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MoFi Receives $1M Grant to Help Entrepreneurs and Their Employees

The Rockefeller Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative announced that MoFi will receive a $1 million grant as part of  the Communities Thrive Challenge — a $10-million effort to expand economic opportunity for low-income and financially insecure people and communities across the country. The Missoula-headquartered organization is one of 10 grantees — from nine states and Puerto Rico — selected because of their demonstrated community success and potential for future impact.

MoFi is changing what lending can do for people and their businesses. Fueled by their nonprofit mission to provide borrowers with flexible capital and superior business assistance, MoFi — a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) — provides financing and consulting to entrepreneurs and small business owners across the Northern Rockies, as well as affordable housing solutions. MoFi’s clients include low-income people, people in rural and low-income communities, women, minorities, and other populations left out of the financial mainstream. MoFi and nine other grantees of the Communities Thrive Challenge will receive $1 million to scale their solutions, as well as best-in-class technical assistance.

“For 32 years, MoFi has worked to strengthen communities by collaborating with the small business owners and entrepreneurs who can help accelerate the local economy,” said Dave Glaser, President of MoFi. “We are honored to be selected as a grantee in the Communities Thrive Challenge. This funding will help MoFi expand our reach across the Northern Rockies so that more individuals can take advantage of programs that can bolster communities, grow jobs, and help rebuild the middle class.”

“The enthusiasm for the Communities Thrive Challenge was just off the charts from local organizations like MoFi, demonstrating a real hunger to share what’s working for the benefit of all Americans,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. “By working together to invest in local solutions, we can build an America where all people can earn enough to support their families, achieve financial security, and provide their children with more opportunities.”

“These organizations are creating pathways to opportunity from the ground up. We’ve already learned a lot from these local leaders and hope that others around the country will find useful lessons in these community-driven approaches,” said Priscilla Chan, co-Founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Since launching in April, the Communities Thrive Challenge received an incredible 1,826 applications from that spanned all 50 states, D.C., and 4 of 5 U.S. territories. To ensure that community leaders had a voice in the decision making, applications were reviewed and scored by five other applicants in a peer review process.

Following the peer review process, over 80 were chosen for evaluation by a diverse panel of experts from academia, policy, business, philanthropy, and community development. Informed by expert and peer review, 20 finalists were selected for the final round. After extensive interviews, site-visits and reviews, the 10 grantees, including MoFi were chosen.

Applications were evaluated based on four main criteria:

  1. Impact: Does the approach improve the lives of the communities where it works?
  2. Potential for scale: Could this approach be effective at a larger scale or become a model for others?
  3. Community based/informed: How deep is the organization embedded within the community it serves?
  4. Leadership: Is the organization led by individuals with a strong history in and commitment to their field and do they represent the communities served?

For the final round, teams from The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative visited each of the 20 finalists, including MoFi in Missoula, MT to learn more about their work and visions for the future. The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative then selected the final slate of grantees who will each receive a $1 million grant and technical assistance tailored to their needs.

The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative are expected to release a public, searchable database of eligible applicants by this week so that other funders, policy makers and leaders can learn from these standout approaches.