Michigan Women Forward earns CDFI certification

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Carolyn Cassin. Courtesy Michigan Women Forward

Michigan Women Forward (MWF) has been certified as a community development financial institution.

The organization — which has locations in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit — said earlier this week it received the certification from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund.

Over the past two years, MWF has evolved into a mission-driven financial institution dedicated to providing financial and development services to meet the needs of economically disadvantaged individuals within underserved communities, MWF said.

With this certification, MWF will have access to resources from the federal CDFI Fund to continue expanding economic opportunity for women and entrepreneurs of color.

“CDFI certification reinforces our mission of expanding economic opportunity for women in Michigan, but more importantly, will enable us to provide more and larger funding for Michigan’s entrepreneurs of color,” said Carolyn Cassin, MWF CEO and president. “Our microloan program will be able to expand significantly; we’ll be making more loans and larger loans.

“This certification brings real change. As a statewide CDFI, MWF will be targeting those often left unable to access traditional financial support — low- to moderate-income Michigan women, women of color and other minorities. There are very few CFDIs in Michigan certified to serve the entire state, and we’re honored to play this role in driving Michigan’s economy forward.”

Alexis Dishman. Courtesy Michigan Women Forward

Alexis Dishman, MWF’s chief lending officer, will lead the CDFI program going forward.

“The certification by the CDFI fund is an important milestone for MWF as our strategic focus on supporting the creation and retention of microenterprises grows across the state,” Dishman said. “Leveraging this milestone will enable MWF to provide even more flexible capital and technical assistance programs to our borrowers.”

MWF’s CDFI certification means the nonprofit meets all the CDFI Fund’s requirements, including:

  • Having a primary mission of promoting community development
  • Predominantly serving and maintaining accountability to eligible target markets
  • Being a certified financing entity
  • Providing technical assistance and entrepreneur development services
  • Being neither a government entity nor controlled by a government entity

MWF now is part of a national network of over 1,200 CDFIs promoting economic growth in America’s underserved communities by financing businesses, creating jobs and rebuilding neighborhoods. The nonprofit invests in Michigan’s communities and the residents who live there by providing financing often unavailable from mainstream financial institutions.

For information about Michigan Women Forward’s CDFI certification, visit miwf.org.

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