The New Hampshire Community Loan Fund has received the highest possible rating for its social impact performance from CARS™, the CDFI Assessment and Ratings System. CARS helps investors and donors assess the creditworthiness and impact performance of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).
CARS awarded the Community Loan Fund, a statewide nonprofit, the top grade – AAA – for its impact performance. The Community Loan Fund also earned the second-highest rating for its financial strength and performance and a “Policy Plus” designation for its work to improve government laws and policies on behalf of people and communities with low incomes.
The Concord-based Community Loan Fund turns investments into loans and education to create opportunity for people with low incomes. It collaborates with a wide range of donors and lenders, and with business, nonprofit and government partners, to provide the financing and support people need to have affordable homes, have quality jobs and child care, and become financially independent.
“This CARS rating is a real testament to the strength of the Community Loan Fund’s strategies and financial practices. It says that even through a recession that rocked financial institutions worldwide, the Community Loan Fund successfully helped people and communities with low incomes seize opportunities to transform their lives,” said Community Loan Fund Board Chair Ed Tomey, of Keene.
CARS was developed by the Opportunity Finance Network, the national association of CDFIs, and launched in 2004. “Socially responsible investors are attracted to CDFIs because they offer a unique blend of financial discipline plus positive social or economic impact in their marketplace,” said CARS director Paige Chapel.
National financial institutions such as Bank of America and Citi, and major philanthropic organizations including the Ford Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, use CARS to identify investment opportunities.
The Community Loan Fund was the first CDFI evaluated in 2005, when the CARS system was still evolving, and has twice (in 2008 and 2011) duplicated its AAA rating with more-stringent evaluations.
“Three times now, outside evaluators have taken a rigorous look at what we do, how we do it, and our impact on New Hampshire families and communities. Three times they’ve given us a triple ‘thumbs up,’ ” said Community Loan Fund President Juliana Eades. “Their judgment reaffirms our financial strength and resilience as we’ve weathered this extreme recession with high-performing loans and effective technical assistance.”
The CARS rating signals to the Community Loan Fund’s supporters that “they can be assured that their donations and loans, which make our work possible, are creating the maximum social impact,” Eades said.
The 65 CARS-rated CDFIs represent about 11% of all CDFI Fund-certified loan funds. However, these rated institutions currently manage 30% of all on-balance sheet assets among certified groups.
Since 1983, the Community Loan Fund has loaned more than $144 million, leveraging more than $444 million for its projects.