Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) is pleased to announce the winners of its 2016 CDFI Prize Competition. Eight organizations will receive an aggregate total of $1 million to reward innovative approaches to increasing investment in underserved rural areas, particularly those characterized by persistent poverty.
“The CDFI Fund is excited to showcase and support Prize winners that are working in underserved rural communities to develop breakthrough solutions to attracting capital investment and enhancing credit access,” said CDFI Fund Director Annie Donovan. “These are areas in deep need of innovations that combat persistent poverty. We laud the entrepreneurial efforts of Prize Competition applicants."
Winners of the 2016 CDFI Fund Prize Competition were selected based on their submission of innovative proposals that: (1) identify and promote new ideas and practices for implementation by CDFIs that serve rural areas, and/or (2) create value during and after the competition by encouraging CDFIs serving rural areas to develop new skills or practices that may have beneficial effects on the communities they serve.
From the 60 applications submitted for consideration, four winners were selected and an additional four applications received honorable mentions. Winners and honorable mentions were selected from among the top applications by a panel of judges with a diverse array of experience in serving the capital and credit needs of rural communities. 2016 CDFI Prize Competition awardees are:
- 1st Place: Virginia Community Capital—$300,000
- 1st Place: National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions—$300,000
- 2nd Place: First Nations Oweesta—$200,000
- 3rd Place: Community Ventures—$100,000
- Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union—$25,000
- Community Development Corporation of Brownsville—$25,000
- Hope Credit Union—$25,000
View more details on the 2016 CDFI Prize Competition winners below.
2016 CDFI Fund Prize Competition Awardee Summaries
1st Place Winner: Virginia Community Capital (VCC)—$300,000
To address a lack of banking or financial knowledge and expertise among foundations that are interested in impact investing, VCC has created a social enterprise called Direct Investing for Good, a service providing fund aggregation, underwriting, investment servicing, and monitoring/tracking services to foundations so they can invest directly in CDFIs or co-invest with local CDFIs in community development projects. VCC intends to pilot the proposal to serve nine foundations that are members of the Appalachian Funders Network (AFN) and eventually scale the program to include all 80 members of the AFN to increase access to new capital for CDFIs and rural communities throughout Appalachia.
1st Place Winner: National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation)—$300,000
To enable CDFI credit unions to extend their reach and provide access to secure, affordable financial services and products in underserved rural communities, the Federation is building CU Impact—“the first and only core system created specifically for CDFIs.” CU Impact will enable CDFI credit unions to interact with customers through smart phones as well as share standardized products and services designed for low-income communities with other credit unions enrolled in the system. The initiative will be piloted with Red River Mill Federal Credit Union and Shreveport Federal Credit Union, two CDFIs serving persistent poverty counties in Louisiana and Mississippi, and the Federation anticipates expanding to 30 CDFI credit unions within five years.
2nd Place Winner: First Nations Oweesta—$200,000
To address the lack of experience and staff resources among many Native CDFIs to collect and analyze data, First Nations Oweesta has begun developing Opportunities Through Impact System (OTIS), an impact tracking platform designed specifically for Native CDFIs. The goal of the OTIS platform is to provide the technological resources—combined with the technical assistance of First Nations Oweesta—to help Native CDFIs demonstrate their impact in their communities. The initiative will be piloted with five Native CDFIs serving American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.
3rd Place Winner: Community Ventures—$100,000
Community Ventures proposes to create a “Build Appalachia” community facilities loan fund, an innovative new capitalization approach to attack the loss of coal-related jobs in Central Appalachia. The loan fund will target academic programs designed to prepare Appalachian residents who have lost jobs in the coal industry for new careers in high-paying, economically stable sectors, especially the healthcare sector. Much of the Central Appalachian region is medically underserved, and there is a strong demand for qualified professionals. The loan fund will also address a lack of lending capital in the region for non-business essential community facilities.
Honorable Mention: Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union (ACFCU)—$25,000
Through new technology and innovative products and services, ACFCU is protecting underserved communities in eastern Kentucky from predatory lenders while providing access to banking services to remote customers. To reach those customers who lack proximity to a credit union branch, ACFCU will be installing three Virtual Teller Machines (VTMs) – ATM-like machines with a video screen and microphone that allow the customer to video chat with a credit union employee – in strategic locations in rural eastern Kentucky. In addition, the credit union has developed “myMoneyTrackSolutions,” a “stair step” series of services and products that can build credit, consolidate debt, and provide affordable alternatives to predatory loan products.
Honorable Mention: Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB)—$25,000
Working with the CDFI Rio Grande Valley Multibank, CDCB has created a loan program to address the lack of access to both safe and affordable housing and financing in rural and colonia areas of South Texas. The loan program provides a phased financing and construction solution that meets the immediate housing needs of residents and can ‘grow’ or expand as the family’s financial situation improves and/or as their housing size needs increase.
Honorable Mention: Craft3—$25,000
With widespread need to finance the replacement of failing septic systems in rural areas in Washington State, Craft3 is maximizing the reach of their Clean Water Loan product, previously implemented on the county level, through a new regional strategy. By standardizing their loan program and offering it at a regional level, they are able to enable scale, streamline county-level reporting, and create a single-administering entity. The regional approach also allows on-site sewage systems professionals who work in multiple counties to discuss the same financing option with potential borrowers regardless of physical location.
Honorable Mention: Hope Credit Union—$25,000
To address the lack of access to capital in rural areas, Hope Credit Union has developed a strategy of taking over donated bank branches in persistent poverty counties and offering products and services appropriate to the community. Hope’s strategy combines the donated physical infrastructure with its own robust products and services, user friendly mobile technology, and a clear commitment to community development to attract previously unbanked and underbanked rural residents into the financial mainstream.