CRF history


Never mind the naysayers

The naysayers told us in the beginning, “Well, you’ll be lucky if you do
$3 or 4 million a year, this is really hard stuff.”

Really? CRF has now financed more than $1.5 billion to change lives and transform struggling neighborhoods into thriving communities.

It is “hard stuff,” but we won’t quit because we believe that everyone deserves a chance at the American Dream. Join us to create a better future for disadvantaged people and distressed communities across the country.

Read how it all began »

How it all began


Our story began as the brainchild of Frank Altman, CRF’s president and CEO, and Warren Hanson, then President and CEO of the Greater Minnesota Housing fund. In the late 1980s, Altman worked for the Minnesota governor in a variety of economic development roles and was asked to explore alternative options for financing economic development as traditional sources of funding continued to shrink. He began investigating options to sell loans for the state’s then Department of Trade and Economic Development.  

Altman and his team determined that, by selling existing loans, they could help recapitalize economic development entities rather than having them go back for more appropriations and taxpayer dollars. The impact to communities would be greater and faster because money could be reinvested sooner.

When Altman left state government, he used this concept to lay the foundation for CRF. The idea resonated with Twin Cities-based foundations such as the Northwest Area Foundations, US West Foundation, and the McKnight Foundation, whose grants helped launch CRF as a non-profit organization in 1988.



Frank Altman, along with Warren Hanson, President and CEO of the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, conceive the CRF concept in response to uncertain community development funding.


CRF issues first debt offering.

Early 1990s

Norwest Area Foundation, Norwest (now Wells Fargo), Dayton-Hudson (now Target), and US West (now Qwest) foundations give $5.6 million in seed money to jump-start CRF.


Altman and others create the New Markets Tax Credit program.


Federal government allocates $162.5 million to CRF under tax credit. Allocations continue.


CRF issues first rated debt offering.


CRF becomes a Standard & Poor’s Select Loan Servicer.


CRF and Altman receive the Social Capitalist Award (“45 Social Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the World”) from Fast Company Magazine.


Sam’s Club selects CRF as one of four finalists in the entrepreneurship category for its first-ever Giving Made Simple online charity initiative.


CRF is selected as one of only 14 nationwide non-banking institutions to offer the US Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 7(a) loan program.


CRF approved as SBA 7(a) Preferred Lender under U.S. Small Business Administration's Preferred Lenders Program (PLP).