Partnering with the Public Sector

Public-Private Partnerships that Finance Opportunity

Economic opportunity is one cornerstone of a free and just nation and often starts with access to capital through a loan. Yet, millions of Americans can’t access traditional, fair financing because of discrimination or a lack of collateral. The lasting economic impact of the pandemic, a growing wealth gap, and persistent poverty have made it more challenging for low-income, low-wealth communities to borrow money from mainstream financial institutions.

Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) specialize in offering responsible capital to rural, urban, and Native communities underserved by mainstream finance.

A leading national network of CDFIs, Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) helps increase CDFI impact in low-income, low-wealth communities nationwide by advocating for federal policies that strengthen and scale the CDFI industry for greater impact.

CDFIs leverage $8 in private sector investment for every $1 in public funding.

“Every dollar injected into a CDFI catalyzes eight more dollars in private-sector investment.”
— Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen

OFN’s advocacy focuses on policies that ensure fair lending and financial inclusion, promote environmental justice, boost tax incentives to encourage community development, and drive capital to communities that banks and other mainstream financial institutions find risky or unprofitable.

The CDFI industry’s largest federal partner is the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s CDFI Fund. With increased funding for CDFI Fund programs and broader federal partnerships, CDFIs can invest in more small businesses, affordable housing, infrastructure essentials, healthcare facilities, and other elements of thriving communities.

What’s the CDFI Fund? Learn more. | What is a CDFI? Learn more.

Voice of the Industry

Federal policy makers and Congressional Committees frequently invite OFN to advise or testify on matters critical to the CDFI industry and the rural, urban, and Native communities CDFIs serve.

View Testimony

Jennifer Vasiloff, House testimony 2019

OFN’s former Chief External Affairs Officer Jennifer A. Vasiloff testifying before the House Committee on Small Business’s Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access


CDFIs: Trusted Partners to Government

CDFIs tackle persistent poverty and racial and social inequity by driving capital to people and places that mainstream financial institutions consider risky investments.

2023 Advocacy day - Ted Piccolo and Senator Crapo

Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Ted Piccolo, OFN’s Board Member, discuss the various ways CDFIs can help communities in the Pacific Northwest.

For more than 35 years, CDFIs have enjoyed broad bipartisan support. CDFIs work with community stakeholders and policymakers to invest in small businesses, affordable housing, community facilities, health care, infrastructure, energy efficient development, and more.

OFN's Beth Lipson and USDA Under Secretary Torres Small

OFN’s Senior Advisor Beth Lipson and USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small visit rural Kentucky to see CDFI impact on the ground.

CDFIs were critical to the federal government’s COVID-19 response. Outperforming larger lenders, CDFIs and other community financial institutions made more than $34 billion in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, far exceeding the $15 billion set aside by Congress for this purpose. The PPP experience demonstrates that when CDFIs are empowered with supportive policies and capital, they surpass other lenders in getting financing to the communities and borrowers that need it most.

Key Policy Areas

On behalf of and alongside our CDFI network, OFN works to shape public policies that enable CDFIs to provide transformational opportunity in rural, Native, and urban communities nationwide. OFN’s public policy recommendations are directly grounded in the experience of our CDFI members.

Strengthen CDFIs: CDFI Fund

The best way to increase CDFI impact in low-wealth markets is to provide flexible, institution-level grant capital. Grants are vital for helping CDFIs build capacity, grow net assets, and leverage debt. The programs at the CDFI Fund are a key source of capital to strengthen CDFIs.

Small Business

CDFIs specialize in lending to very small, minority and women-owned small businesses. Expanding federal programs, such as the Small Business Administration’s Community Advantage Loan and Microloan programs, will help CDFIs reach more talented, hardworking entrepreneurs.

Affordable Housing

CDFIs create and preserve affordable rental housing and homeownership opportunities. Federal programs like the Capital Magnet Fund and federal entities like the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Agriculture and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, can help support this work.

Financial Inclusion

Equitable access to capital is the core mission of CDFIs, and racial equity throughout government programs is essential to bringing opportunity to all. Federal laws like the Community Reinvestment Act must be reformed to bring more resources to communities mainstream financial institutions have ignored for decades.

Community Infrastructure & Environmental Justice

Programs such as the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) provide an important source of funding for building a community’s social, economic, and civic infrastructure. CDFIs build community facilities, including health clinics, childcare centers, community centers, and more. CDFIs also offer responsible green financing products and services to help communities withstand climate change. Through clean energy programs, such as the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, CDFIs can help drive federal investments in clean energy.

Rural Development

CDFIs are experts at addressing persistent underinvestment in rural America — a quarter of CDFI customers are rural. Strengthening programs at the USDA and better targeting resources across the federal government to rural areas will bring more economic opportunity to rural communities. Supporting new programs, like the Rural Partnership Program, will help rural communities build economic resilience.

Public Policy Advocacy Resources

For our members and other community development financial institution (CDFI) industry stakeholders, OFN offers advocacy toolkits and fact sheets about OFN’s membership and key policy priorities.

For more information about the fact sheets, contact the Public Policy team.

2024 OFN Policy Priorities

CDFI Fund Programs

Green Lending

Small Business

Advocate for CDFIs

OFN’s provides opportunities for grassroots engagement with issues that matter most to CDFIs. Visit our Policy Action Center for the most recent opportunity to make your voice heard!

Take Action!

Public Policy Communications

To get a deeper understanding of OFN’s positions on federal policies, regulations, and decisions, view the archive of our communications with Members of Congress, agencies, and regulators.

Read Policy Communications


News & Ideas from OFN

OFN’s blog offers news, policy positions, and guest voices from the CDFI field.

Read Our Blog
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CDFI Clients Have Vision

CDFI clients are hardworking people with a dream for themselves and their families.

Read CDFI Stories
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CDFIs Are Everywhere

CDFIs work in rural, urban, and Native communities nationwide.

Find a CDFI
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Let’s Talk

Connect with a member of our Public Policy team!

Dafina Williams - Team

Dafina Williams

Topic Expertise: Small Business, Rural Development, Financial Inclusion, CDFI Fund Programs

Email Dafina

Mary Scott Balys - Team

Mary Scott Balys

Topic Expertise: Affordable Housing, Community Infrastructure, CDFI Fund Programs

Email Mary Scott

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