25 Years of Impact Investing

Twenty-five years ago I was among a group of people, some of whom are still in the field who went to the White House for the signing of the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund. Presidential candidate Bill Clinton had created a platform plank during his candidacy saying that there would be 100 “South Shore Banks” created around the Country. The CDFI Fund was the culmination of that pledge.


ShoreBank – An Iconic Example of Progressive Socia Enterprise


The 100 ShoreBanks was an ideal that mainstream banking practices were critical to creating wealth, social justice and opportunity. Recently at the Opportunity Finance Network Annual Conference in Washington DC, former President Bill Clinton keynoted and called out Ron Grzywinski and Mary Houghton (founders of ShoreBank and founding and continuing Directors of Northern Initiatives) in his talk recognizing the 25th Anniversary of the CDFI Bill and Fund. Interestingly the Bill that was signed was drafted by Michigan Senator Don Riegle. Ironically I read Senator Riegle’s book, O Congress in my undergraduate course work.


One never knows what the impact of something can prove to be, but some 25 years later, there are over 1,000 CDFIs responsible for billions of dollars in development finance and support of small businesses. We are one, and while we are not in the billion-dollar wing of the CDFI field, we have made close to $75M in loans to start-up and growing small businesses.


Delivering Responsible, Affordable Lending to Underserved Communities


That is the great part of this field, there a large groups, intermediately sized groups and small groups who are directed toward one aim, bringing capital and opportunity to the hands of those who without our field would have a much harder time finding capital at reasonable prices and with the supports that CDFIs bring on their behalf. A small idea born on the Southside of Chicago has grown beyond what any of us would have dared to conceive of in 1994.


–Dennis West, President

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