction with the application changes. Even though the respondents had suggestions for how we can continue to improve, 79% of the survey respondents thought that the application allowed them to accurately describe their organization and the impact they could make with an award, which is the primary objective of the application as a whole. I am especially proud that with the application changes this year we were able to reach a broad pool of awardees that will have significant impact in low-income communities across the United States.
Learn more about the FY 2017 award round on the
CDFI Fund’s website. More information about the CDFI Program can be found at
www.cdfifund.gov/cdfi, and the NACA Program at
Amber Kuchar-Bell is the Program Manager for the CDFI Program and the CDFI Fund’s Native Initiatives