Inclusiv Grants, Investments Help Build Community Wealth

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Juneteenth—observed this past weekend on June 19—is a celebration of freedom and the pursuit toward racial equity, including affordable financial access for those underserved by mainstream commercial banks and lenders. Inclusiv—a certified Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) intermediary—specializes in the support and preservation of Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) and cooperativas that are led by and serve people of color.

“MDIs are very important. If they go away, it creates a void in the community,” said Monica Copeland, MDI Network Director at Inclusiv. “A lot of times, these MDIs won’t be replaced by another institution. Inclusiv is fully committed to helping MDIs survive and thrive and always will be supportive of their financial inclusion mission.”

The National Credit Union Administration defines an MDI as a federally insured credit union in which a majority of its current members, its board of directors, and the community it services fall within eligible minority groups. However, many MDIs are at the forefront of the struggle for racial equity due to the limited resources the institutions themselves have to deepen or expand services to local communities of color. To help fill this gap, Inclusiv offers various forms of support for MDI designated credit unions, including its Racial Equity Grant Fund and its Racial Equity Investment Fund.

Racial Equity Grant Fund
Inclusiv established the Racial Equity Grant Fund in 2020 to help advance racial equity and build a more inclusive economy through credit unions led by and serving communities of color. Since its inception, approximately $1.3 million have been distributed to 93 institutions. In 2021, 34 credit unions and cooperativas were awarded a total of $320,000. Credit unions under $50 million in assets were eligible to apply for the most recent funding round. To learn more about the grant, including eligibility and deadlines, click here.

Racial Equity Investment Fund
In January 2021, as part of a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Package, $12 billion in federal funding was dedicated for CDFIs and MDIs to ensure resources will be directed to some of the communities hardest hit by the pandemic. Inclusiv launched a $20 million Racial Equity Investment Fund deploying secondary capital investments to expand economic relief and financial inclusion for credit unions that serve communities of color.

MDI credit unions are encouraged to take advantage of these expanded sources of funding and investment for the use of technology enhancements, strategic planning, business planning, training, staffing, service expansion, and to help obtain CDFI-certification, among other things that can help create new opportunities to serve underserved communities.

CDFI certification also continues to be an important initiative on Inclusiv’s radar. There is tremendous advantage for credit unions to be both MDI and CDFI because a large percentage of MDIs are working in CDFI investment areas and target markets that would benefit the most from expanded member services. MDIs that aren't certified as CDFIs are missing out on the opportunity to improve aging technology, update and grow their member services, hire new staff and overall increase their capacity through grants from the CDFI Fund. However, according to Copeland, there is a deficit in the number of CDFI-certified credit unions. “Less than 20% of MDIs are currently CDFI certified when most of them would be highly eligible,” says Copeland.

In response, Inclusiv has dedicated a portion of the 2022 Racial Equity Grant Fund round to support approximately 10-15 credit unions planning to pursue CDFI grants, as well as credit unions interested in developing or expanding mortgage programs. 

Credit unions looking for ways to support various demographic groups and better serve communities of color are advised to seek MDI designation and CDFI certification, both of which Inclusiv can assist. Credit unions can self-designate as MDIs by answering the minority questions on the CUOnline Profile, or they can make intentional changes to become an MDI in the future. Information about Inclusiv’s CDFI support can be found here. As a reminder, MDIs can also be CDFIs and vice versa. With only 42 MDI-designated credit unions in California and none in Nevada, there is plenty of opportunity for credit unions in these states to serve and empower communities with the financial resources they need. For more information, contact California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues Vice President of Social Impact Daniel West at danielw@ccul.org.

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