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Annual Report 2016

A Hopeful Resistance

A word from our CEO

Thank you for everything you’ve done this year to stand up for justice.

Your support has helped over 7,000 hardworking people come out of the financial shadows and build strong economic futures. And in these uncertain times, family security and community strength matter more than ever.

Together, we provided $2,652,846 in loans to 3,020 people this year alone, more than in any other year. They are college students, fledgling business owners, community organizers, babysitters, and longtime residents voting for the first time. Their vigorous pursuit of their dreams—a home, a diploma, a passport, a restaurant—is nothing short of heroic.

We dedicate this report to our supporters and our clients. You are all heroes to us. Here’s to the fight ahead and the promise of all we can achieve together.

In solidarity,

José Quiñonez, CEO & Founder

What makes us different

We put culture first

We build on people’s brilliant, informal practices of lending and saving together to bring them out of the financial shadows. 

We use tech for good

We use technology to provide customized, intuitive tools that are relevant to clients’ financial lives and remove barriers to access.

We share the love

We built something that works—so we share it. We equip nonprofits to make loan programs available in their communities.

Sharing the ❤ with our National Network

We first piloted Lending Circles in San Francisco’s Mission District. But we knew from the beginning that communities across the country would benefit from opportunities to save and build credit.

By partnering with nonprofits nationwide, we are helping thousands of people emerge from the financial shadows and build brighter futures. Today our partners offer Lending Circles in 17 states and Washington, D.C.

Inaugural Lending Circles Summit

October’s Lending Circles Summit brought together nonprofit partners and other thinkers and doers from across the country to learn, collaborate, and design solutions that improve people’s financial lives.

Think outside the box

Hands-on practice building programs that work for clients

Making finance fair

“It’s about more than credit. It’s about justice.” – Dr. Fred Wherry, Yale

Beta testing

A chance to test drive the newly released Lending Circles app

Black tie optional

A ceremony to celebrate outstanding Lending Circles partners

Nitty-gritty credit

Expert advice from Credit Builders Alliance, Experian, and FICO

Women in tech

Four fierce nonprofit leaders on how nonprofits can embrace tech solutions

Hear it from the pros

Life lessons from four inspiring Lending Circles clients

MAFter Party

One marvelous night of food, music, and superhero-themed fun

Summit by the Numbers

Summit speakers and attendees

Expectations met or exceeded

Would recommend to a friend

Partner Spotlight

  • Helping youth build credit for the first time
  • Giving aspiring entrepreneurs a boost
  • Prosperity for immigrants and refugees
  • Building power in the LGBTQ community
  • Revitalizing communities
  • Helping youth build credit for the first time

    A staggering 43% of young adults are un- or under-banked. Without knowledge of how to build a good credit history, they enter adulthood already at a disadvantage. A low credit score can be a barrier to getting approved for a bank account, qualifying for student loans, renting a first apartment, and even getting a good job.

    At Game Theory Academy in Oakland, CA, Lending Circles give young people a crash course in money management and a way to build for the future: saving for a goal, planning ahead, repaying a loan, and establishing a credit history.

    Source: FDIC

  • Giving aspiring entrepreneurs a boost

    Entrepreneurship offers a promising path to financial security. But running a business takes more than hard work: it takes start-up capital and good credit. This creates barriers to success for low-income entrepreneurs, particularly people of color, immigrants, and women.

    Hacienda Community Development Corporation offers Lending Circles to the talented food entrepreneurs of the Portland Mercado, a Latino marketplace, business incubator, and cultural center that houses nearly 20 small food-based businesses.

    Source: CFED

  • Prosperity for immigrants and refugees

    Recent immigrants face enormous barriers in integrating into the U.S. financial system: low and unstable incomes, thin or damaged credit histories, language barriers, and limited access to banking services.

    With Lending Circles, Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES) provides credit-building opportunities, the support of a social network, and access to zero-interest loans. The social lending model has resonated with CLUES’ diverse client communities: Latino, African-American, Somali, Native American, and Hmong.

  • Building power in the LGBTQ community

    Queer and gender non-conforming people struggle disproportionately with poverty. LGBTQ youth are twice as likely as their peers to be homeless. Discrimination in the workplace makes it harder to find and keep good jobs.

    The Brown Boi Project in Oakland, CA, uses Lending Circles to help masculine of center womyn, queer, and trans people of people of color achieve financial security and wellness.

    Sources: CUNY, Center for American Progress.


  • Revitalizing communities

    As cities attract new businesses, development, and wealth, longtime residents struggle to keep their homes. For low-income residents, especially people of color, “growth” and “improvement” foreshadow displacement.

    Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement, Inc., (HCCI) integrates Lending Circles into their rental assistance and homeownership programs. They provide Harlemites with a credit-building tool to qualify for a home loan or secure a rental unit so they can stay in the community they know and love.

The Power of Partnership

Loan volume

Repayment Rate


New Partners

U.S. States


Loans Change Lives

  • KARLA – A first-time voter
  • MICHAEL – On a quest for a cure
  • DIANA – Helping other immigrants
  • ISABEL – A new restaurant-owner
  • KARLA – A first-time voter

    KARLA – A first-time voter

    When Karla became eligible for citizenship, the expensive application fee stood in her way. So she joined a Lending Circle to save toward her goal. In November, Karla voted in her first presidential election.

    “When I voted, it wasn’t just for me. It was for everyone who has faced obstacles on their journey to find peace and a better life for their families. No president can take that from me.”

    Lending Circles for Citizenship

    Loan volume

    Loan volume



    New citizens

    New citizens

  • MICHAEL – On a quest for a cure

    MICHAEL – On a quest for a cure

    When he moved to California, Michael enrolled in med school to rebuild the career as a doctor he’d had in Ethiopia. But without credit, he couldn’t get a loan. He joined a Lending Circle—he knew the practice by its Amharic name ekub. Now he’s researching breast cancer treatments at UCSF and studying for his medical boards.

    “Without opportunities to come out of the shadows, people like me can’t unleash their full potential.”

    Lending Circles

    Loan volume

    Loan volume

    Repayment rate

    Repayment rate

    First-time credit scores

    First-time credit scores

  • DIANA – Helping other immigrants

    DIANA – Helping other immigrants

    Getting DACA in 2012 changed Diana’s life. With a SSN, she could finally get a license, live without fear of deportation, and pursue the job of her dreams. Now she works at MAF helping other immigrants emerge from the shadows.

    “There’s talk of ending DACA. But DREAMers have already come out of the shadows. We can’t imagine going back. The future is uncertain, but I’m filled with hopeful resistance.”

    Lending Circles for DACA

    Loan volume

    Loan volume

    DACA applications

    DACA applications

    DACA permits

    DACA permits

  • ISABEL – A new restaurant-owner

    ISABEL – A new restaurant-owner

    When Isabel first moved to San Francisco from Mexico, she started serving food out of her living room. Soon she landed a stall at the Farmer’s Market and delighted crowds with her mole verde, her mother’s recipe. But without credit, she couldn’t expand. So she joined a Lending Circle. And this summer, her restaurant El Buen Comer opened its doors.

    “Lending Circles let me open my own restaurant. But more importantly, I learned to manage the financial system to open even more doors in the future.”

    Lending Circles for Business

    Loan volume

    Loan volume

    Client with businesses

    Client with businesses

    New jobs created

    New jobs created

Advisory Councils

“As a Council Member, I’m acting as a decision-maker for the community. That’s a role beyond my dreams. Together, we’re making our community better.”

-Santos, Client & MAC Member


The Member Advisory Council (MAC), made up exclusively of Lending Circles participants, provides invaluable insight into the client experience. Reina Aguilera, Lending Circles for Business
Edgar Cruz, Lending Circles for DACA

Alma Fernandez, Lending Circles

Patricia Fuentes, Lending Circles

Shweta Kohli, Lending Circles

Eulalio Mendez, Lending Circles for DACA

Alan Santos, Lending Circles for DACA

Matilde Vasquez Tito, Lending Circles


The Partner Advisory Council (PAC) consists of seasoned Lending Circles partners who help strengthen the impact and reach of the network.

Jorge Blandón, Family Independence Initiative (Oakland, CA)

Leisa Boswell, SF LGBT Center (SF, CA)

Madeline Cruz, The Resurrection Project (Chicago, IL)

Judy Elling Przybilla, Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (Slayton, MN)

Rob LaJoie, Peninsula Family Service (San Mateo, CA)

Gricelda Montes, El Centro de la Raza (Seattle, WA)

Paola Torres, Northern Virginia Family Service (Falls Church, VA)

Alejandro Valenzuela, CLUES (St. Paul, MN)


The Tech Advisory Council (TAC) is made up of talented volunteers and tech workers from companies across the country.

Nikhil Goel, Uber

Kimber Lockhart, One Medical Group

Venkatesh Malepate, Google

Haydee Moreno, Revolution Credit

Ben Trombley, DataFox

Stephan Waldstrom, RPX Corporation

Kathryn Weinnman, NerdWallet

Meg Witmer, Facebook

Argin Wong, Box

Ling Wu, Box

Gabriela Zamudio, ThoughtWorks


The Adelante Advisory Council (AAC) is a committee of passionate professionals fundraising and friend-raising in support of Lending Circles.

Cyana Chilton, Capital Group

David Krimm, Consultant

Jessica Leggett, Seven + Gold LLC

Peter Meredith, Independent Consultant

Sally Rothman, Wanelo

Jesus Sandoval, Shoreline Investment Management Co.



“Tipping Point Community Award” and “Most Innovative Credit Building Product”


Chuy and Eggs joined the family and are now official office greeters


100+ articles, radio and TV spots including NYT, WSJ, and TIME


New talent: five staff and four board members


Dr. Wherry & his research team have 3 papers and a book in the pipeline


Lending Circles is going mobile with two new apps

MacArthur Genius Award

In September, CEO José Quiñonez was named a 2016 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow for bringing creativity and innovation to the field of financial services. The MacArthur Fellowship recognizes exceptional originality and insight, and awards a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000.


Lending programs

$2.7M in 0% Interest Loans
Since 2008, we’ve loaned over $7M. In 2016 alone, 3,020 people took out $2.7M to save for college, grow businesses, and become citizens—all while building credit.


$1.7M Raised
With earned income strong and individual donations rising, we’re building a sustainable future. A $1.5M grant in 2015 from JPMorgan Chase & Co. provided vital support.

Building better

$360K Invested in Tech
Better tech = better access. Tech powers programs—that’s why we invested 14% ($360K) of our budget ($2.6M) in loan servicing, tech development, and software.

Thank you 🙌🏽

With the support of our funders, donors, and board members, we’re helping thousands of hardworking families build more secure financial futures. We couldn’t do it without you.



Citi Community Development Levi Strauss Foundation JPMorgan Chase & Co. Tipping Point Community


Capital One Ford Foundation Northwest Area Foundation


Amazon Smile
Bank of the West
Benevity, Inc.
Bright Funds Foundation
Cathay Bank Foundation
Credit Builders Alliance
Crosby & Kaneda, CPA
Debevoise & Plimpton
Fidelity Charitable
Friedman Family Foundation
Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Liberty Mutual Insurance
National Council of La Raza
Network for Good
O2 Initiatives
Razoo Foundation
Rose Foundation
Rosenberg Foundation
Roy and Patricia Disney Family Foundation
Russell Sage Foundation
San Francisco Department of the Environment
The San Francisco Foundation
San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing
San Francisco Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs
San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund
U.S. Bank
Walter & Elise Haas Fund
Wells Fargo Foundation
Y & H Soda Foundation


Anonymous (8)
Aditi Mohapatra
Alyssa Passarelli
Amy Pfau
Andrew & Julie Doupe
Andrew Schweig
Annie Smartt
Antonio R. Lajoie
April Gregory
Aquilina Versoza
Atsushi Miyamoto
Audrey Jacob
Barbra Chevalier
Carlos Cruz
Cecily Matthai
Charles Zukow
Cheryl Porro
Christine Comella
Claudia Richter
Collette & Court Chilton
Connie & Peter Robinson
Cyana Chilton
Dan Massey
David Krimm
Derek Lindner
Edward Jones
Elise K. Haas
Erin Potts
Ethan Karson
Eva Iraheta
Evalani Espinda
Gregor Feige
Haydee Moreno
Jacqueline De Nevers
Jared Siegfried
Joe Manes
John Blatz
John Muller
John Petsagourakis
Jordan Amis
Jorge Blandon
Kari Hernandez
Kelsea McDonough & Alberto Fonts
Kirby Sack
Kyle & Christian Baker
Ling Wu
Lizzie Nelson
Louis DeNicola
Lumay Wang
Manuel J Santamaria
Maria Lemus
Marilyn Bradford
Martin “Wes” Freas
Mary Anne Fairley
Mary Hassler
Mathew Waite
Merle Lawrence
Michele De Nevers
Mohan Kanungo
Mona Masri
Patricia Fuentes
Patricia Krackov
Paul & Jessica Leggett
Peter Yadlowsky
Pramod Mamidipudi
Reed Kennedy
Richard Redden
Ruth Radetsky
Sally Rothman
Salvador Torres
Samhita Collur
Sergio Secundino
Seth Clark
Sharika Pongubala
Stacy Bonney
Stephan Waldstrom
Stephen Van Den Eeden
Steven Kaufman
Susan & Fritz Zimmer
Susan Lee
Susie Bennett
Tom Aageson
Vicki Joseph

In-Kind Donors

Arizmendi Valencia
BATS Improv
Blue Plate
El Buen Comer
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
Hyatt Regency San Francisco
La Cocina
Steve and Lissa Seem
The Front Porch

Board of Directors

Vicki Joseph, President
Mona Masri, Vice President
Ian McLeod, Treasurer
Manuel Santamaria, Secretary
Aquilina Soriano Versoza
David Krimm
Haydee Moreno
Jessica Leggett
Salvador Torres
Stephan Waldstrom