Resilience is what makes us get up when we fall. It’s why we travel long distances in search of a better life, no matter the perils. When we started Lending Circles, some said: “It won’t work. You’ll fail.” But we kept moving forward. That’s because our program is grounded in what matters most: family, community, and the relationships that bind us with one another.
In the last ten years, we scaled Lending Circles throughout the country, but we also changed the conversation about what matters in people’s financial lives. And we are proof that you can build and scale financial products while still staying rooted in community, true to your mission, and agile in your delivery. It’s how we step up to the plate to protect thousands of Dreamers. And this year, we are stepping up by going mobile.
MyMAF app is not just any app. This one uses the best of finance and technology for the good of the people. This one is about being culturally relevant and bridging the technology gap. More importantly, it’s about showing our clients that they matter – and that’s the secret of our success.
In 2018, we knew we couldn’t operate by the usual playbook. We innovated, launched five new programs and services, expanded two more, and laid the foundation to keep on creating new solutions.
With DACA facing a tenuous future, we knew we had to change course to help community members obtain affirmative relief. We doubled down on our commitment to Dreamers and immigrant communities and launched a zero-interest immigration loan program, covering the cost of becoming a citizen, obtaining a green card, and more.
Amidst an onslaught of anti-immigrant and hateful federal policies, we fought back. While the current administration separated families at the border and proposed outrageous standards to receive a visa or a green card, we advocated for the freedom, dignity, and respect of our communities. And we are only getting started.
We talked to clients and partners across the country. We celebrated their triumphs and shared in their heartbreaks. And we provided a platform for them to tell their stories. As DACA scholarship recipient Rosa put it so beautifully, “The most powerful way to convey my message is to show people who I am.”
We believe in the power of partnership to achieve ambitious goals. We’ve worked with 65+ high-impact organizations to bring Lending Circles to their communities. In 2018, we were thrilled to welcome Canal Alliance of Marin County, CA into our national network of Lending Circles providers. We know we aren’t alone in this fight.
MyMAF gives clients autonomy to direct their financial journey. Clients decide where they want to begin, whether it’s learning about credit or watching a video about exploring their investment options. Clients can choose from 70+ action items to work towards, providing clients with a structure to create their own action plan. The app empowers clients to set the agenda based on what is most relevant to them and supports them with resources, tips, and motivation to get to their goal.
Technology and research have always been a core part of MAF’s work. But we realized that we needed to reorganize ourselves to fully harness the transformative power of technology to better serve our clients at scale. As a result, we created the MAF Lab: an R&D team that aims to build better products and programs to meet the needs of the communities we serve.
We’re bridging the best of the nonprofit and fintech worlds. We’re drawing on best practices in user research, design thinking, and agile development to create a virtuous research and development cycle. We research to assess strengths, understand needs, and then build products to leverage those strengths to meet those needs. We build products for people who are often left out of tech developments and formal financial markets.
MAF is proud to report another year of strong support from our amazing funder community, enabling us to serve more clients than before. As we look ahead toward growing and scaling our programs, we remain committed to fiscal prudence to ensure sustainability and high-quality programming for every community we serve.
This past year, we had strong performance across our key revenue streams. With several funders providing multi-year grants, we’re deepening our impact and continuing our work for years to come.
We continue to invest in building programs that meet the financial needs of our communities. That includes Research and Development, to create scalable solutions to promote financial inclusion.
Over the past 10 years, our supporters have invested nearly $30M in building resiliency and improving the financial futures of our communities.
We’ve created products to help communities build credit, pay for immigration applications, and secure their finances. Through all of this, our default rate has remained much lower than the industry average.
What better way to mark our 10-year anniversary than to reflect on strengths in the communities we work with? “One Decade of Lending Circles” features ten insights we’ve gained from ten years of social lending.
In October 2008, we formed our first Lending Circle. In December 2018, we celebrated MAF’s 10th birthday with style! Hors d’oeuvres, craft cocktails, and 200 of our closest friends and allies.
If ten years has taught us anything, it’s that we need to keep up the fight. It’s about joining together to build breakthrough innovations that bring about real change to the communities we serve. Communities who are vulnerable to our nation’s broken immigration system need innovations to more easily firm up their status. Communities who are vulnerable to the latest economic scam need better access to low-cost financial products. Communities targeted with a long history of institutional racism need more opportunities to secure and build wealth. Let us not allow Silicon Valley to only provide radical advances for the 1%. Instead, let us join together to learn about the needs of our communities, and put our best thinking and resources forward to bring about real change to the 99%.
More amazing things are happening: