LONGMONT, CO – First Nations Oweesta Corporation (Oweesta) is excited to announce Wells Fargo Foundation (Wells Fargo) has awarded the organization a grant of $1.8 million to support the Equity and Opportunity for Start-up, Emerging, and Growing Native CDFIs program.

This new program, supported by Wells Fargo, will allow Oweesta to provide equity grants to start-up, emerging, and growing Native Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) in the lower 48 states and the state of Alaska seeking loan capital from Oweesta in addition to in-depth technical assistance to support these groups in the lending process.

Native CDFIs are vital nonprofit organizations in their communities. They operate as crucial financial institutions with a mission of providing responsible, affordable lending opportunities for ‘under-banked’ individuals, especially those who are low-income and low-wealth. CDFIs serve individuals in building or repairing credit, supporting entrepreneurship, helping build assets like homeownership, and more.

Native CDFIs are often created in locations with the fewest Tribal and/or philanthropic resources, meaning for many start-up, emerging, and growing Native CDFIs, it can be difficult to access the initial seed capital for lending. This program will help Native CDFIs build capacity to attain certification with the CDFI Fund, access further capital sources, and serve their communities’ capital needs.

Oweesta anticipates serving five to seven Native CDFIs per year through this program, providing an average grant of $65,000. These grants will be provided as match to loans given by Oweesta to Native CDFIs. Native CDFIs will be selected through an open application process. To qualify for this matching grant, a Native CDFI would need to meet the following requirements:

• Be located in and serve Alaska or the Continental U.S.
• Have less than $5MM in organizational total assets
• Have less than $500,000 in non-federal debt
• Must meet all Oweesta underwriting requirements

Preference will be given to organizations that have been lending for less than five years. These Native CDFIs will be selected to participate in the program in accordance with when they are “loan ready” to receive a loan from Oweesta.

Chrystel Cornelius, Executive Director of Oweesta, states, “This grant funding will support the incubation and growth of Native CDFIs by directly addressing capital, equity, and capacity building challenges. We are incredibly grateful for this funding as it will bolster our Native CDFIs capacity to meet target market lending demands and offer an opportunity of an equity match to our lending capital provisions. This inherently strengthens our Native CDFIs capacity to grow and strength their financial position in serving their respective tribal communities.”

“Native Community Development Financial Institutions provide affordable lending to help grow local businesses, spark job growth and help low-income and underserved people and communities succeed financially and thrive,” said Cora Gaane, Wells Fargo tribal advocate. “Wells Fargo is pleased to partner with First Nations Oweesta in its efforts to strengthen Native CDFIs and drive economic development throughout Indian Country.”

About Oweesta
Oweesta Corporation’s mission is to provide opportunities for Native people to develop financial assets and create wealth by assisting in the establishment of strong, permanent institutions and programs contributing to economic independence and strengthening sovereignty for all Native communities. Oweesta is the only existing Native CDFI (community development financial institution) intermediary offering financial products and development services exclusively to Native CDFIs and Native communities. Specifically, Oweesta provides training, technical assistance, investments, research, and policy advocacy to help Native communities develop an integrated range of asset-building products and services, including financial education and financial products. Native CDFIs provide Native communities the tools and capital support required for real and sustainable job creation, small business development, commercial real estate development, and affordable housing/home ownership, while also offering basic banking services and financial literacy training to “underbanked” Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities who have been historically targeted by predatory lending practices.

Krystal Langholz, Chief Operating Officer, Oweesta Corporation
krystal@oweesta.org or 303.774.8838

Note: All other grant seekers can apply through www.wellsfargo.com/donations or through the Diverse Community Capital program https://www.wellsfargo.com/com/financing/real-estate/community-lending-investment/cdfi. Wells Fargo’s current grant application process is closed for 2019.