Chivago-based CDFI, IFF

Chicago-Based CDFI Accelerates Positive Social Impact and Systems Change

Roland Kamara, Member Relations Associate, Opportunity Finance Network

Kirby Burkholder, president of core business solutions at IFF, discusses equitable community development and becoming a more anti-bias, anti-racist organization

Grounded in equity and deep sector expertise, IFF is a CDFI and OFN member that champions nonprofits to shape more equitable and vibrant communities through community-centered lending, development, and real estate consulting. 

We are quickly approaching OFN’s 10th annual Small Business Finance Forum in Chicago this month, which returns for the first time since 2019. As we gear up for this first-ever sold-out forum, we highlight the work of Chicago-based OFN member IFF.   

Since 1988, IFF has worked at the intersection of facilities and finance to help nonprofits serving a variety of sectors to increase their financial stability and programmatic offerings — and achieve their missions.  

IFF accomplishes this through a powerful combination of financial solutions, real estate and development expertise, sector knowledge, and research and evaluation capacity to accelerate positive social impact and systems change. 

Kirby Burkholder spoke in detail with OFN about IFF’s impact, his personal “why,” and his journey with CDFIs. 

What do you see as IFF’s biggest opportunity to create greater impact?

Continuing to challenge ourselves to be data informed and dig into risk. Challenge our biases. We’ve removed internally imposed minimum organizational size criteria and streamlined approval processes to make more loans to more nonprofits and are challenging ourselves to live into our vision of becoming an anti-bias, anti-racist organization. Now, we need to be disciplined about using qualitative and quantitative data to shape our journey. 

What is one thing about IFF that we should know?

IFF makes non-appraisal-based ‘commercial’ loans under $3 million, providing up to 95% of total project costs with deep market relationships through nine1 offices serving ten2 states.  

  1. Kansas City, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus  
  2. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky
What’s your “why” for working in the CDFI industry, and how did you end up at IFF?

My “why” is a deep commitment to justice and the opportunity to bring finance and facilities expertise in alignment with equitable community development principles across the Midwest in less visible or recognized communities. 

Opening of Marygrove Early Education Center in Detroit, MI (Photos by Darrel Ellis, Courtesy of the Kresge Foundation)

I ended up here because I was working at a nonprofit community development corporation in my last year of graduate school at University of Illinois Chicago’s urban planning and policy program and during post-graduation. The organization was a customer of IFF, and I got the opportunity to learn about IFF’s approach and work. I started in our real estate consulting group and am still here 22 years later. I’ve had the opportunity to launch new offices and start IFF’s work from scratch in Missouri, Kansas, Michigan, and Ohio. 

How do you describe OFN to people who do not know us?

The national convening group for the industry — our trade association. I frequently get all types of inquiries about the CDFI landscape, the industry, trendlines, and policy issues, and the #1 recommendation I provide is to start with OFN, and #2 is to attend the conference

If you could describe the CDFI industry in one word, what would it be?


Join fellow CDFI practitioners and partners at OFN’s Midwest Regional Meeting this July 11 in Minneapolis.

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