Month: December 2014

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With President Obama’s recent announcement on Deferred Action, the need to focus our attention on the financial needs of immigrant communities is greater than ever. New reforms enable an additional 5 million immigrants the potential to apply for Deferred Action. Having already harnessed partnerships in 10 states and D.C to offer credit-building opportunities, MAF is ready to do the same for those now looking to apply for this new program.

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Thanks to a generous grant from the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Foundation, MAF will be partnering with the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF), Korean Resource Center and Pilipino Workers Center to expand its award-winning Lending Circles program for individuals seeking Deferred Action in the Los Angeles area.

The Lending Circles for Deferred Action program will allow 300 eligible applicants access to zero-interest loans to finance the cost of the Deferred Action application fee by 33% (from $465 to $310) while also building their credit.

MAF has already seen the impact of getting Deferred Action with our own clients in the San Francisco Bay Area. In our seven years of operations, we have assisted over 300 clients in successfully applying for Deferred Action. Members like Itzel and Jesus have used Lending Circles to move towards their goals of accessing an affordable education and becoming advocates in the community.

“MAOF is excited to expand its current relationship with Mission Asset Fund by offering the Lending Circles for Dreamers Program,” says Martin Castro, President and CEO of the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation.

“As a distinguished agency serving the Los Angeles Community, MAOF is looking forward to offering a program that will assist people who have arrived into our country as children and are looking to pursue their dreams. The Lending Circles for Dreamers Program brings needed assistance to residents of Los Angeles who would like to apply for deferred action but have not due to financial hardships.”

Tune into the National Immigrant Integration Conference in LA today at 11:45 a.m. to hear the formal announcement by our Director of Engagement, Mohan Kanungo, and CEO, Jose Quinonez.

 

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FFRC

Fremont Family Resource Center (FFRC) provides wrap-around financial services that empower low-income communities throughout the tri-city area. FFRC is not just MAF’s longest active Lending Circles provider, but a star provider with a zero-percent default rate and a total loan portfolio exceeding $90,000.  Recently, I got to spend an afternoon with FFRC to learn about their ingredients for success and to strategize a successful partnership for years to come.

MAF’s “peer lending” program, as it’s called at FFRC, strengthens FFRC’s SparkPoint Financial Services program which includes financial education, one-on-one financial coaching to support participants with specific goals, employment and training services, free tax preparations, access to public benefits and legal services. FFRC’s SparkPoint goals are to increase income and savings, build credit and lower debt/income ratio.

It’s not just about increasing their credit score, but realizing larger financial goals, such as being able to finance the purchase of a reliable car so they can get to work or develop a robust credit profile to rent an apartment.

Retreat 10-23-13 - Close upUsually I only get a snapshot of a participant’s financial history from their applications when they join the program.  Financial coaches and the program coordinator Christine LaBadie on the other hand get to see the impact of the program.  The meeting at Ohlone College was different because coaches highlighted participant’s stories for colleagues in the asset-building field.

‘Mary’, who’s name we changed for privacy, is a participant of the FFRC that stood out to me. She immigrated to the United States with her children from Nigeria in hopes of a better life. Her husband had to stay behind and sent her money whenever he could to support his family.

She had worked tirelessly to provide for her children, and even with the money from he husband she was barely scraping by. Peer lending gave her the opportunity to build her credit and save towards financial goals including buying a car.  Having reliable access to transportation was essential so that she could get to work as a caregiver. After building her credit, ‘Mary’ was able to pick up a second part time job with Amazon, and the extra income will help her family considerably.

‘Mary’ is on currently on track and working hard to accomplish her goals through the one-on-one support of FFRC’s financial coaches and the community support and credit building tools in the Lending Circles program.

Catrina Rivera is another client who is doing very well.  She used Peer Lending twice and raised her score 96 points!   She has two part-time jobs and wants to open her own tax business someday which is why she’s raising her credit score.  She’s also a volunteer for our free tax program (VITA) which has provided her with much additional education and an IRS certification on tax preparation.

She was very determined to raise her score and believes in education.  She took our financial class 3 times!  She was required to take  the first one we offered – MoneySmart, then opted to take Credit Repair when we launched that, and then this year she repeated Credit Repair.  When asked why, she said there’s so much good info there that she didn’t want to miss anything! She’s working very hard to increase her score and is now working on her business plan for her tax business.“

LaBadie shares that the key ingredient is a lot of financial coaching and education.

I believe a successful portfolio often involves partners that have a strong relationship with your community.  Contact a partner manager to explore how Lending Circle programs can complement your organization’s existing programs and services.

FFRC is one of the most consistent Lending Circles partners, offering Lending Circles about four times per year. MAF has not had to charge off a single loan originated by the organization ever.  I know that the stellar performance of their loan portfolio is largely due to the financial coaching and one-on-one support given to each individual participant.


 

The Fremont FRC is a welcoming place where families and individuals are nurtured, encouraged, and provided quality services to build on their own strengths to help themselves and others. FFRC partners with Mission Asset Fund as part of SparkPoint, a program of the United Way of the Bay Area. The City of Fremont Human Services Department/FRC Division is the Lead FRC partner and operates its Peer Lending Program. Fremont FRC to organize lending circles so that participants are able build their credit and save towards financial goals.  FFRC has originated about $90,000 in loan with a zero percent default rate.

 

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Alyssa’s steadied approach to discovering a place at MAF speaks to her thoughtful nature. She knew about and believed in MAF’s work before even submitting her resume. In fact, Alyssa began talking to MAF staff out of pure interest in our Lending Circles program. Having majored in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Notre Dame, she became interested in learning more about international development issues such as the informal lending circles in Bangladesh through the Grameen Bank.

Financial services give a person the “power to choose,” she notes.

It was this belief in the power of financial inclusion that encouraged her work with microfinance. In addition to exploring the subject in college through many different projects, she worked in the field while in DC for Accion’s Smart Campaign. As she began to look for new opportunities, Alyssa knew she wanted to build off of all she learned while in this position.

As soon as Alyssa heard about MAF, she reached out to start a conversation.

009_102214_MAF_PageBertelsenAfter discussions with MAF staff members, she came to see just how deep MAF’s community roots were and she fell in love with the organization. Soon after, a position on the partnerships team opened up. When she inquired about the role, she began to see how she could contribute to the MAF team.

After just a few days in the office, there are a number of things Alyssa is looking forward to. One of her favorite parts of MAF is its focus on collaboration through partnerships. That’s why the partner manager role seemed like the perfect fit.

“I’m excited about being able to be creative in the new leads we engage,” she says.

She sees a great opportunity to enhance the work of partner organizations by injecting the Lending Circles programs into their portfolio. Alyssa finds MAF’s method of building a sense of community through technology very appealing. Her time in DC gave her an “understanding of just how pivotal technology is in creating greater access to financial services” and she can’t wait to implement this philosophy into her work!

When she’s not making connections between MAF and its partners, Alyssa likes to get creative in the kitchen.

She’s also come to appreciate exactly what diversity means here in San Francisco. While out exploring her neighborhood (Excelsior), Alyssa says she was pleasantly surprised by all the different languages spoken. These make for a vibrant and unique restaurant scene that Alyssa enjoys exploring in her free time.

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Give Credit where it matters

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Here at MAF, we’re lucky to have the chance to watch incredible people use our products to reach their financial goals. This year, we’ve seen a lot of people come through our doors and leave as credit-builders. We’ve served close to 1000 members, formed 13 new partnerships with a total loan volume of nearly $710,000.

I GAVE CREDIT-DORISAs we look toward the future, we’re excited to celebrate our members’ successes and welcome many more. We’re looking forward to scaling up our solution, so we can work with new partners and reach even more members.

We’ve launched our Annual Campaign and ask you to “Give Credit” to those working to get out of the financial shadows. Whether it’s a single parent, a new business owner or an aspiring DREAMer, credit matters in everyone’s life.

To highlight our incredible members, we’ll be sharing new stories each week through email, social media and right here on our blog.

There are so many ways to get involved and support credit-builders:

1) Donate here

2) Buy your Christmas Gifts on AmazonSmile – a portion of your purchase will go towards MAF!

3) Spread the word. Share our social media posts on Facebook and Twitter, so your friends can  learn too.

4) Ask your employer if you can get a matching contribution

With so many ways to contribute to our growing community, will you Give Credit today?

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