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Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Program Evaluation: a Luxury but not a Necessity?

Collaboration with faculty from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Published in Community Development


For decades, CDFIs have been an integral component of federal community economic development policy. By injecting capital into under-served markets, CDFIs facilitate development that may not otherwise occur. However, attempts to measure and evaluate CDFI performance have often yielded disparate results. A systematic review of the literature reveals that capacity constraints have resulted in CDFI evaluations with wide variance in scope and rigor. Making comparisons across these institutions is difficult because there are few standardized performance metrics that could inform evaluations. Major CDFI funders in the philanthropic and public sectors often have competing demands and do not consistently use evaluations to guide their decisions. To incrementally advance CDFI research and promote a more accurate understanding of their impact, we recommend a shift towards utilization-focused evaluations (UFEs).


As of the date of publication, CSBDF is 1 of 567 revolving loan fund CDFIs in the nation. We believe – and the data show without question - that CDFIs are critical actors in sustainable development. And we see every day how the work we and our partner CDFIs conduct can be transformative. Yet it is incumbent upon the industry to evaluate CDFI activities and leverage that data to create a positive feedback loop. Our research represents a call to action for the industry to take incremental steps towards a common framework for program evaluation.


McCall and Hoyman 2021
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McCall, Jamie, and Michele Hoyman. 2021. Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Program Evaluation: A Luxury but not a Necessity? Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society, 1-31.

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