Learn How Native CDFIs Make Great Investment Partners

Grow economic opportunity in Native communities through secure investments with long-term impact.

Rooted in the cultural and historical context of Native communities, Native CDFIs weave partners, funding, and networks together to help create lasting prosperity in local communities.

“I’ve seen it happen, and when it does, it’s really amazing.”

— Mike Wilson, President and CEO,

Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines

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We talked to leaders of banks, asset management firms, financial institutions, and other funders and partners about what convinced them to invest in Native CDFIs. It all comes down to successful long-term impact! This is a must-see if you’re looking to support the cultural and economic wealth of Native communities.


Native CDFIs are proven and promising partners for financial institutions and other investors to make a positive difference in Indian Country successfully and sustainably. Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions wanting to make meaningful community investments can turn to Native CDFIs as a safe, secure way to respond to community needs.

They’re engines of change that expand economic opportunity in Native communities, opening doors to loans, credit, jobs, and much more.

“The thing about this model is that it’s sustainable. As entrepreneurs gain business knowledge, and as their businesses grow, they can seek funding from more traditional sources. To me, that is a compelling strategy.”

— Connie Smith, Program Manager, Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital Program

“I think there is some real room for investors to be able to develop programs where they’re either lending to Native CDFIs, or making private capital investments into CDFIs. . . . If you take into account the huge positive impact on the community you’re helping to bring about, then these are wonderful investments.”

— Jodi Neuman, Investment Manager, Trillium Asset Management


The key to the success of Native CDFIs lies in their commitment to building strong community relationships. Long-term economic impact is achieved by connecting families and communities with the resources necessary to bring dreams to life for multiple generations. With deep cultural ties and understanding, Native CDFIs are poised to build trust and create a powerful infrastructure for self-sufficient economic and cultural wealth.


#1: Sustainable impact and economic growth

Native CDFIs weave together culturally informed relationships that bridge traditional cash economies with the financial mainstream. They’re anchored in local culture and passionate about creating opportunities for growth. They lay the groundwork for investment in Native communities by providing capital and financial assistance, education, and training.

This leads to a powerful multiplier effect, which helps Native entrepreneurs and Native-led businesses thrive. It also creates jobs, an expanded tax base, and new business development and market opportunities. These opportunities haven’t often been available in Native communities.

#2: New potential customers

In many cases, Native CDFIs are the first encounter Native families and individuals have with a financial institution. Native CDFIs help families reach financial stability through education, credit building, and savings. Because Native CDFIs serve a large unbanked population, staff will frequently refer program participants to a nearby bank or credit union to open their first account and deposit money as part of a savings plan.

Many of these new potential customers are the first in their generation to break a cycle of poverty and move toward building a life of economic prosperity.

#3: Strong net asset ratios, low historical write-off and delinquency rates

Native CDFIs have default rates that are lower than that of the average financial institution [1] because they’re anchored in the Native communities they serve. They build lasting relationships with lenders and provide extended services, such as financial education and training, in conjunction with their lending activities.

That edge in their business model is a major piece of the Native CDFI success story.

#4: Huge, unmet capital demands in Indian Country

A 2012 Oweesta-sponsored Access to Capital study of certified Native CDFIs revealed that as Native economies grow, Native CDFIs are being asked to respond to higher needs for capital. [2] A survey led by the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis showed the additional amount to meet Native CDFI financing needs in 2017 was $48 million. [3]

#5: Federal government program and agency support

A number of economic and community development programs can provide equity, loans, loan security, and other credit enhancements to help reduce any lending risk and provide worthwhile support.

Treasury supports partnerships
with community financial institutions
The U.S. Department of Treasury’s CDFI Fund fosters partnerships and offers support through its Native Initiatives program. [4] In many cases, if you work at a community bank and a Native CDFI is in your bank’s assessment area, your bank establishment could leverage public funds to support technical assistance, trainings, and more.

HUD can guarantee home loan portfolios
Interested in growing your financial institution’s home loan portfolio? Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program (HUD) provides a 100% loan guarantee to ensure your financial institution’s investment held in Indian Country trust lands will be repaid in full in the event of foreclosure. [5]

FDIC backs up small dollar deposits
Your financial institution can also choose to make a small dollar deposit (under $250,000) to a Native CDFI with insurance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. [6] Credit unions participating in the Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service can be insured if making a deposit over $250,000. [7]

“I’ve seen it done. When they [financial institutions] take that leap and partner with tribes, marvelous things happen. . . . Building that business relationship and then really constructing a whole community.”

— Patrice Kunesh (Standing Rock Lakota), Assistant Vice President and Co-director, Center for Indian Country Development, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
Photo by Richard Marshall

“One of the beautiful things about CDFIs—Native CDFIs in general—is we have to provide education and training in conjunction with our lending activities. So when you pair those two things together, we are seeing great success. We’re changing the economic landscapes of our communities and providing opportunity which normally hasn’t been provided.”

— Chrystel Cornelius (Ojibwe; Oneida), Executive Director, First Nations Oweesta Corporation
Photo by Richard Marshall

“[We] invest in an individual to begin to build their capacity and their family wealth and assets. . . . That’s one of the reasons Native CDFIs are climbing off the [growth] charts.”

— Tanya Fiddler (Cheyenne River Sioux), Executive Director, Native CDFI Network

“We feel strongly about working with Native CDFIs. . . . They can tailor their advice and training in a way that is culturally specific. That’s one reason [they’re] so effective.”

— Connie Smith, Program Manager, Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital Program


There are many ways that financial institutions can partner with Native CDFIs, and partnerships can be tailored to match the varying capabilities of institutions.

Provide technical assistance.

One of the ways that financial institutions often work with Native CDFIs is by providing IT support and technical assistance, an area of expertise many institutions already provide to their bank or credit union network. And there are plenty of other ways to offer in-kind assistance.

Offer capital through a small dollar deposit or a larger loan.

Capital investments in Native CDFIs can be impactful at any size—even small dollar deposits impact economic opportunity, and larger investments are easy through First Nations Oweesta Corporation, the only Native CDFI intermediary lender.

Match government dollars to build Native CDFI lending capacity.

The Native American CDFI Assistance Program from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s CDFI Fund awards loans, grants, deposits, and equity investments for Native CDFIs, but requires a dollar-for-dollar match from a non-federal source. That’s where you come in! Community banks could help Native CDFIs meet the federal match for financial assistance awards to help grow their lending capacity. [8]

Meet requirements in the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).

Banks can meet their CRA requirements by investing or partnering with a Native CDFI, an opportunity that assessment regulators promote and support. [9] Some options include: providing equity capital, funds for lending through deposits, and bank services. Just ask your regulator, who can help you find the right investment fit for CRA consideration.


Learn how financial institutions are looking to Native CDFIs as secure, knowledgeable partners in responding to community needs.

“Those kinds of case studies and examples will go a long way to break down the barriers and perceptions that it’s difficult to do business on Native lands.”

— Mike Wilson, President and CEO,

Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines

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Northwest Native Development Fund (NNDF)

NNDF is growing its lending and training programs with funding support from Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital Program and from us. Recently, NNDF helped a Native entrepreneur open a first-of-its-kind restaurant on the Colville Reservation, giving locals an opportunity to stop by for a nutritious meal. NNDF supplied the training and financing support to get the idea off the ground. Learn why Wells Fargo is proud to invest in NNDF.

Native American Development Corporation (NADC)

NADC has a long, successful history of supporting Native entrepreneurs, providing sustainable business plans, loans, and technical assistance. Over the years, NADC has worked closely with more than 20 tribes in the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains. Recently, they partnered with Billings-based Rocky Mountain Bank to help one tribe get the funding needed to start a major development project that would help them become completely self-sufficient. Learn what was eye opening for Rocky Mountain Bank’s market president in this partnership.

First Nations Oweesta Corporation

The only Native CDFI intermediary, Oweesta offers financial products and development services exclusively to Native CDFIs and Native communities. As investments and homeownership in Indian Country spike, Oweesta helps Native CDFIs meet climbing capital demands through their membership services and by strengthening the connection between financial institutions and Native CDFIs. Check out this example—Oweesta brought together Native leaders and investors for networking and relationship building.

NACDC Financial Services

NACDC recently expanded their program to include homeownership loans after years of successful lending to support Native agriculturalists, artists, small-business leaders, and more. Last year, the Kendeda Fund showed its confidence in NACDC with a multiyear, $200,000 grant to support their lending capital programs. Find out what projects NACDC hopes this funding will help support.

Check out this compelling blog series exploring Native CDFI leaders, their impact, and why Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines felt the confidence to invest $5 million into the Native CDFI field.

“This partnership . . . puts capital to work for the benefit of asset-building strategies in Indian Country.”

— Mike Wilson, President and CEO, Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines

Join hundreds of professionals who receive the latest updates on Native CDFI case studies, news, and more.

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