Skip to main content

Take Flight

2019 Annual Report

People are driven by a deep human desire to belong in community and to matter in the world. That drive compels us to do extraordinary things in life like starting anew in strange lands, looking for a better life for ourselves and our families. At MAF, we are humbled to witness this powerful drive in our clients every day, as they take on new challenges and opportunities in life.

It is not an easy journey. But we are marked by grit and perseverance. At MAF, we embrace the challenge of evolving as the world around us changes, to transform to meet the moment, to show up with relevant solutions to people’s financial lives. Over the last year, we took all that we have and all that we know to grow and evolve alongside the communities we serve. We came together, listened, and acted, expanding our reach through new partnerships and technologies to deliver new, relevant, and timely products. And that is what we’ll continue to do to ensure we walk alongside the people we serve in their journey to live a life where they matter, in a world where they belong.

-José Quiñonez

And We Took Flight… 

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? 

While Kept Engaging Communities in a Changing Landscape

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.

Keeping Families Together

In 2019, the struggle for unity and belonging was an outright battle. Family separations, acts of terror, and policy changes cast fear and uncertainty into millions of lives. MAF stood up to the attacks by doing what we know best – providing people with the financial tools they need to fight back. In 2019 we delivered more than double the number of immigration loans than we have in any other year.

Building Financial Resilience

Our central focus on building credit was as important in 2019 as ever. We watched how thousands of clients worked hard to strengthen and use their credit to progress toward financial goals, gain greater control over their lives, and build financial resilience. One person at a time, our programs helped build a more resilient and empowered community.

Lifting Each Other Up

MAF’s business clients were an emblem of innovation in 2019. We watched people launch online enterprises, invest in brick and mortar dreams, and shine a (sustainable) spotlight on their hard work. MAF helped people formalize and grow businesses by introducing a new LLC loan program and new financial education content on self-employment.

Laying Down New Roots

We’re part of a community that helps each other. MAF’s Ventanilla program – our financial empowerment window at the Mexcian Consulates in San Francisco and San Jose – provided a critical source of information and resources for more than 29,000 people looking to lay down new roots and strengthen their financial lives.

    Evolving and Expanding Together

    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.

    Coming Together

    In April we hosted the MAF Summit, bringing together 200+ partners, advocates, and leaders. Lending Circles partners led breakout sessions, shared testimonials, and participated in fishbowl discussions. The Summit was an incredible moment to hear and appreciate the many ways our partners are adapting Lending Circles to meet the needs of their communities.

    Growing the Network

    In 2019 MAF welcomed five nonprofit organizations to the Lending Circles community: West Oakland Job Resource Center, UpValley Family Centers, FreeFrom, Good Shepherd Shelter, and Lift to Rise. Together, we’re bringing our credit-building programs and services to more communities through known and trusted channels.

    Empowering with New Tools

    In 2019 we invested in developing better technology to support our partner network, revamping the tools and resources available exclusively to our Lending Circles Communities. With a sleek new look and real-time dashboards at the ready, we’re developing technology to help our partners deliver effective and impactful programs.

    Bringing Solutions to New Communities

    We took our credit-building programs on the road! In mid-2019, MAF launched the #LendingCirclesSoCal campaign, bringing Lending Circles to Southern California and underscoring our commitment to meet people where. We’re excited to see the Lending Circles Community grow stronger in partnership with these new SoCal-based organizations.

    Scaling our Reach

    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.

    MyMAF: Year One

    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.

    Being Self-Employed

    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.

    Upgrading the Client Application

    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.

    Raising Our Voices

    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.

    SB 455

    In early 2019, MAF sponsored California Senate Bill 455, legislation to create a California Financial Empowerment Fund to grant $1M annually to nonprofits delivering effective financial education and empowerment tools. SB 455 was unanimously passed and signed into law in October, putting government money to work for financial consumers across the state.

    JEC Testimony

    MAF CEO José Quiñonez was invited to testify at a hearing before the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee in April. In his prepared remarks, he shared insights on the barriers low-income people face in achieving their economic potential and what Congress can do to help them step out of the financial shadows. Read José’s full testimony here.  

    Uplifting Client’s Financial Strategies

    We have always been strong advocates for the low-income and immigrant communities we serve. We know them as experts in their own lives, and we design programs and services that uplift their strengths. In 2019, we shared in-house research exploring short-term financial stability and the financial strategies of our clients with ITINs.

    USCIS Public Comment Letter

    The Trump Administration rolled out an aggressive campaign against immigrants, particularly against people with fewer financial means. We raised our voice to oppose these discriminatory policies, including public charge, changes to fee waivers, and USCIS’ proposed fee increases. Read MAF’s public comment letter against USCIS fee increases here.

    Credit Where It’s Due

    Based on interviews with dozens of MAF clients and staff, Credit Where It’s Due: Rethinking Financial Citizenship examines life outside the financial mainstream, the historical barriers to access, and the role MAF is playing in helping people build credit and gain control of their financial lives. Order your copy today.

      Working Toward Goals, Together

      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.







      Becoming Visible, Active, and Successful








      Building on a Strong Foundation

      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.

      2019 Financial Snapshot

      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.

      Effective Financial Products

      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.

      Supporting Adaptation

      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.

      Strengthening Relationships

      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.

      We’re Taking Flight in 2020

      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.

      Stay tuned.

      The MAFistas