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January 2016 NEWSLETTER
From the desk of AFN Director, Joe Antolín

January has always offered a time to assess where we have been and where we are going.  For those of us seeking to increase economic security, it is an especially inspiring month as we consider the legacy to all of us left by Dr. Martin Luther King.  When you look past the known speeches, Dr. King increasingly described a moral revolution requiring all of us to act and rid our economic and social institutions of racial injustice:
All I am saying is simply this: ... we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.  And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be - this is the interrelated structure of reality. 

 - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "Remaining Awake through A Great Revolution"  
(Oberlin College 1965)  
To me, his idea that "I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be" is a grounded common sense statement of the catalytic role of philanthropy in our country.  Indeed, the framework of the interrelated structure of reality is what informs and motivates the Asset Funders Network.
This year we will be:
  • Introducing a new framework for addressing the challenge of better engaging low-income consumers in financial empowerment efforts (look for news about this new work in February).
  • Delivering more opportunities for members to learn and connect through "Members only" research roundtables where a small group of funders can engage in discussions with key thought leaders and researchers to better understand the implications of new and seminal research and catalyze informed investments.
  • Exploring the potential of microenterprise as the source of asset building and employment as part of a second chance strategy to engage the formerly incarcerated and reduce recidivism.
  • Unpacking the research and evidence that health outcomes and reduced health care costs are impacted by and reflect a household's wealth and economic security.
  • Developing several levels of understanding about what role philanthropy can play to integrate asset building approaches such as coaching into established service delivery frameworks.
  • Elevating sound approaches and making the case for the continued investment into the future assets of today's young children through Childrens' Savings Accounts.
  • Leveraging the knowledge of local and community-based funders engaged in our active and developing regional chapters in Central Indiana, Arkansas, North Texas, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York and several other regions to identify the best approaches for those regions to smartly and flexibly invest.
  • Listening carefully to our member's input on interrelationships such as 2-generation, the positive impact of immigrants to community, the connection of wage levels to the security for current retirees, and more as we develop AFN's content for 2016 and beyond.
AFN -- with its growing membership; partner affinity groups; the Federal Reserve Banks of Dallas, Boston, San Francisco, St Louis, and Atlanta; public sector partners, and non-profit experts and practitioners who work collaboratively with us - every day helps to activate our interrelated structure of reality. 
With you, AFN and its members together will continue to be an effective catalyst, improving the odds that low and moderate households in our communities can become what they ought to be elevating their neighbors and communities. We look forward to hearing from you - here's to a mutually fulfilling and successful new year!


Members Making Impact

AFN Steering Committee Immediate Past Co-Chair named Director of Education Grantmaking 

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation recently announced that Benita Melton has been named Program Director for its Education grantmaking program.
Benita is the Immediate Past Co-Chair on AFN's Steering Committee. She brings an invaluable level of expertise and experience on strategies benefiting low- and moderate-income families' efforts to save money and build assets to the AFN organization, its Members, and the asset-building field as a whole.  

Congratulations, Benita!

Alfond Scholarship Foundation Achieves Unprecedented CSA Reach in Maine

The  Harold Alfond College Challenge, project of  AFN Member the Alfond Scholarship Foundation,  recently celebrated a huge milestone, reaching $25 million invested on behalf of more than 50,000 Maine children since 2008.   This highly successful CSA program reached this level of grantmaking in part by the state transition from an 'opt-in' to an 'opt-out' program - every baby born as a resident of the state receives the initial $500 grant for college savings.  

Research suggests that even if no further deposits are made, that initial grant increases the likelihood of college admittance by three times, and increases graduation rates by four times.  Positive financial behaviors in both the parents and the children are increased - understanding of financial institutions, financial aid options and availability, and reduced debt load by graduation.  

The Harold Alfond College Challenge has achieved national recognition, and serves as a model for successful CSA implementation.   Every state in New England is exploring or implemented a similar program based on the learnings and actions of the Alfond Scholarship Foundation.   In case you missed it,  NPR's Morning Edition highlighted Maine's successful CSA program , the Harold Alfond College Challenge, Maine's answer to rising college costs.  

AFN Leadership
AFN Expands Upon Its Expertise

AFN is excited to announce it has expanded upon its leadership expertise, capacity, and reach with the addition of Steering Committee member  Elena Chávez Quezada , and staff members Mona Masri and Anne Yeoman.
Elena Chávez Quezada Walter and Elise 
Haas Fund

Elena Chávez Quezada  joins AFN's Steering Committee from the Walter & Elise Haas Fund where she is their new senior program officer for Economic Security.  Prior to Haas, Quezada was at the Tipping Point Community where she was known for her portfolio of poverty-fighting organizations, management of its Mental Health Initiative and research for its work with early stage and legal services organizations. She is currently a fellow with the leadership development program at the Pahara Institute. 
With a bachelor's degree in Romance Languages and Literature and a master's degree in public policy from Harvard University, Elena offers a great mixture of on-the-ground experience and academic rigor to AFN's work.

Mona Masri 
West Coast  Regional 
Program Manager

Mona Masri joins AFN as the new West Cost Regional Program Manager , focusing on the Los Angeles and Seattle area as well as  working with other funders in the region. 

With over 20 years experience in corporate social responsibility and community economic development including experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors, Masri has developed a proven track record of identifying and executing innovative community development initiatives. Most recent examples include linked emergency savings accounts and culturally appropriate peer lending circles. 

Anne Yeo man  joins the team heading up AFN's work on Children's Savings Accounts
as  CSA Program Manager.   Yeoman comes to AFN with a very strong asset-building foundation, having expanded her work as the field has matured from IDAs to encompass other asset-building strategies.  

For more than a decade, Yeoman has provided technical assistance to the Assets for Independence (AFI) program and its grantees through the AFI Resource Center and the Office of Community Services.  
During this period, Yeoman focused for more than two years on work with federal, regional, state and local entities in the mid-Atlantic to bring asset-building opportunities to more individuals and families served by ACF programs.  This work included training federal, state and local staff on how to integrate asset-building tools (banking, credit, savings, tax services, financial education, benefits access) into existing programs and on developing local partnerships to support financial stability and enhance outcomes.   Yeoman has also worked on community and economic development programs for the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Justice and Labor.

To reach Anne about the recently formed AFN CSA Funder Task Force, contact her at  This vital body of work embodies the impact of grantmakers coalescing around and integrating an exciting asset building strategy.  

AFN Resources & Events

Consumer Engagement

You've spent hours and months designing a program to improve your consumers' financial lives; you've built it, but will they come? 

AFN's latest brief,  Consumer Engagement: Helping People Want What They Need, to be released late February, provides a new approach to promote the sustained adoption and use of financial empowerment efforts. 

The upcoming brief describes both a philosophy and a process for developing and delivering financial products and services. The paper discusses an actionable framework, showcases diverse examples from the field, and includes tangible recommendations for financial empowerment funders.

Author, Tim Flacke, Executive Director, D2D Fund will share an actionable framework, showcase diverse examples from the field, and highlight tangible recommendations for financial empowerment funders.
Annika Little, AFN's deputy director, will moderate a discussion about the challenges and opportunities of more effectively engaging low-income consumers in financial empowerment work and the role of philanthropy.
Live Online Events: 

Wednesday, February 10 |1:00pm EST - 
The Advance Preview Webinar is exclusively for AFN Members - space is limited to allow for an active discussion among participants.  

Wednesday, February 24 |1:00pm EST 
Webinar open to all funders and providers


Engaging Southern Grantmakers

Working together, AFN Network Members can make change by increasing opportunity and financial security for more Americans. 

new AFN backgrounder , focused specifically on grantmakers in the Southern Region of the United States, is now available.
Because of the cultures and challenges unique to the Southern Region, AFN invites funders located in this area to lift up and share their experiences and insights on community-centered asset building strategies that work. 

While this work is important nationwide, it is critical in the Southern Region of the country where asset poverty statistics reveal an opportunity to help families build financial security. 

For more information, contact Abby Hughes Holsclaw , Director of Member Engagement.  

WEBINAR: Alternative EITC Payment Models:  Implications for Funders, Community Organizations & Families

For the past forty years, the EITC has become established as one of our nation's most effective antipoverty programs. In 2013, over 27 million working families and individuals received the EITC, and 9 million were lifted out of poverty. The federal tax credit has been shown over and over to encourage and reward work, boost incomes, and offset federal payroll and income taxes.

This recorded webinar, presented live earlier this month by the EITC Funders Network and Asset Funders Network, provides funders and philanthropic advisors the context for exploring payment alternatives (including lessons learned from the underutilized, former Advance EITC option), the recent proposals and pilots that have emerged, and the role of funders in exploring both the ideas behind and the logistics around periodic payment proposals.

Strengthening Financial Futures

New Tool Helps Consumers Plan for Retirement
E very year more than 2 million Americans make one of the most important financial decisions of their lives: choosing when to begin collecting Social Security retirement benefits. 
Just recently, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released Planning for Retirement , an interactive tool to help consumers make this important decision. 

Creating an Opportunity Economy

Americans everywhere struggle to build strong financial futures for themselves and their families.  What It's Worth a new book from CFED and Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, provides a roadmap for what families, communities and our nation can do to move forward on the path to financial well-being.


The Suburbs: Where Philanthropy and Assets Matter


The geography of poverty in the U.S. has shifted well beyond its historical confines of urban centers and remote Appalachia. 

During the first decade of the 2000s, the poor population living in suburbs of the nation's largest metropolitan areas for the first time outstripped the poor population living in central cities, and poverty continues to grow faster today in the suburbs. This trend has been even more pronounced for those living below twice the federal poverty line-equivalent to $48,500 for a family of four in 2015-which roughly mirrors the population eligible to receive the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).


Although it was not originally billed as an antipoverty program, in its 40 years the EITC has become one of the nation's most effective tools for lifting low-income workers and their families above the poverty line.


Childrens Savings Accounts


Learn How to Design a CSA Program
Children's Savings Accounts (CSA) programs are a powerful tool for building children's aspirations and investing in their futures, which is why many community leaders and funders have expressed interest in developing programs in their own states, cities and communities. CFED recently released a resource -  Investing in Dreams: A Blueprint for Designing Children's Savings Account Programs  - which walks you step-by-step through the process of developing and launching a CSA program.
New Children's Savings Bill Introduced
Last Quarter, Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) introduced legislation in the US House of Representatives to create the USAccounts program, which would provide universal CSAs at birth for all children in the US and provide matched savings incentives to low- and moderate-income families.
$400,000 Donation to Support Children's Savings
The 1:1 Fund was the charity partner for Prudential's recent Race for Retirement , receiving $25 for each race participant, for a total of $400,000. This generous donation will be used to bolster fundraising efforts by the 1:1 Fund's 12 partner programs.
New Program Launching in Durham
The city of Durham, North Carolina and East Durham Children's Initiative are teaming up to launch Durham Kids Save , a CSA program serving children in historically disadvantaged East Durham. The program is set to launch in January.

Microenterprise & Small Business

Funders report performance quantitatively with comprehensive and consistent evidence
FIELD's EntrepreneurTracker offers microenterprise and small business programs an affordable way to collect and understand credible outcomes achieved by their clients. Programs that complete the EntrepreneurTracker client outcomes survey don't just collect this data, they use it with audiences both inside and outside their organizations.

FIELD's EntrepreneurTracker Explore dashboard lets funders explore the data that programs collect with EntrepreneurTracker, including business start rates, business survival rates, changes in revenues, and employment statistics. Use the paid Analyze tools to explore additional outcomes by gender, income status, microloan size, and more. 

To learn more about EntrepreneurTracker and to discuss participation in 2016, please contact Tamra Thetford.
Business Ownership and the Racial Wealth Gap
Micro- and small- business development strategies can help tackle the growing racial wealth gap in the United States, according to a recent funder's brief released by the Asset Funders Network (AFN).  

Lower levels of business and financial assets held by African-American and Latino households are one of the key reasons for the racial wealth gap, suggesting that business ownership may be an important means to narrow the gap.

Written by Joyce Klein of FIELD at the Aspen Institute, with support from Capital One, the funder's brief, Narrowing the Racial Wealth Gap through Business Ownership , examines the available research on business ownership, and the connection between business ownership and wealth creation for diverse populations. The brief also identifies proven tools and strategies investors can employ to strengthen access to and effectiveness of business ownership as a means to build wealth and reduce the racial and ethnic wealth gap.

Gender Wealth Gap

How to Bridge That Stubborn Pay Gap

The gender gap is still with us. Women get  paid  79 cents on the dollar vs. what men earn. 

New York Times Upshot columnist Claire Cain Miller has specific tactics and proposals for progress--
make pay totally transparent, for instance; don't use prior salaries as a basis for pay, but, rather, pay what the job is worth... and here's another thought, writes Cain Miller: Change the law:

The strongest equal pay bill in the country went into effect in California this month. It says that men and women must be paid the same for similar jobs, not just for exactly the same job at the same site, as the looser federal Equal Pay Act requires. The California law also prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for discussing pay.

Women & Wealth Garners Attention Beyond Funders

AFN's brief, Women and Wealth: Insights for Grantmakers , released last year has led to interesting conversations with audiences beyond the grantmakers circle. The data analysis and conclusions made headlines in a variety of top media outlets.   

Check it out! Click the media icons below to review, or view articles at these links here: 
CNBC  |  Crain's Business - Editorial by K. Sujata  (Chicago Foundation for Women) |    Salon


Tax Policy

A Real Difference In Workers' Retirement Preparedness

Better designed retirement savings incentives that target lower-income workers-for instance, those who do not work for an employer that offers retirement benefits-would make a real difference in workers' retirement preparedness.

In a joint issue brief with the Center for American Progress (CAP), CAP Senior Fellow Christian Weller and Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA), SCEPA Director Teresa Ghilarducci call for reforming the tax code to prioritize refundable tax credits over new tax deductions; emphasize progressive savings matches that offer relatively higher benefits to lower-income households; create savings incentives that are simple to use; and establish new savings options, such that gaining access to savings incentives depends less on employers offering retirement plans.


The Importance of Wealth is Growing - New publication from
the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Building wealth has always been an important part of household financial stability.

But with the typical family's wage income growing slowly and capital's role in the economy growing larger, owning productive assets and minimizing debt has never been more important for families' financial success.

In the News
Funders: A Push to Boost Low-Income Enrollment in College Matters

A recent study by the American Council on Education (ACE), reported by the Washington Post, may prove unsettling for organizations and funders who are focused on increasing college readiness and access among low-income students. But the study also underscores the enormity of the task and why the work of these groups is so important.
According to the article, ACE reported that college enrollment by low-income students dropped 10 percentage points between 2008 and 2013. Although overall college enrollment rates dipped slightly, falling from 69 percent in 2008 to 66 percent five years later, the Post reported that only 46 percent of students from low-income backgrounds enrolled in two- or four-year colleges. The study's findings illustrate the stakes involved in this issue. Because students from low-income families account for more than half of the nation's K-12 public school enrollment and because the majority of new jobs require education beyond high school, postsecondary schooling is an essential step in narrowing wage gaps between low-income families and their more affluent counterparts.  

READ the Washington Post article.
Events in the Field

WEBINAR:  Building Better Business Financial Capability Solutions

Wednesday, February 10, 2016    
2-3pm EST
Join CFED to learn about three creative approaches to teaching business financial management and the client insights that shaped the way these providers designed their programs.   In 2015, CFED invested in three organizations to help them operate a little more like the entrepreneurs they serve. This partnership prepared each organization to discover their clients' challenges, design and iterate creative solutions rapidly and test out those solutions in order to learn how to build the best products and services possible for enhancing business owners' financial capability.
In this webinar, you will explore common behaviors, desires and preferences of business owners across all three programs and share the human insights approaches that led to these new understandings of clients' needs. You'll hear directly from the organizations and receive access to briefs that can help you rethink how you approach your own program design.
Click here to REGISTER or learn more.


The Asset Funders Network (AFN) is a membership organization of national, regional and community-based foundations and grantmakers strategic about using philanthropy to promote economic opportunity and financial security for low- and moderate-income Americans.  AFN works to increase the capacity of its members to effectively promote economic opportunity and financial security by supporting efforts that help low and moderate income individuals build and protect assets. 


AFN is a must for funders wanting to see families and communities move from surviving to thriving, from vulnerability to opportunity, and from insecurity to long-term well-being

Connect, educate and empower.  Join the conversation.  To join or find out more about AFN, contact Kristen Johnson, AFN Membership Coordinator.