Fundamentals of the Opportunity Finance Industry Course

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The Fundamentals of the Opportunity Finance Industry course is designed for practitioners who are interested in expanding their knowledge of the basics of the opportunity finance industry, which provides financing and financial services to low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged people and communities. This course is jointly offered by the Center for Impact Finance at the Carsey School of Public Policy and the Opportunity Finance Network.

The course will continue as a virtual offering. The team has developed course materials and virtual training that will continue to meet the needs of those in the field of opportunity finance aiming to expand their knowledge of the industry. Those on the waitlist from the last session and everyone who is signed up for our notifications will be contacted with more details and will be given priority registration. Thank you!

*Due to the high demand for course enrollment, the course will be focused on CDFI institutions. Limited non-CDFI institution spaces will be available in each cohort. Please join the waitlist if the course is full and you will be given priority registration for the next session.

Program Details

The goal of this certificate course is to develop the knowledge and capacity of community development finance professionals so that they can productively contribute to expanding their organizations' capacity and impact. The primary objectives are to:

  • Provide participants with an understanding of the history, models, products, and players in the opportunity finance field.
  • Expose participants to best practices and trends in financing, capitalization, and operations of community development finance institutions (CDFIs).
  • Inform participants about impact measurement and evaluation as well as key policy issues impacting the industry.
  • Learn about portfolio policies and management as well as underwriting loans to CDFI borrowers.

Module 1: Opportunity Finance Industry and Why it Matters

  • Context, history of the industry, and why CDFIs are needed
  • Where CDFIs fit within financial markets
  • Current status of the field: players, CDFI types, and size and scope of industry
  • Public policy, advocacy, and federal programs for CDFIs

Module 2: CDFI Business Models, Sustainability, and Growth

  • Organizational and operational basics
  • Business models and capitalizations strategies
  • Evaluating CDFIs using a CAMEL analysis (Capital, Asset Quality, Management, Earnings, and Liquidity)
  • Impact measurement and evaluation in community development finance
  • CDFI growth framework and sustainability

Module 3: Community Development through Lending and Development Services

  • Market and mission: understanding market needs, loan product design, and marketing approach
  • Lending sectors and typical products
  • Development services strategies
  • Lending policies and portfolio management
  • Underwriting CDFI borrowers
  • Emerging trends and CDFI responses and innovations
  • The road ahead: needs and opportunities
spring 2024
  • Virtual Classes:
    • Three consecutive Wednesdays (3/20, 3/27, 4/3)
    • 1–2:30 p.m. EST
    • Total course hours: 10 hours (consists of a 90-minute Zoom class on Wednesdays and another 1-2 hours of outside class work before each virtual session)

Participants who will benefit from attending this course are new or recent entrants into the field of opportunity finance who want to expand their knowledge of the fundamentals of the industry. 

  • Professionals changing careers
  • Current employees of CDFIs—focused on those who entered the field within the past three years
  • CDFI investors and funders, including banks and foundations
  • Government employees involved in community and economic development

*Due to the high demand for course enrollment, the course will be focused on CDFI institutions. Limited non-CDFI institution spaces will be available.


"In a very short timeframe, the course presented valuable information about the background and environment of the industry with surprisingly detailed financial analyses and spot-on case studies. A great course!"


"I am much more prepared and capable now to participate in the development of our new loan fund!"

"As a newcomer to the CDFI industry, this course provided a great opportunity to enrich my on-the-job experience. The speakers were passionate and highly effective. Learning about Self-Help and other leaders in the industry was a great experience. And the site visit tour was great!"

"The peer learning opportunities are exceptional! My vision on capitalization and operating models has been vastly broadened. And it was great to have this training on Self-Help's campus—what a great industry leader!!"

Laurie Smith headshot

Please contact us if you have any questions about our program.

Laurie Smith
Center for Impact Finance


Program Partner Support

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