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Fund Community Institute Building Thriving Communities

Visit for Fund CI’s research and updates. 

Fund Community Institute (Fund CI) is a nonprofit think tank conducting independent studies, partner projects and commissioned research designed to encourage dialogue, share best practices, and promote innovation. Fund CI is a thought leader in the FUND Family of organizations, complementing the work of FUND Consulting, a women owned consulting firm serving CDFIs and mission driven organizations since 2000. FUND CI was founded by Ruth Barber in 2017, with a love for research and a strong desire to give back to the industry that helped FUND Consulting grow. 

The mission of FUND CI is to build thriving communities through research, training, and facilitation of opportunities for knowledge sharing.

Emily Sipfle currently serves as Executive Director. FUND CI welcomes research inquiries and partnerships in support of the CDFI industry. Contact us at or 773-570-5998.

Visit for Fund CI’s research and updates. 


Certification: FUND Community Institute is exploring how upcoming changes to the CDFI Certification guidelines are likely to affect different CDFI types as well as the industry overall

Accountability: Leveraging Advisory Boards and Preparing for Changes

This research brief explores one of the core criteria for certification: accountability. CDFI certification statutes require that CDFIs must maintain accountability to residents of its Target Market(s), either through governing boards or advisory boards. These advisory bodies can be an important part of maintaining certification and many CDFIs also leverage their advisory boards to support the capacity of the organization. FUND CI’s research finds that many CDFI’s advisory boards are under prepared for certification changes and likely can further leverage the expertise and knowledge of their assembled advisory boards. Read the full brief here

Emerging CDFIs

Emerging CDFIs have had a unique experience with the delayed release of the certification and the long closure of the application window as they must balance continuing their operations with uncertainty of the timing and content of the final certification guidelines. To that end, Fund Community Institute spoke with John Godwin, Director of the New American Community Lending (NACL), a subsidiary of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) to learn about how the certification changes affect NACL. Read more about how NACL has handled the delay and uncertainty related to certification updates here


On the heels of a noteworthy study on CDFI governing boards, FUND Community Institute conducted its first formal research project in 2017 on the role of Advisory Boards at CDFI organizations, the findings from which are available on the FUND Consulting blog. In 2018, the FUND CI team completed a landmark study on the role of women in the CDFI Industry titled “Perception vs. Reality: Women and Change in the CDFI Industry.” One of the key findings was that the CDFI industry has a long way to go in terms of achieving diversity and inclusion. To further investigate this issue, FUND CI conducted research in 2019 to identify the best practices of CDFIs that are recognized as being ahead of the curve in fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion both internally and externally. Since then, FUND CI has conducted research on the effects on credit scores of consumers accessing small dollar credit building loans (SDCBLs)as well as succession planning in the CDFI industry. All reports and additional research can be found below.

Find an overview of our work to date in FUND CI’s Report Reflection on Five Years of Research


Additional Research

People versus Place Based Strategies

CDFIs and PPP Lending

Credit Scores as a Measure of CDFI Impact

Diversity and Inclusion at CDFIs

Women and Change in the CDFI Industry

CDFI Boards and Fundraising

The Role of Advisory Boards at CDFI Organizations



Emily Sipfle, Executive Director (she/her/hers)

Emily brings more than a decade of CDFI experience to the Executive Director role at FUND CI.

Formerly, Emily was a Managing Consultant at FUND Consulting, where she oversaw an internal team which managed client data, completed analyses and leveraged third-party data sources to support FUND projects. Emily also managed projects including writing CDFI Fund funding and grant applications, initial CDFI certification and ongoing reporting, and compliance. Emily also works with clients on strategic projects, such as strategic plans, market studies, capitalization plans, impact systems analyses, and customer surveys. Prior to FUND Consulting, Emily worked in various roles at three CDFIs: National Community Investment Fund, IFF and Chicago Community Loan Fund.

Emily was a founding board member of FUND Community Institute and has supported the organization’s mission and research agenda since inception. She is excited to continue to grow the organization’s research and training efforts related to CDFIs and the larger community development industry.

To connect with FUND CI, please email Emily at