History

NFF began life in 1980 as the Energy Conservation Fund, making loans and providing technical assistance to help nonprofits deal with high energy costs. Founder Clara Miller served as president and CEO through our first three decades. Over the years, we have continuously expanded our reach and our services to address the sector’s broad capitalization needs – providing financing for a range of purposes to nonprofits and social enterprises, and advice to nonprofits, funders, and investors nationwide on how to effectively connect money and mission. 

In the 1990s we grew from one New York office to five offices across the United States, extending our work from Boston to San Francisco and establishing ourselves as a leader in the emerging CDFI field. 

In 1996 President Bill Clinton appointed Clara Miller to the U.S. Treasury’s first Community Development Advisory Board for the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. In 1999 she became the board chair. 

In 2000 we became Nonprofit Finance Fund. 

In 2001 NFF awarded $10.1 million in flexible financial aid to 200 New York City nonprofits to offset expenses and losses resulting from the Sept. 11 terror attacks.  

In 2007 we received our first New Markets Tax Credits award; we’ve used our $381 million total to date to finance community facility projects like health centers and schools in low-income communities.  

In 2009 we rolled out special programming to help nonprofits manage through the recession. We also launched the State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey, gathering, analyzing, and sharing data about nonprofits’ health and challenges to provide accessible insights, raise the voice of nonprofits nationwide, and inform funding discussions. 

In 2011 we launched our Pay for Success Learning Hub to help the sector share knowledge and resources about this innovative approach to contracting that ties payment for service delivery to the achievement of measurable outcomes. The same year, Antony Bugg-Levine succeeded Clara Miller as CEO., bringing with him deep expertise in impact investing. His book on the subject, Impact Investing: How We Make Money While Making a Difference, was published that fall. 

In 2016 NFF began working on the case to cover full costs with the Weingart Foundation and California Community Foundation, gathering 50 California funders and grantees to openly discuss the full costs of doing nonprofit business. Late that year we provided free webinars to help as many nonprofits, funders, and impact investors as possible prepare for major changes anticipated under the Trump administration. 

In 2017 we partnered with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco to publish What Matters: Investing in Results to Build Strong, Vibrant Communities and to launch a national knowledge campaign on how we can reorient the social sector around outcomes. We held 11 workshops, partner events, and webinars across the US to explore outcomes and how to fund for and achieve them. The book is available for free from the Invest in Results website. That year we also passed a significant financial milestone with $100 million in loans outstanding in our portfolio. 

Throughout our 40 years, NFF has participated in initiatives across the nonprofit sector to, for example, explore arts organizations’ need for facility-related assistance, support nonprofit adaptability in a changing city, and boost community health outcomes. During this time we have also become a leader in the national discussion for funding nonprofits’ full costs of services. Along the way we have provided $875 million in financing and access to additional capital in support of over $2.9 billion in projects for thousands of organizations worldwide. 

NFF is proud that our work is mission driven and guided by our values. But we recognize that we have not focused enough on increasing equity for communities of color, who have faced decades of disinvestment because of deeply entrenched institutional barriers in how money flows. We are working to change this through a variety of efforts, some planned and some already in place, to make every aspect of our work guided by our commitment to equity. Our efforts include internal changes, revisiting how we work with our clients, and leading the community finance sector toward equity. Visit our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion page for up-to-date information on this work.   

Today, we continue to evolve with the needs of our society and our sector, helping nonprofits and their supporters to be financially stable and nimble so they can explore opportunities, weather storms, make use of data and ideas, and get ever better at doing good.