Small-Business Owners Need More Than Just Money: WACIF Is a Resource

Small-Business Owners Need More Than Just Money: WACIF Is a Resource

By Timothy Flanagan
Executive Director
The Washington Area Community Investment Fund, Inc.

On Capitol Hill, just south of the H Street, NE, corridor in Washington, DC, Yvonne Stewart-Delancey and James Smith had the dream of opening a childcare center for infants.

The neighborhood was growing and families were in need of infant care, but Stewart-Delancey and Smith didn’t have the resources to do it themselves and couldn’t get a loan from the bank.

The couple approached us—the Washington Area Community Investment Fund, Inc. (WACIF)—a nonprofit, community development loan fund. Our mission is to empower underserved communities and individuals in the DC metropolitan area by providing access to capital and technical assistance to small businesses, childcare centers, affordable housing developers, and community organizations.

Through WACIF’s CareBuilders program, which was funded by the District of Columbia’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Stewart-Delancey and Smith were able to open their doors to the neighborhood.

They also took advantage of WACIF’s free technical assistance to help define their business strategy, pricing, marketing, and business goals, allowing them to create five jobs and 16 infant care slots for area families.

We considered that case another mission accomplished.

Indeed, our impact has been so great that President Obama has visited one of our clients. (The president is pictured on his visit at the beginning of this article.)

The reason we have been effective is simple: Our approach to community-development lending provides more than just money.

It focuses on the four pillars a community needs to thrive:

  • Small business,
  • Affordable housing,
  • Child care, and
  • Effective community organizations.

We have come a long way.

Founded in 1987, WACIFwas created by the boards of directors of the Marianist Sharing Fund, and the Campaign for Human Development of the Arlington Catholic Diocese.

The members of these boards were community-minded individuals who saw a need for a new source of financing to support community development in Northern Virginia. And since its founding, WACIF has been a strong player in community-development efforts throughout the region.

Our initial focus was to increase access and improve the quality of affordable housing. In fact, in 1996, WACIF was one of the first loan funds in the Washington metropolitan area to be certified as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) by the US Department of the Treasury.

Today, our value is providing loans to underserved small-business owners as a certified SBA micro-lender in communities that need it most.

In and around the District of Columbia, we support meaningful impact for families and whole communities through the creation of jobs and affordable housing. We also provide free, ongoing business counseling and classes, which range from writing a business plan, to financial coaching, marketing, legal advice, and real estate advice.

Fast forward to today.

In the past year alone, WACIF has accomplished these goals:

  • Provided 44 loans in the amount of $2.6 million—all to local, low-to-moderate income, small-business owners or affordable housing projects.
  • Provided business counseling to more than 500 individual entrepreneurs.
  • Held more than 45 workshops and loan days connecting area entrepreneurs to business experts and active lenders, with no cost to them

Our motto: “Invest in Your Values. Invest in Your Community.”

Long before crowd-funding and the Internet, WACIF was one of the only local community-investment opportunities in the DC area.

Today, individuals, religious institutions, corporations, and banks regularly invest in WACIF, earning a return while doing good.

Our common purpose as socially responsible investors is to use their investment dollars, in whole or in part, as a tool to have a positive impact on their community.

Clearly, it takes a village to make an impact on a community.

We are a team dedicated to making even more change.

Our staff consists of seven full-time employees, three part-time contractors, and a governing body comprised of 13 volunteer board members.

As we look to the future, we see tremendous opportunity to grow. By continuing our commitment to strengthen the region’s communities through access to much needed capital, aided by specialized technical assistance, the possibilities are endless for our region’s current and future small-business owners.

By expanding WACIF’s role as a local investment opportunity for individuals and institutions to impact their neighborhood, WACIFwill be able to create more jobs and greater housing that we can all see, feel, and enjoy.

This blog first appeared at

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