What do you call an organization that invests money in community groups working to revitalize disinvested neighborhoods? A Community Development Financial Institution, or CDFI. LISC’s role as a non-profit CDFI is to provide capital to projects in low-income, disadvantaged and underserved communities at affordable rates. There are nearly 1,000 CDFIs in the country and we are one of the largest. We are profitable, but we are not profit-maximizing. We put community first.
We offer this capital to local nonprofit developers, small businesses and other service providers who may not be able to get credit in the conventional marketplace. Our loans have financed affordable housing, supermarkets, schools, health centers and other vital community projects. And we bring equity primarily mainly through our investment companies, to projects in housing, retail and commercial centers, opportunity zones, small businesses and cultural districts.
But LISC is more than a financial institution. Our products and services include strategic and organizational support for local groups through our network of on-the-ground staff, who are ready and able to provide expertise and technical assistance.
We serve as everything from convener to broker to management consultant. And we back up these services with capacity building grants that support our community partners’ operations, including staff, office upgrades and seed capital for new programming. We also provide training for community leaders online through our resource library, the LISC Institute and in person.
Whatever our partners need to carry out the crucial work of connecting people and places to opportunity, we endeavor to provide.
LISC holds a ‘AA-’ credit rating from Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings (S&P), with our financial stability, track record of performance and community impact cited as compelling indicators.
In 2016, LISC made the unusual move of seeking a credit rating—which is more closely associated with corporate and government bond issuers than nonprofits—as a way to demonstrate the value of investing in places typically labeled as too poor or too risky for the private market.
The offering was a first for the CDFI industry and the response indicated a growing interest among impact investors in community development. With decades of data to back it up, working with LISC is proving to be an efficient way for investors to achieve both their financial and social impact goals.