Author: lending8

Looking Ahead in 2015


We’re deepening our commitment to Deferred Action applicants and business owners with new programs.

It’s a new year and we’ve got a number of new changes in our programming in 2015 as we take steps to help more people navigate the financial marketplace and realize their full economic potential.

Origination Fee

After the enactment of SB 896 in August 2014, we now have recognition in California for zero-interest, credit-building loans as a tool for good. As we scale and expand in the San Francisco Bay Area, sustainability is a key element to MAF’s ability to reach more clients. In order for us to continue delivering the quality level of service and products, beginning in 2015, we are instituting a small origination fee of 5 to 7% for MAF’s clients in California.

Our loans will still remain zero-interest but this new fee supported by SB896 will allow us to cover the administrative costs from providing financial education, reporting the payment data to credit bureaus, facilitating transactions, and securing the private data with the best technology in the field. With this new source of funding, we plan to invest deeply in the community and ensure more people are able to participate in the Lending Circles program.

We’re also excited to share some new programs rolling out this year:

Lending Circles for Deferred Action

With President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration, about 5 million more immigrants to the United States have the opportunity to apply for Deferred Action, an administrative relief from deportation for undocumented immigrants.

At MAF, we’ve offered two specific programs, Lending Circles for Citizenship and Lending Circles for DREAMers, to helping aspiring citizens and youth finance the cost of their citizenship and DACA applications. We’re proud to deepen our support for hard working immigrants with the launch of Lending Circles for Deferred Action to include anticipated applicants to the new DAPA program in the upcoming months. Expansion of this new program is made possible thanks to a PRI from the Rosenberg Foundation.

Lending Circles for Deferred Action will be kicking off in Los Angeles, thanks to a grant by the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Foundation. The program will support 300 eligible applicants to reduce the cost of applying for Deferred Action by 33% – from $465 to $310. Mexican American Opportunity Foundation, Pilipino Workers Center and Korean Resource Center are the first Lending Circles partners to offer this program to the community.

And in San Francisco, we’re partnering with the Mexican Consulate to support Deferred Action applicants of Mexican descent with a 50% match.

Lending Circles for Business

MAF has many Lending Circles members who are building or repairing their credit to invest in their small businesses, so we’ve created Lending Circles for Business. This program is specifically focused on aspiring and current business owners who have completed a Lending Circle before. Participants will get an up-front loan that helps build credit and open doors to more affordable business lending options in the future.

Check out what some of our entrepreneurial members have accomplished so far to see how important good credit is to running a successful business.

If you’re excited about these opportunities, be sure to check out more about Lending Circles and sign up to join!

Building a Better Bay Area


Find out how you can be part of something big

Lending Circles, selected as a top 10 finalist in the Google Impact Challenge, has given thousands of families across the U.S. an opportunity for a brighter financial future. There are currently over 203,000 families in the Bay Area unable to access affordable credit, low interest loans, and most mainstream financial services.

In order to build a better Bay Area, we want you to help us reach those families and make a difference.

With the support of Google, Y&H Soda Foundation, and Silicon Valley Community Foundation, we’re partnering with nonprofit organizations across the Bay Area to provide Lending Circles in 10 new communities.

As an official Lending Circles partner, selected organizations will get a host of partnership benefits like training, assistance and access to our online social loan platform, valued at $70,000.

We’re looking for dynamic, community-based organizations who care about providing effective, culturally competent financial services to their clients and want to use the award-winning Lending Circles program to support that goal.

If your organization is ready to bring the power of the Lending Circles to your community, check out the RFP now.

Be sure to sign up for one of our three informational sessions to find out more:

January 22nd: San Francisco

January 27th: Oakland

February 6th: Mountain View

This is an exciting opportunity to help support economic opportunity in the Bay Area and strengthen community bonds through the Lending Circles program. Will you join us to shine a bright idea on to the financial shadows and build a better Bay Area?

Rosa: The Long Road to Citizenship


Obtaining U.S. Citizenship brings about a new phase in Rosa Romero’s life.

After a lifelong career as a teacher in El Salvador, Rosa decided to move to the US. After her sister got her housing papers, Rosa left her sons, students and her life behind to pick up and move on July 23rd, 2009 – a date she procures without a moment’s hesitation. Nearly 5 years since that date, she is happy to say she is now living in San Francisco as a U.S. citizen.

Rosa’s childhood makes it pretty clear that she is willing to follow her dreams no matter what others may think. 

Growing up in El Salvador with her grandmother and six siblings, Rosa lived a humble life. Her grandmother owned cows and goats and made sour cream and cheese from their milk. Rosa would sell these goods to a local market.

Though her grandmother hoped she would become a nurse, Rosa realized pretty quickly that her aversion to the sight of blood might make that impossible. She, instead, envisioned a life as a teacher.

After a 25 year long career as a high school science teacher, she can say she brought her dream to life.

To this day, her former students will stop her on the street or message her on Facebook thanking her for all that she taught them. These moments have made up some of her favorite times as a teacher. Her two sons, who still reside in El Salvador, have come to love their careers as an entrepreneur and a captain in the military just as much.

Rosa found her way to MAF through her sister who was a client at MEDA getting support to launch her own business. Her sister heard of the Lending Circles program and thought it would be the perfect way for Rosa to save the money necessary for the citizenship application.

The decision to join the Lending Circles program was relatively easy for Rosa.

She was familiar with the concept having taken part in informal lending circles back in El Salvador with her fellow teachers. It was even easier to join a Lending Circle at MAF when she learned of the strong history of success for its members.

Rosa believed so much in the power of Lending Circles that she joined another before even finishing her first and has been part of 5 in total in an effort to continually build her credit.

The Lending Circles program eases the financial burdens of becoming a US citizen by allowing participants to build their credit while making monthly payments towards the high $680 application fee. Once participants are ready to apply, they receive a check made out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. For Rosa this meant she could focus her attention on all the other difficult aspects of the process; the largest of which was the language barrier. Rosa studied for the English exam for over a year. All of this effort was for an interview that would last her only about 10 minutes.

Immediately after the interview, Rosa learned that she had passed and was to become a citizen. Upon hearing the news, she thanked God for this opportunity and felt a wave of happiness come over her. With her US citizenship, she can now travel freely to El Salvador lessening the strain on her visits to family.

Rosa’s story perfectly exemplifies the character of our members. We showed her the door, and she had the strength to walk through it.

MAF Says Goodbye to Founding Board Members


After years of guidance, MAF would like to say thank you to the three founding board members who will be leaving in 2015.

As we welcome the new year, we’d like to take a moment to recognize our outstanding Board of Directors – seven amazing people who provide the vision and wisdom for our work.  It’s with bittersweet emotions that we say goodbye to three founding board members: Board Chair Anamaria Loya, Secretary Santiago (Sam) Ruiz, Member Oscar Grande.

Through their guidance over the years, we were able to turn what was born in the Mission into a program that is flourishing across the country, helping thousands of families build brighter financial futures.

Nearly 10 years ago, these three leaders joined a volunteer committee tasked with an exciting opportunity: Investing $1 million from the sale of a Levi Strauss factory to benefit the Mission District.

Where others may have seen the funding as a chance to bolster existing organizations, Anamaria,Oscar, and Sam believed in doing something different.

They dared to envision the possibility of an entirely new organization built by the community out of their ideas and concerns.

After months of interviewing, meeting and having conversations with community members, the idea for Mission Asset Fund began to surface. Thanks to their efforts, the need for an organization dedicated to building credit and creating pathways out of the financial shadows was discovered.

Anamaria, Sam and Oscar provided invaluable insight and leadership. MAF would not be what it is today if not for their dedication and vision.

Words cannot fully express our gratitude for their support over all these years.  On behalf of all MAFistas, we thank you!  

Lending Circles for Deferred Action Expands in LA


Bringing financial support to immigrants seeking Deferred Action

With President Obama’s recent announcement on Deferred Action, the need to focus our attention on the financial needs of immigrant communities is greater than ever. New reforms enable an additional 5 million immigrants the potential to apply for Deferred Action. Having already harnessed partnerships in 10 states and D.C to offer credit-building opportunities, MAF is ready to do the same for those now looking to apply for this new program.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Foundation, MAF will be partnering with the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF), Korean Resource Center and Pilipino Workers Center to expand its award-winning Lending Circles program for individuals seeking Deferred Action in the Los Angeles area.

The Lending Circles for Deferred Action program will allow 300 eligible applicants access to zero-interest loans to finance the cost of the Deferred Action application fee by 33% (from $465 to $310) while also building their credit.

MAF has already seen the impact of getting Deferred Action with our own clients in the San Francisco Bay Area. In our seven years of operations, we have assisted over 300 clients in successfully applying for Deferred Action. Members like Itzel and Jesus have used Lending Circles to move towards their goals of accessing an affordable education and becoming advocates in the community.

“MAOF is excited to expand its current relationship with Mission Asset Fund by offering the Lending Circles for Dreamers Program,” says Martin Castro, President and CEO of the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation.

“As a distinguished agency serving the Los Angeles Community, MAOF is looking forward to offering a program that will assist people who have arrived into our country as children and are looking to pursue their dreams. The Lending Circles for Dreamers Program brings needed assistance to residents of Los Angeles who would like to apply for deferred action but have not due to financial hardships.”

Tune into the National Immigrant Integration Conference in LA today at 11:45 a.m. to hear the formal announcement by our Director of Engagement, Mohan Kanungo, and CEO, Jose Quinonez.

Fremont Family Resource Center Delivers a Recipe for Success


What is the secret to our partner Fremont Family Resource Center’s success? Find out here!

Fremont Family Resource Center (FFRC) provides wrap-around financial services that empower low-income communities throughout the tri-city area. FFRC is not just MAF’s longest active Lending Circles provider, but a star provider with a zero-percent default rate and a total loan portfolio exceeding $90,000.  Recently, I got to spend an afternoon with FFRC to learn about their ingredients for success and to strategize a successful partnership for years to come.

MAF’s “peer lending” program, as it’s called at FFRC, strengthens FFRC’s SparkPoint Financial Services program which includes financial education, one-on-one financial coaching to support participants with specific goals, employment and training services, free tax preparations, access to public benefits and legal services. FFRC’s SparkPoint goals are to increase income and savings, build credit and lower debt/income ratio.

It’s not just about increasing their credit score, but realizing larger financial goals, such as being able to finance the purchase of a reliable car so they can get to work or develop a robust credit profile to rent an apartment.

Usually I only get a snapshot of a participant’s financial history from their applications when they join the program.  Financial coaches and the program coordinator Christine LaBadie on the other hand get to see the impact of the program.  The meeting at Ohlone College was different because coaches highlighted participant’s stories for colleagues in the asset-building field.

‘Mary’, who’s name we changed for privacy, is a participant of the FFRC that stood out to me. She immigrated to the United States with her children from Nigeria in hopes of a better life. Her husband had to stay behind and sent her money whenever he could to support his family.

She had worked tirelessly to provide for her children, and even with the money from he husband she was barely scraping by. Peer lending gave her the opportunity to build her credit and save towards financial goals including buying a car.  Having reliable access to transportation was essential so that she could get to work as a caregiver. After building her credit, ‘Mary’ was able to pick up a second part time job with Amazon, and the extra income will help her family considerably.

‘Mary’ is on currently on track and working hard to accomplish her goals through the one-on-one support of FFRC’s financial coaches and the community support and credit building tools in the Lending Circles program.

Catrina Rivera is another client who is doing very well.  She used Peer Lending twice and raised her score 96 points!   She has two part-time jobs and wants to open her own tax business someday which is why she’s raising her credit score.  She’s also a volunteer for our free tax program (VITA) which has provided her with much additional education and an IRS certification on tax preparation.

She was very determined to raise her score and believes in education.  She took our financial class 3 times!  She was required to take  the first one we offered – MoneySmart, then opted to take Credit Repair when we launched that, and then this year she repeated Credit Repair.  When asked why, she said there’s so much good info there that she didn’t want to miss anything! She’s working very hard to increase her score and is now working on her business plan for her tax business.“

LaBadie shares that the key ingredient is a lot of financial coaching and education.

I believe a successful portfolio often involves partners that have a strong relationship with your community.  Contact a partner manager to explore how Lending Circle programs can complement your organization’s existing programs and services.

FFRC is one of the most consistent Lending Circles partners, offering Lending Circles about four times per year. MAF has not had to charge off a single loan originated by the organization ever.  I know that the stellar performance of their loan portfolio is largely due to the financial coaching and one-on-one support given to each individual participant.


The Fremont FRC is a welcoming place where families and individuals are nurtured, encouraged, and provided quality services to build on their own strengths to help themselves and others. FFRC partners with Mission Asset Fund as part of SparkPoint, a program of the United Way of the Bay Area. The City of Fremont Human Services Department/FRC Division is the Lead FRC partner and operates its Peer Lending Program. Fremont FRC to organize lending circles so that participants are able build their credit and save towards financial goals.  FFRC has originated about $90,000 in loan with a zero percent default rate.

Welcome Alyssa: MAF’s Partner Manager


Alyssa’s passion for microfinance and community connections brought her to the MAF team.

Alyssa’s steadied approach to discovering a place at MAF speaks to her thoughtful nature. She knew about and believed in MAF’s work before even submitting her resume. In fact, Alyssa began talking to MAF staff out of pure interest in our Lending Circles program. Having majored in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Notre Dame, she became interested in learning more about international development issues such as the informal lending circles in Bangladesh through the Grameen Bank.

Financial services give a person the “power to choose,” she notes.

It was this belief in the power of financial inclusion that encouraged her work with microfinance. In addition to exploring the subject in college through many different projects, she worked in the field while in DC for Accion’s Smart Campaign. As she began to look for new opportunities, Alyssa knew she wanted to build off of all she learned while in this position.

As soon as Alyssa heard about MAF, she reached out to start a conversation.

After discussions with MAF staff members, she came to see just how deep MAF’s community roots were and she fell in love with the organization. Soon after, a position on the partnerships team opened up. When she inquired about the role, she began to see how she could contribute to the MAF team.

After just a few days in the office, there are a number of things Alyssa is looking forward to. One of her favorite parts of MAF is its focus on collaboration through partnerships. That’s why the partner manager role seemed like the perfect fit.

“I’m excited about being able to be creative in the new leads we engage,” she says.

She sees a great opportunity to enhance the work of partner organizations by injecting the Lending Circles programs into their portfolio. Alyssa finds MAF’s method of building a sense of community through technology very appealing. Her time in DC gave her an “understanding of just how pivotal technology is in creating greater access to financial services” and she can’t wait to implement this philosophy into her work!

When she’s not making connections between MAF and its partners, Alyssa likes to get creative in the kitchen.

She’s also come to appreciate exactly what diversity means here in San Francisco. While out exploring her neighborhood (Excelsior), Alyssa says she was pleasantly surprised by all the different languages spoken. These make for a vibrant and unique restaurant scene that Alyssa enjoys exploring in her free time.

Give Credit where it matters


This December, support the credit-builders in your community.

Here at MAF, we’re lucky to have the chance to watch incredible people use our products to reach their financial goals. This year, we’ve seen a lot of people come through our doors and leave as credit-builders. We’ve served close to 1000 members, formed 13 new partnerships with a total loan volume of nearly $710,000.

As we look toward the future, we’re excited to celebrate our members’ successes and welcome many more. We’re looking forward to scaling up our solution, so we can work with new partners and reach even more members.

We’ve launched our Annual Campaign and ask you to “Give Credit” to those working to get out of the financial shadows. Whether it’s a single parent, a new business owner or an aspiring DREAMer, credit matters in everyone’s life.

To highlight our incredible members, we’ll be sharing new stories each week through email, social media and right here on our blog.

There are so many ways to get involved and support credit-builders:

1) Donate here

2) Buy your Christmas Gifts on AmazonSmile – a portion of your purchase will go towards MAF!

3) Spread the word. Share our social media posts on Facebook and Twitter, so your friends can  learn too.

4) Ask your employer if you can get a matching contribution

With so many ways to contribute to our growing community, will you Give Credit today?

Blanca: Building her Beauty Salon Business Dream


Blanca’s come a long way from her days braiding her sister’s hair.

Blanca’s childhood wasn’t always happy. Growing up in Mexico, her family was not supportive of her drive to learn, and constantly told her that she would be better off learning how to clean and be a wife. The happiest times that she had with her family were the days that everyone would line up and ask her to cut their hair. For Blanca, haircare was an outlet for her creativity that she learned from her uncle, one of the few people in her family supportive of her talent.

As she grew up, she knew that she wanted to own a salon. After discovering that her uncle had his own barber shop, she quickly swept up his scissors and found herself  eager to give haircuts to family and friends. But after she got married, the time spent raising her family made her lose touch with her passion. It wasn’t until she came to the United States to get better care for her daughter’s medical condition that she began to entertain her dream once again.

After coming to the United States, Blanca realized her first step to achieving her dream was going to beauty school.

To accomplish this, she needed to save money for the expensive tuition fees. After working two jobs for several years, she finally decided it was time and enrolled in California Beauty School. But Blanca could not transform into a full time student over night; she still had to work eight hours each day on top of her studies.

“I was working, working, working; but I never gave up,” she said.

Upon graduating, Blanca went in search of salon jobs. She worked for little or no pay to learn everything she could taking jobs at different salons throughout the Bay Area, even though they were hesitant to train her.

“At every single salon, I learned a little something new.”

Once she built up her list of clientele and had accumulated a great deal of expertise, she saw her opportunity to move to salon owner. Opening up a new salon often requires taking out loans, so Blanca was determined to build up her credit to access them.

Though she sought advice from local credit-building and finance organizations, Blanca left these conversations “depressed and confused.”

Mission Asset Fund soon connected her to several business classes where she gained a better grasp on what it would take to get her business up and running, and she slowly began mapping out her business plan. Through MAF, she accessed business loans so when the chance to purchase a salon came knocking at her door, she was prepared. The owner of the salon she was working in was ready for retirement and looking to sell, so it was a prime opportunity for Bianca.

Though the transition to salon ownership was by no means smooth sailing.

Like every other stage of her life, Blanca had to fight hard to get the right documentation to establish ownership. Mountains of paperwork and licensing agreements delayed the process. Finally on October 1st, 2014, the salon became hers. Now Blanca can finally turn her focus on expanding her dream. Knowing all too well the difficulties that arise as a new employee of a salon, her goal is to attract people with a drive to learn and pay them well as they are trained. “I want the best for them and the best for the business.” She recognizes that certain employees may learn faster than others and may have strengths in specific areas.

“Like the fingers on your hand, all of us are different.”

The salon is now a family affair. Bianca and her daughters all manage a piece of the business. In the future Blanca wants to expand her business to include a beauty store, make up salon, and multiple hair salons. And with her drive and motivation, it’s hard not to believe in her success.

Lesson Earned #2: Get Rid of the Door


Why community based solutions are more than just a nice thought.

When I was working in a startup incubator space last summer, I had the chance to hear all sorts of advice on starting a business. What I remember so clearly was the old “get out the door” expression. Need to figure out if your idea is plausible? Go out and ask people on the street if they would use it. Need to adjust pricing? Go out and ask people how much they would pay. You can do nothing from the comfort of your own chair.

While this is of course very true, I couldn’t help but wonder about the problematic nature of such a suggestion. If you have to force yourself out your door to connect with your customers, should you really be offering your service in the first place?

I began my fellowship with MAF already skeptical of this “getting out the door” idea, and after just two months here I feel I finally gained some clarity.

This month I was offered the chance to interview Blanca, a Lending Circles member. In order to do so, I literally had to leave the office to meet her at her beauty salon. Now, based on common startup wisdom, I should have felt nervous or concerned about taking such an action. But in fact, I was really excited. I couldn’t wait to hear her personal story – to hear how she had raised her family while achieving her dream of starting a business. I left the interview even more energized than I had entered. I told everyone who would listen about Blanca’s strength and resilience and spoke of how amazing it felt that MAF had played even a small role in her journey.

And just like that, the get out the door illusion had officially been shattered.

When I came back into the office, I walked past our programs team in deep discussion with a potential member-a normal day in the office. That’s when it struck me, that doors don’t exist here. If an organization is built correctly, it devises its solution from the minds of those its trying to serve. The walls are never there because the source is the community itself and so a solid foundation is created.

The community-driven environment enables MAF to grow stronger as time passes.

Seeing the inspiring aspects of Blanca’s character enabled me to leave her beauty salon reenergized with a stronger sense of our mission. Stepping beyond the mission-building cliche, the interview actually help me do my job better. The real reason I was interviewing Blanca wasn’t for a morale boost; it was to hear her story so we could share it with our members and partners and use it to better our programs.

This hits at the core of MAF’s values; the interactions with our members tell us not what they are lacking, but instead all they can offer. Identifying our members’ strengths will allow us to devise and implement programs that capitalize on them; this makes for a better MAF and a stronger community.

Everytime I think of all the MAF members who have reached the next stage of their life, I think of all the organizations missing out by hesitating at the door, complaining about how difficult it is to walk through it.

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