Last April, we hosted our second MAF Summit. Our theme, “Transcend, Evolve, Take Flight,” was inspired by the incredible migratory journey of the Monarch butterfly, traveling as far as 3,000 miles to seek refuge. The Monarch’s journey mirrors the brave physical and figurative journey that so many families embark on to build a more safe and secure life.
The Summit was originally scheduled for November 2018. One month before the scheduled date, nearly 8,000 Marriott employees across the nation courageously exercised their right to strike and demanded a living wage and safe working conditions. In the San Francisco Bay Area, over 2,000 employees put their livelihoods on the line, including many of our Lending Circles participants. We saw only one option: to postpone the MAF Summit and stand in solidarity with the folks risking so much for a more just future. After nearly two months of picketing, the employees’ efforts led to historic wage and pension increases and stronger protections against sexual harassment.
The Marriott strike is just one powerful example of how communities have been advocating on their own behalf for generations. But they’re not in this fight alone. We designed the MAF Summit as an opportunity to mobilize the vast knowledge of thought leaders across the nation and to brainstorm how we can best support our communities amidst a rapidly changing—and oftentimes, adverse— political context. Our panelists included local entrepreneurs, community activists, and innovators in the nonprofit, tech, philanthropy, and government sectors. Together, we devised plans to tackle this big question: how can we ensure that every family is given the opportunity to take flight?
2019 was a year of constant change. It was also a year of great transformation, as the communities MAF serves adapted to a changing landscape. In turn, we adapted too. MAF broke new ground, delivering a record number of immigration loans, developing new partnerships, and passing legislation to alter the course of financial education in California.
The year’s changes and rising challenges affected millions. We could not do this work alone. In 2019, we deepened our relationships with communities across the country, introducing new partners to the Lending Circles community, bringing the national network together, and rolling out new tools to help communities navigate the challenges ahead.
As the needs of our community changed, we had to take notice. The MAF Lab – our in-house R&D team – listened, designed and developed technology to respond to the evolving needs. The Lab supported and iterated on the MyMAF app in its first year and launched new content and new designs based on client needs.
2019 marked the first full year with MyMAF, our native mobile app designed to give people tools for their financial journeys. Over the year, more than 1,700 people set up a profile in MyMAF. Many viewed their FICO scores, read through financial education, and created financial action plans.
The MAF Lab designed and rolled out new content covering all aspects of starting a small business, including setting a vision for self-employment, building a business model, formalizing self-employment through LLCs, and managing time as an entrepreneur.
We also introduced a new client application with improved security and a variety of new features. The new application is supporting our expanded immigration loan program, with plans to expand to Lending Circles, partners and the mobile app in coming years.
Our work is about more than just listening to the needs of our community. It’s also about taking action, uplifting our community’s voices, and advocating for policy changes that impact millions of people. In 2019, this work took us across the country, from the steps of the California state capitol to the halls of Congress.
We worked harder in 2019 because we know that building credit and gaining financial tools has a meaningful impact in people’s lives. We’re supporting people on their journey to build new homes and communities, invest in their future, and follow their dreams. Since 2007, we’ve helped clients work toward their goals, no matter what they are.
We are proud to look back on another strong financial year, made possible by a growing community of thoughtful and devoted supporters. Many reiterated their commitment with multi-year grants, alongside new supporters who chose to stand up for the communities we serve. With this strong foundation, we can ensure resources go to where they’re needed most.
Thanks to the growing support we saw for the communities we serve over the last year, we’ll be able to evolve with community needs over the years to come.
When people get access to financial resources that reflect their realities and respond to their needs, they thrive. And when they thrive, so do we.
Tech will continue to be a key part of our strategy for advancing financial well-being. Our tech investment grew 30% in 2019, helping us deliver our programs even better.
We’re focused on creating real, lasting, and long-term change. To do so, we build strong relationships with our community of supporters so we can see this work through.
What a road we have ahead of us: a national election for the soul of our nation, a once-in-a-decade Census count, and an ongoing battle for place and belonging. It is a historical moment that we are all facing. But we’re not shying away from this moment – we’re energized by it. From day one, Lending Circles has been a tool to help people step out of the shadows, to make people’s invisible practices, strategies, and innovations visible. Today, we’re still fighting the same battle for visibility. 2020 is the year we have to be seen and heard in all spaces of American life. We will work to claim our space
We’re looking ahead to:
ENGAGING: We’re making sure people have a voice in the financial solutions designed for them. You can expect new financial education and tools for homeownership, budgeting, and applying for immigration relief -all directly in response to conversations we’ve had with the people we serve.
BUILDING: Every movement starts with a single act, but it gains momentum and power when people stand together. In 2020, we’re building new partnerships of all kinds to raise our voice as one -launching a nationwide #LendingCirclesCommunities campaign and taking on leadership for a national network of 40 financial empowerment windows across the country.
SCALING: Technology can be an incredible tool to lift up voices, to see the previously unseen. With the launch of MyMAF last year, we’re using technology to empower people with more opportunities and resources. Keep an eye out for virtual Lending Circles, letting people across the country come together and build credit through the MyMAF app.
MOBILIZING: Our financial choices are about much more than our financial decision. They often have more to do with the political and cultural realities we live in. We’re going to build on our work to make sure people are financially and politically visible -in the 2020 Census, the national election, and beyond.