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CDFI Bank Partnership Implementation Checklist

By Linda Ezuka | July 08, 2021 | 3 Minute Read

The Power of Financial Institution and CDFI Partnerships

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Are you ready to partner with a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) but aren’t sure where to start? We’ve talked a lot about the value and power of CDFI partnerships, and I know it can be overwhelming to get started. Today I’ll share a few tips to help you take that first step in creating a CDFI partnership. 

Where To Start

Start by identifying the CDFIs that serve or overlap with your assessment area. The CDFI Fund’s list of CDFIs can be a great resource for locating CDFIs in your local communities. Some of the CDFIs on this list are nonprofits, credit unions, or even banks. They may have different service areas or different focuses of interest. Once you’ve identified the CDFIs in your area, you can start learning about what they do and how they support the community. So get Googling! Any of them could be a great partner for your CRA program. 

Get to Know Your CDFI

Before you consider investing your financial resources, look for ways to include CDFIs in what you’re already doing. One low-cost but high-impact option to support and get to know your CDFIs is to invite CDFI staff to bank-sponsored conferences, seminars, and even internal bank training sessions. By simply opening up a few spots in events you’re already hosting, CDFI staff can access professional development resources that they otherwise wouldn’t have.  

Maybe you want to dive right in and target specific needs your potential CDFI partner has today. You have a wealth of talent in your bank that CDFIs could learn from or utilize to move their mission and operations forward. You naturally have experts in marketing strategy, information technology, loan operations, human resources, and many more areas that overlap with your CDFI partners. Recruit some of your bank employees to work with the CDFI to create marketing strategies, improve their information systems, or any other special project that would improve the capacity or efficiency of your CDFI partners. Reach out to other employees across your bank to identify those who might be a good fit to serve on the board of directors or as officers on a standing committee. 

Deepen Your Relationship 

Once you and your chosen CDFI partner get more comfortable with each other, you can deepen your relationship by collaborating on efforts that improve the CDFI’s core services or serve their credit needs. Consider assisting the CDFI in developing or revising their loan application and underwriting standards/processes for their suite of loan products. Create a formal (or informal) referral process between the bank and the CDFI to bridge the relationship between the CDFI and customers that need a little extra help.  

These deeper relationship-building techniques can eventually lead to some of the investment and lending options we’ve discussed in previous articles, like EQ2 investments and loan servicing agreements. Getting to know several CDFIs in your assessment area will help you find the CDFI that’s the right fit for the type of partnership and investments your bank is seeking.

Want another overview of CDFIs? Check out this Forbes article.

Cheers to your CDFI partnerships!  


P.S. Want to learn more about all things CRA? Check out Kadince’s webinars page to register for my CRA training webinars.

P.P.S. I’ve developed an easy-to-use CDFI/Bank Partnership checklist to help guide your approach. Click on the drawer at the bottom of this page to get started!

None of Kadince, Inc., its affiliates, or its respective employees, directors, officers, and agents (collectively, “Kadince”) are responsible or liable for any content or information incorporated herein. Read full disclosure.

Linda Ezuka | Owner, CRA Today

With over 27 years of community development experience, with an emphasis in CRA, compliance, training, community development lending, and CDFI initiatives, Linda works with financial institutions to provide comprehensive CRA training, up-to-date resources, and proven strategies to remain compliant. She helps CRA professionals master the art of the CRA and transform communities through the power of economic development. To learn more about Linda & CRA Today, visit her website.

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