Announcing Our First CDFI Grant

This Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Grant will Help GROW Further Our Impact in Community & Economic Development

Grand Rapids, Michigan – Late last year, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW) received the designation of a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in addition to their existing microloan program. The organization just received notice of their first grant from the CDFI Program of $125,000.

“We worked very hard to achieve the CDFI designation late last year. And now with this first grant, we have more funds to build capacity for our CDFI fund. This designation also gives us the ability to leverage Community Reinvestment Act funds (CRA) from regional financial institutions “said Bonnie Nawara, CEO of GROW. “These are important resources that have been used for economic development and community projects across the country. CRA funds have also played a major role in support of our Microlending Program.”

As one of only a few CDFI’s in the state, GROW will be able to partner with other local non-profit organizations pursuing community and social impact. GROW also now qualifies for additional federal economic development programs and can bring existing federal dollars into West Michigan. “Achieving certification from the U.S. Department of Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) is a game changer not just for small businesses, but for the communities in West Michigan as well,” Nawara added.

Liz Ziesmer, GROW board president and principal at Rehman said, “These funds will not only provide GROW with more resources to support their clients but to also impact the communities where they are from, all of which have been traditionally underserved.”

In the past 4.5 years, GROW has provided over $1 million in microloan funds to businesses in West Michigan. In 2016 alone, GROW helped local individuals create more than 62 new businesses and create 250 jobs in low to moderate-income communities. 

CDFIs, like GROW, are deliberate in their economic development efforts in areas with higher concentrations of low to moderate-income residents. West Michigan has strong economic growth, and a vibrant startup community, still there are many smaller communities who are not seeing these things. The organization will now provide more investment and resources to rural and low to moderate income areas in their 9-county service area, which includes: Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, Newaygo, Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Montcalm, and Kalamazoo. This investment will further support businesses & entrepreneurs to improve incomes, local tax base, and create more jobs in their communities.


About CDFIs: CDFIs are certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund – known as the CDFI Fund. In order to become a certified CDFI, the financial institution must have a primary mission of promoting community development; provide financial products and services; serve one or more defined low-income target markets; maintain accountability to the community it serves, and be a legal non-governmental entity.

CDFIs are part of a national network promoting economic growth in America’s underserved communities by financing businesses, creating jobs, and rebuilding neighborhoods.

If you’d like to talk more about these grant funds or potential partnerships, please contact us today.