To all our Investors, Partners, and Friends,
Five years ago, IFF embraced a bold new strategic vision to accelerate our social impact by putting our full suite of tools – capital, real estate expertise, research, and policy knowledge – in support of whole networks of nonprofits. We made the decision to engage them in critical sectors and to partner with them in specific communities, like Homan Square in Chicago.
We did this because, after a generation of putting these tools in the service of individual nonprofits, we know that even more change and bigger impact are possible by taking on community disinvestment at a systems or neighborhood level, too.
Also central to this vision was a new commitment to put equity front and center in our work – asking tough questions about how we did things, being more accountable to the people and communities we serve, and diversifying our staff, board, and customer base.
What we didn’t know back then – but fully realized in 2021 – is how the seeds of this ambitious plan would grow and bear fruit amid a global pandemic. We learned in 2021 how directly our new vision spoke to the challenges of the post-pandemic moment.
For years, IFF had been moving beyond the typical CDFI model of focusing on raising and deploying capital in low-income communities. It began with the creation of our Real Estate Solutions team 25 years ago in response to the reality that facility development, which was mission critical to nonprofits, was a full-time job – not something to pick up in a one-day seminar.
This trend continued as we strengthened our research function; deepened our knowledge in nonprofit sectors, such as early childhood and K-12 education; and partnered with government and foundations to implement programs and invest in capacity-building initiatives.
Our goal was to participate in the full range of activities required to develop a vibrant pipeline of community-led, impactful, and investable projects – not to wait for catalytic projects to come to us, but to help nonprofit changemakers get them off the ground in the first place.
In 2021, IFF’s capacity to do these things achieved critical mass. Moreover, in the wake of the pandemic, the need in communities for these supports was greater than ever as they worked to rebuild in more equitable and resilient ways. Highlights from last year include:
- Reconsidering the target market criteria for IFF loans, which we believe will make it easier for smaller, newer nonprofits led disproportionately by people of color to apply for and get the capital they need to grow;
- Leveraging our real estate tools to help early childhood education centers and homes, emergency housing providers, and food pantries, to expand and reach more deeply into their communities and to build back better in the post-pandemic era;
- Co-creating with BIPOC arts and culture leaders a new initiative, Chicago’s Cultural Treasures, to support their long-term financial resilience;
- Completing three community-driven development projects in Detroit, St. Louis, and West Suburban Chicago, realizing the visions of the nonprofits and communities at the center of these plans;
- Consulting on 85 nonprofit facilities projects, including managing the construction of over 67,000 square feet of real estate; and
- Closing on a record $125.7 million in loans to nonprofits and leveraging an additional $468.5 million in public and private investment.
This last point is worth emphasizing – and celebrating! Even as we realized our vision last year to be a CDFI that does more than raise and deploy capital, our mission is – and will always be – well served with every single loan we make. Each loan helps nonprofit leaders deliver on their mission. It empowers them to do more and to have a bigger impact. It has ripple effects in the broader community. These loans are the foundation on which IFF was built.
Thanks to each and every one of you who helped us meet the moment in 2021 by supporting our vision to embrace change, prioritize equity, and deepen our impact.
Guadalupe Preston, IFF Board Chair
Joe Neri, IFF CEO