LISC National
About Us

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC): A Brief History

If American cities are to become more livable, they will be made so in part by people who are trying to revitalize their own neighborhoods.

In the late 1970s, the importance of local development initiatives became clear, with the government administration recognizing the need for public/private partnerships.  However, experience shows that government finds it hard to select and work flexibly with the sensitive, creative and tenacious local organizations that do the job of revitalization best.

Thus, an approach was devised to accelerate the work of creative community and neighborhood organizations. The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) was born, with the intent of providing knowledge, selectivity and flexibility to the communities that are most vital to a national revitalization strategy: badly deteriorated low income communities, showing potential for reclamation and declining working and middle class areas that are intent on self-help. 

In 1979, when the Ford Foundation first conceived of LISC, it envisioned an “intermediary”—a smart and nimble non-profit that would connect hard-to-tap public and private resources with underinvested places and people working to access opportunities everyone of us deserves.

The premise was as simple then as it is now: government, foundations and for-profit companies have the capital; residents and local institutions understand the need; and LISC bridges the gap by offering the tools and expertise to help community organizations attract the kinds of capital and resources that allow them do their best work.

We receive our funding from banks, corporations, foundations and government agencies. We, in turn, use that funding to provide financing (loans, grants, equity) and technical and management assistance to local partners and developers. While the components of our programming and our role continue to evolve and expand, for 40 years, our mission has remained the same: we pool public and private dollars and invest those dollars into local partners, supporting people and places. 

Over the past 40 years, LISC has evolved from a National non-profit lending arm of the Ford Foundation, to the largest independent nonprofit CDFI in the country, supporting initiatives and investments in housing, business, jobs, education, safety, and health. 

Click here for a brief history of the LISC WNY office.