See more of the story

Anisha Murphy is working to help small-business owners build wealth in their companies and communities as director of community advancement at Community Reinvestment Fund, USA, a national nonprofit lender based in Minneapolis.

Murphy, an attorney, joined Community Reinvestment Fund (CRF) in a newly created role in December after three years as director of community engagement at Northside Economic Opportunity Network in Minneapolis.

"CRF's commitment to addressing economic inequality through innovative financial solutions to empower people, build sustainable communities and inspire systemic change is particularly appealing to me," Murphy said.

Murphy is working with grass-roots organizations and other strategic partners to take a comprehensive approach to small-business financing.

The goal is to "unlock potential in communities with economic challenges … and identify businesses that can create transformational community impact," Murphy said.

She's also addressing challenges that business owners, particularly women and people of color, face in accessing capital, markets and legal, financial and other operational services.

"We have to step away from the individualistic approach to wealth-building and look at it from a community wealth-building standpoint," Murphy said.

Murphy is playing a big role in CRF's push for greater community influence, according to Keith Rachey, senior vice president and chief impact officer at CRF.

"Anisha's expertise and leadership experience is a valuable asset to CRF as we further our commitment to community engagement and impact," Rachey said in a statement.

A Minneapolis native, Murphy began her career at the Minnesota Department of Human Services and has worked for the Children's Defense Fund, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

In 2019, CRF made loans totaling nearly $23.8 million to 48 small businesses nationally, according to the organization. CRF has invested more than $2.4 billion to stimulate job creation and economic development since its launch in 1988.

Q: Why have you focused on community development?

A: During my first year of law school (at what is now Mitchell Hamline School of Law), the Trayvon Martin case happened. It was a pivotal moment: It was like, I can go make corporations tons of money or I can go where my heart was calling me, to community and public service especially in the African-American community and juvenile justice reform.

Q: What distinguishes CRF's approach?

A: What is so different about CRF's approach to community-development financing is CRF brings economic equality and opportunity to the communities and people that need it most. We believe a loan isn't just a loan. It represents a chance at building true community wealth, improving the quality of life and creating positive sustainable change. Although it starts with a loan, it's the hardworking people in the communities we serve who do the rest.

Q: What led to your role's creation?

A: A lot of times systems build products and they push it to the community. What we realized and why this role is so important at CRF is that we have to go to the community, figure out what the issues are from community voices and then build a product to support that. It's changing how we approach this work and being very strategic. We want to make sure the community has a say in everything we do.

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is