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CNote survey shows major opportunity for corporations, foundations and other accredited investors to meet demand for capital in underserved American communities

  • 52 CDFIs could pump at least $182M into underserved communities within a year if they could access capital at favorable rates
  • CDFIs serving Black and low- to moderate-income communities report a persistent capital shortfall, with housing and small business lending the most underfunded

Oakland, CA—Loan funds certified as community development financial institutions (CDFIs) have an urgent need for capital over the next six to 12 months, particularly to meet the needs of low- to moderate-income, Black, Latinx and women borrowers, finds a new report from CNote, a women-led fintech firm working to close the wealth gap for women and people of color.

CNote’s CDFI Loan Fund Capital Needs Survey Report, the first in a planned semiannual series, is designed to map CDFI capital needs and point corporate, foundation and other accredited investors toward high-impact investment opportunities. As an intermediary between these mission-driven institutions and investors, CNote seeks to provide a frictionless platform that steers capital to where it’s most needed.

“This survey shows that CDFI loan funds are open to new investors, and corporations and foundations increasingly are stepping up to work with them,” says Catherine Berman, CEO and co-founder of CNote. “We also see that the communities most in need of capital continue to be underfunded. Institutions that want to fully deliver on their diversity, equity and inclusion commitments have a real opportunity here.”

Key Findings

Capital demand: Over 75% of survey respondents expressed an “urgent” or “somewhat urgent” need for capital over the next six to 12 months, and 65% said their capital needs had increased during the past 12 months. Collectively, the 52 CDFIs surveyed (about 10% of the total CDFI loan fund market) said they could deploy at least $182 million within the next year.

Unmet needs: CDFIs surveyed said their most underfunded lending areas are affordable housing (55%) and small business (39%).

Underserved borrowers: Asked which demographics are most underserved due to lack of capital, CDFIs most frequently cited low- to moderate-income borrowers (73%), followed by Black (59%), Latinx (45%) and women (41%) borrowers.

Rising capital partners: Asked which investor segments are showing increased interest, 55% of CDFI respondents cited foundations, over 37% cited corporations and 33% cited high-net-worth individuals. Those that work with capital intermediaries like CNote said the primary benefits are access to new investors (more than 69%), followed by industry knowledge (57%), infrastructure (53%) and due diligence simplicity (49%).

“CDFIs strive to drive more capital into the neighborhoods they serve, to reach the next layer of borrowers and to finance the next critical community development need. These plans are often stifled by lack of affordable capital—as this survey demonstrates,” said Amir Kirkwood, chief investment officer at Opportunity Finance Network, the national association of CDFIs. “Capital deployed through impact-forward financial vehicles like OFN’s Finance Justice Fund and CNote’s Wisdom Fund fuel real progress on affordable housing, small business creation and retention, clean energy and other community priorities.”  


CNote received survey responses from 52 CDFI loan funds, about 10% of the 554 CDFI loan funds across the U.S. that were active during the December 5, 2020, to January 19, 2021, survey period. Participants were sourced from CNote’s partner network, network referrals, online CDFI forums and direct outreach.

CNote plans to repeat the survey every six months. The firm will open a new survey in June and publish data in the fall. CDFIs are encouraged to participate here:

About CNote

CNote is a women-led impact investment firm on a mission to close the wealth gap through financial innovation. Using the power of technology and a community-first framework, CNote enables corporations and foundations to efficiently invest and deposit cash at scale in community development financial institutions (CDFIs). It also delivers timely and transparent impact reporting. CNote is a Certified B Corporation that has earned “Best for the World” honors from B Lab and was named “Best Women-Owned Business” by the United Nations’ Women’s Empowerment Principles program.

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