Opportunity finance refers to socially responsible investing by an institution in an organization or group of individuals.
Usage of the term
The Opportunity Finance Network, a Philadelphia-based national umbrella group of 213 community development financial institution (CDFIs) founded in 1995, defines the term as "a category of financing that helps people and communities just outside the margins of conventional, mainstream finance join the economic mainstream—and helps the economic mainstream enter emerging opportunity markets." It is closely related to microfinance, but tends to occur on a larger scale and be more explicitly concerned with social benefit.
The concept of opportunity finance has gained increased traction in recent years, both from political movements and economic necessity. The current economic climate in the United States has raised the demand for creative financing even for established businesses, as traditional bank loans for nonprofits and small businesses became harder to come by after the market crashed in the autumn of 2008.
Although the concept of opportunity finance is applicable worldwide, the entrepreneurial connotations of the term make it most commonly applied to initiatives within the United States. The Opportunity Finance Network, itself a U.S. organization, connects the concept to individualism and "the bedrock of U.S. policy."
Opportunity finance and CDFIs
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) are nongovernmental financing entities (such as banks and loan funds) with the primary mission of community development, serving a target market, providing development services, and remaining accountable to their communities. CDFIs may be the most well-known practitioners of opportunity finance in the United States, because they comprise a group of government-accredited institutions. Some awards for opportunity finance are available to CDFIs only.
While there are numerous organizations certified as CDFIs by the CDFI Fund, it is believed that there are thousands of financial institutions serving the needs of low-income people or communities in the U.S., but either have not applied for CDFI status or have otherwise not been able to fulfill all of the requirements for formal CDFI certification. All of these organizations can be said to be engaged in opportunity finance, despite their lack of U.S. governmental recognition.
Examples of opportunity finance organizations
- Accion USA
- Community loan funds, such as:
- E+Co *
- Opportunity Finance Network
- Grassroots Business Fund
- Root Capital *
- Micro Invest in Real Estate *
* Shortlisted for the 2009 Financial Times Sustainable Banking Awards
- Community development financial institution
- Socially responsible investing
- Ethical banking
- Opportunity Finance Network website
- CDFI Fund
- Wells Fargo NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance
- Financial Times Sustainable Banking Awards
- "Money for SBA initiatives may loosen credit for small firms to grow," Chicago Tribune, March 23, 2009
- "Create Jobs for USA Program Launches in U.S. Starbucks Stores and Online". The New York Times, 1 November 2011.
- "Opportunity Finance Network, Inc.". Bloomberg Businessweek,.
- "Industry Brand" on the Opportunity Finance Network website, accessed 4/8/2009.
- "As Credit Dries Up, More Owners Seek Microloans," Business Week, February 24, 2009
- "An Opportunity Agenda," from The NEXT American Opportunity, accessed 4/17/2009
- CDFI Eligibility, accessed 4/8/2009
- Wachovia NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance description, accessed 4/20/2009
- 2009 FT Sustainable Banking Conference & Awards