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"The opposite of poverty is not wealth ... the opposite of poverty is justice." Bryan Stevenson

AFN members are a strategic vanguard for expanding justice and opportunity in America.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that for the first time the proportion of annual family income in college debt for those earning $30,000 or less exceeded 50%. For those with higher incomes, the borrowing levels have continued to rise dramatically but have not yet exceed 50% of family income.  Too many graduates are left with a crushing debt affecting a great many present and future choices - career choices, lack of contingency savings, delayed first time home purchase, hostility to higher taxes for education or other government services not directly related to them, and risk aversion.  These are troubling implications for family, community, economy and economic stability and mobility. 

On a parallel track, Vanita Gupta, chief of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, last week noted:

In communities across America today, ... too many people - especially young people and people of color - live trapped by the weight of poverty and injustice.  ...  
And for those already living paycheck-to-paycheck, a single incident - whether an arrest by the police or a fine by the court - can set off a downward spiral.  It can lead to a cycle of profound problems that ruin lives and tear apart families.  Problems like losing your health care, your job, your children or your home.  Feb.19, 2016.

Whether it is wealth stripping by predatory lending, municipal fundraising schemes based on escalating fines, depressed pay that is divorced from productivity, or escalating medical deductibles, the barriers to education, savings, and homeownership contribute too often to a loss of hope.  By focusing on strategic investments that connect to the aspirations of low and moderate households with wanted products for short or long term asset building, AFN sees the reinvigoration and restoration of mobility and economic security and health as the cornerstone of a just society in America.  Opportunity, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, is part of the interrelated reality for widespread prosperity that we must work to restore. 

Our most recent brief, Consumer Engagement: Helping People Want What They Need, defines with practical urgency the approach funders and practitioners need to engage in with consumers to foster justice.  If the goal is to blunt and reduce the effects of predatory lending, the solutions and products to build economic health and to build longer term assets have to align with and build upon the beliefs, the strengths and the capacity of each household.  If your investments are not building economic well-being through the consumers acting on their self-interest take another look at the brief
and webinar  and consider an approach to make your efforts at least as easy, understandable, and desirable as wealth stripping efforts.

AFN is committed to work with funders to address the challenges, to innovate, to elevate key research, and to frame policies that will keep the momentum growing to close the gaps.  Let us know of your efforts and let's keep working together to grow opportunity.

MetLife Foundation Aims to Change the Way We Think About Money

MetLife Foundation, a significant funder of financial inclusion work, has committed $7.9 million over the next three years in a partnership with Duke University to help Americans improve their saving and spending habits.

By looking at the problem through the lens of behavioral economics, Duke's new CommonCents Lab seeks practical ways to align our best intentions with our actual financial decisions. 

CommonCents Lab, part of the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University, will work with partners to develop innovative and scalable approaches to improving financial well-being and stability.  Partners will receive unrestricted grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 to offset costs of participation.

Applying behavioral economics to decision making could clarify why more Americans are not planning for retirement or participating in savings programs, for example. 
This new initiative aims to help Americans who know they should be saving for a rainy day, but somehow always find themselves without an umbrella when the downpour comes.   Changing human behavior is a daunting task, but MetLife Foundation is giving it a shot. 

AFN is excited to announce it has expanded its reach and capacity with the addition of Patrick Hain to the AFN Steering Committee.

Patrick Hain is a Program Associate in the Center for Community and Economic Opportunity at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Patrick joined the Foundation in 2011 and leads the Foundation's strategy on work and income supports. Within the broader philanthropic community, he serves on the EITC Funders Network Steering Committee. 

Prior to his work in philanthropy he worked in Washington D.C. and Chicago, IL on issues including asset building, credit building, the intersection of higher education policy and workforce development and experiential learning.

Patrick holds a bachelor's degree from Eastern Michigan University and a master's degree from Northwestern University.

AFN MEMBER EXCLUSIVE: Place Matters:  A Special Briefing and Discussion about the Role of Place in Helping - or Hindering - Financial Security and Economic Mobility  
The Asset Funders Network invites you to a Member's Only webinar featuring a special briefing featuring key findings from The P ew Charitable Trust's new chartbook:   Neighborhood Poverty and Household Financial Security .  
As many funders are aware, the importance of place and neighborhood context has long been highlighted as an important factor for family financial security. This new research  underscores the role of place in helping - or hindering - both financial security and economic mobility and has important implications for place-based grantmakers.
Please join us for this important webinar briefing and discussion delving into the latest data from Pew's new research and a discussion about the roles both funders and providers play in implementing successful economic mobility programs and services.

Presented by Diana Elliott, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and moderated by Abby Hughes Holsclaw, Asset Funders Network.

Limited seats available - AFN Members, click here to Register.

How To Get Consumers To Want What They Really Need - New Strategies

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 funder brief,  Consumer Engagement: Helping People Want What They Need,  p rovides a new approach to promote the sustained adoption and use of financial empowerment efforts. 

Consumer Engagement describes both a philosophy and a process for developing and delivering financial products and services. 

Learn more - Consumer Engagement: Helping People Want What They Need - actionable, tangible recommendations for financial empowerment funders:   

Something as simple as a car repair
can have a snowball effect on finances 
if you are not prepared for it.
Demographics and Sources of Income Volatility

The income volatility alongside unexpected financial shocks, often creates significant pocketbook impacts for consumers and uproots carefully planned savings strategies.  With their insights into financial health and ability to seed innovations that improve it, JPMorgan Chase Institute (Chase) just released their newest report, Paychecks, Paydays, and the Online Platform Economy: Big Data on Income Volatility, which digs into the demographics and sources of income volatility, while also exploring the implications of the online platform economy on this issue.

In addition, Chase, in partnership with Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) continues to address financial volatility and shocks through the  Financial Solutions Lab , which earlier this month announced its second competition. Through this year's challenge, the Lab seeks to support innovators who are developing technology to help people fend off and address financial shocks, which are unforeseen costs that can put immense pressure on household balance sheets.  LEARN MORE.

A Unique Source Of Information On The National Microenterprise Industry

The just-released 2014 
highlights indicate the following:


  - Microenterprise programs continue to focus on the individuals who have the greatest challenges generating income and wealth, including women, people of color, and low-income individuals.


  -  Microlenders are achieving strong growth as they continue to fill the vacuum in small business lending that emerged after the recession.  The number of microloans disbursed increased by 49%. 

  - Microenterprise programs are cost-effective. The median cost to assist an entrepreneur was $1,335.

Funders can also use FIELD's data and the microTracker website to learn about specific organizations in your state or region. Explore the range of data available - visit
New Resources For Building Better Business Financial Capability Solutions

Most entrepreneurs launch their businesses because they have a passion or skill to share with the world and a desire to make a meaningful living. All too often, they struggle to master the financial management knowledge, skills and behaviors needed to succeed in the long-run.

To find solutions that work, CFED launched an initiative designed to help organizations build more powerful, user-focused products and services to enhance microbusiness owners' financial capability.  To better understand how and why business owners want to improve their business financial capability skills and knowledge, CFED interviewed and observed clients and frontline staff, mapped clients' journeys through each organization's services and tested out each solution to gather client feedback.

This work provided insight into the unique experiences of entrepreneurs at each organization and revealed commonalities across all three sites. Finding Common Threads explores a set of themes about the desires, values and behaviors shared by financially vulnerable entrepreneurs.


The Federal Budget Affects Everything.  So Why Do Most Funders Ignore Fiscal Policy?

Lots of funders have a huge stake in the outcome of the $4 trillion budget fight now starting in Washington, D.C.

But few invest strategically in influencing that battle, particularly on the tax side.  Why?  

This Is What Fair Tax Policy Would Look Like

Today, 140 million Americans are financially insecure - nearly half the population.   

At the same time, wealth inequality is at historic highs, aided and abetted by billions of federal dollars spent unfair tax programs that do little or nothing for most working families.

With things so out of whack, what can we do? We can stop accepting the status quo and lend our voices to the fight against inequality and for expanded opportunity. That's what the Turn it Right-Side Up campaign is about: big solutions to big problems.

Investing In Tomorrow: 
Helping Families Build Savings And Assets

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's recent study on the racial wealth divide,
Investing in Tomorrow: Helping Families Build Savings and Assets, looks at a number of interventions that would reduce the racial wealth divide.
Perhaps most interesting is a historical look at what would have happened had Child Savings Accounts been introduced in 1979.  
Adequately funded, Child Savings Accounts could have reduced the racial wealth gap by 80 percent, nearly eliminating it completely!

Which Policies Will Cut The Racial Wealth Gap?

America's growing inequality is well-documented. Less discussed is its intersection with another of the country's defining trends, growing diversity.

Racial disparities in wealth are vast. And addressing inequality now and in the years ahead, means thinking seriously about the racial wealth gap and the steps we can take to ameliorate it.

States With The Most Minimum Wage Workers

An increase in the federal minimum wage would have far greater effects in some states than others.  

View the Interactive Map
shows new data where workers are earning at or below the federal rate, which has been frozen at $7.25 since 2009.

Messaging The Movement: 
Putting The  Scorecard Into Action In Your State

Released annually, this year's CFED's 
Assets & Opportunity Scorecard  features tools and resources to help advocates and practitioners make the case for policies that promote economic opportunity, including:
  - State data on 18 outcomes disaggregaed by race, as well as  downloadable reports illustrating racial disparities,
  - An updated liquid asset poverty calculator to show how many households in your community are financially vulnerable, and
  - Customizable state charts and graphs and downloadable data and policy resources.

Join the creators of the 2016 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard on Wednesday, March 2 from 3-4 pm EST.  H ear how members of the Assets & Opportunity Network use Scorecard data for fundraising, consumer education, policy advocacy and coalition building. 

Get tips on crafting powerful, data-driven messages to advance an opportunity economy in your state! 


2016 State And Federal EITC Policy Forecast  
The EITC Funders Network Annual Policy Webinar 

In 2015, Congress made permanent vital provisions of the federal EITC and while battles to save state EITCs continue to be waged in some states, an unprecedented number of state legislatures advanced local EITC legislation last year. What's ahead in 2016? Join us for a webinar to learn about the federal and state landscape, and hear from two state campaigns -- Mississippi and Minnesota -- working to build and strengthen state EITCs.  


The Pew Charitable Trusts presents Addressing Neighborhood Poverty and Family Financial Security

The importance of place and neighborhood context has long been highlighted as an important factor for family financial security. In fact, previous research has shown a link between high-poverty neighborhoods and unemployment, poorer-performing schools, and increased violence, all of which pose risks to residents' economic security.
Last month, Pew published Neighborhood Poverty and Household Financial Security, a chartbook that illustrates the health of family balance sheets in high- and low-poverty communities across the United States. The analysis found that low-income residents in low-poverty neighborhoods tend to have higher savings and wealth and lower rates of financial hardship than similar households in higher-poverty communities. This research underscores the role of place in helping - or hindering - both financial security and economic mobility. 

But what do the data mean for advocates, service providers, and local governments? How can research about the relationship between neighborhoods and family financial security be applied at a local level?   Please join us for a webinar that will feature highlights from Pew's chartbook, followed by a discussion of local data, tools, and measures of financial security. We will then hear what local- and state-level practitioners are or could be doing to put data like these to work in their communities. 
Presented by Carrie Cihak, King County Executive Office; Brian Collier, Foundation for the Carolinas; Diana Elliott, The Pew Charitable Trusts; Solana Rice, Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED).

Ready To Get On The Map?
A Quick How-To Webinar 
March 10, 2016 |  11AM PST (Webinar)

This webinar hosted by the Southern California Grantmakers (SCG) is designed to help guide any funders interested in participating in the "Get on the Map" grants mapping project. SCG will walk through instructions for sharing all the necessary grants data to make your regional map come to life. 

Participants will be provided a: 
  - Brief introduction to the "Get on the Map" campaign
  - Short demo of the Grantmakers of Oregon and SW Washington regional map
  - Instructions for how to electronically report grants data
Foundations on the Hill  

Foundations on the Hill (FOTH) is a two-day event that brings foundation leaders to DC for meetings with Congress about key issues of importance to foundations and philanthropy. It is hosted by the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, in partnership with the Council on Foundations.

The purpose of Foundations on the Hill is to: 
   -  Inform and educate Congress about philanthropy
Create visibility for foundations and philanthropy on Capitol Hill
Advocate on issues affecting foundations
Encourage Congress to view foundations as resources on key public policy issues


Create Corporate-Nonprofit 
Partnerships That Thrive:  Webinar
April 14, 2016 | 2PM Eastern (Webinar)

Join The Chronicle of Philanthropy for a webinar that presents both the corporate and nonprofit perspectives on successful alliances between charities and companies. We'll identify key characteristics of mutually beneficial partnerships, outline benefits to both parties, and share insights into how to develop a strong, long-term relationship with a corporate sponsor.

FunderXChange on 2Gen Grantmaking
Hosted by Ascend at the Aspen Institute
April 25 -26, 2016 |  Washington, DC

Two-generation programs and policies, which create opportunities for children and the adults in their lives together, have gained significant momentum over the last few years. Close to 50 million dollars have been invested in two-generation approaches, with over 100 projects being implemented across the country and many more on the horizon. Join this meeting to take a collective look at current grantmaking strategies and share learnings thus far. 

Please take a few minutes to complete a short survey to help ensure the convening is both informative and catalytic for the two-generation field.  
Please click here to access the survey.

Grantmakers For Effective Organizations
2016 National Conference 
May 2-4, 2016 |  Minneapolis, MN
GEO's National Conference offers participants the opportunity to examine current challenges within the field, hear new ideas for smarter grantmaking practices that achieve better results, and engage in meaningful peer discussions. Bringing together participants representing a variety of roles within their organizations, this biennial conference includes thought-provoking speakers, interactive programming, special events and networking opportunities designed to help participants learn new strategies and share their experiences with others.  

Join the Conversation.
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.   To join or find out more about AFN, contact  Kristen Johnson, AFN Membership Coordinator .


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