A community development finance institution (CDFI) is an organization that provides finance—be it a loan fund, bank, venture fund, or credit union—with the mission to meet the credit, investment, and technical-assistance needs of low-income residents.
A notable early CDFI was South Shore Bank, founded in Chicago in 1973; federal support came later, in 1994. Shortly afterward, CDFIs persuaded federal regulators to permit bank to satisfy their federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) obligations by investing in CDFIs, which fueled further growth.
As of 2022, nationwide there are an estimated 1,300 CDFIs, with combined assets of $457.9 billion, compared to less than $1 billion in 1995. CDFIs struggle to balance market pressures with community needs, but there is little doubt that they provide greatly needed capital for under-resourced BIPOC communities, including through 69 Native-run CDFIs.