Partnerships for Community Impact: Higher Education and CDFIs Working Together

The Jessie Ball duPont Fund is partnering with Opportunity Finance Network to encourage colleges and universities to explore innovative investments in their communities, using the financial resources of higher education and the lending expertise of community development financial institutions.

Through a new publication and a series of presentations, the two organizations hope to engage leaders in higher education and community development finance, inspire their thinking and encourage their collaboration in community development opportunities.

“The work of building more vibrant and equitable communities demands creativity, knowledge and a commitment to place — qualities that are abundant in institutions of higher learning,” said Sherry Magill, president of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. “It also requires capital that is not intimidated by innovation and that is committed to the greater good—qualities that community development financial institutions (CDFIs) exemplify.”

CDFIs are nonprofit lending institutions that focus their investments in low-income and low-wealth communities. Opportunity Finance Network is the national umbrella organization for CDFIs, with more than 200 CDFI members.

The Jessie Ball duPont Fund works with more than 65 colleges and universities and, for many years, has encouraged these institutions to look beyond the campus and become actively involved in their communities.

The new report – Partnerships for Community Impact: Higher Education and CDFIs Working Together – highlights five examples of higher education-CDFI partnership, involving projects in Philadelphia (LaSalle University), Chicago (University of Chicago), Durham, N.C. (Duke University); New Orleans (Delgado Community College) and multiple communities in North Carolina (University of Virginia).

The projects range from development of child care facilities, housing and grocery stores to encouraging small business development and providing research and evaluation support for community projects.

“These partnerships have multiplied opportunities for low-income and low-wealth people to access education, to open a small business, to eat healthy, affordable food, and to own a home,” said Mark Pinsky, president of Opportunity Finance Network. “We appreciate the Jessie Ball duPont Fund’s leadership in identifying and actively highlighting these collaborations as examples CDFIs and schools can emulate across the country. “

“We hope that this report will inspire leaders of both institutions to recognize their inherent strengths and partner with each other to achieve things that may, at the outset, seem remote possibilities,” Magill said. “We also hope this report encourages all institutions that control significant financial resources to consider how these dollars can be invested—prudently and strategically—to support local economies and promote the common good. “