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Love and Money

Yale Sociology Professor Fred Wherry explains how money can complicate love.

What makes life worth living also makes it harder to navigate: Love.

We love our families, our neighbors, and our houses of worship. Where our love lies, our treasure lies also. When a baby is born, we buy gifts. When a parent falls ill, we pay medical bills; a child is the first to go to college, tuition bills; a family dreams to own its own home, a big down payment.

Love’s Fine Print

Love comes at a cost. These costs have been described positively as “lifting as we climb” and negatively as “crabs in a barrel pulling one another down.” In its positive version, when one family member does well, she can share information, serve as a role model, and sometimes provide material assistance to other family members or people in her community who are striving for a better life. In its negative version, love creates obligations to help those in need, and those in need know that you can be persuaded to give up hard fought gains to help them.

In a widely cited study of how people use their kin and friendship networks to navigate their needs in a low-income neighborhood, Carol Stack tells the story of a family receiving an unexpected lump sum that they intended to use for a down payment on a house. The good news traveled fast through their kinship networks, and requests began arriving for monetary help. The down payment disappeared; the aspiring family was pulled back into the metaphorical barrel.

How love affects money depends on what kinds of external supports are available to families trying to make ends meet.

Poor and middle-income families of color are more likely to have parents lacking adequate retirement savings. When their parents fall into financial trouble because the house needs a new roof, an infected tooth requires a root canal, insurance won’t pay 15 percent of cancer treatment costs, or a car’s engine has expired, it is up to the children to assist them. A thousand dollars here or there can devastate a budget where the coupon clippings and the overtime worked still mean that these families are a few paychecks short of eviction.

This view of love and money runs counter to the popular narrative of the impulsive consumer spending freely on frivolities. In April, sociologist Joseph Cohen published his analysis of household income and spending patterns from the 2011 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Survey of Consumer Expenditures (CEX). He found that incomes have not risen as fast as the prices of basic goods and services. Families with stagnant or falling incomes were spending more on the basics: education, childcare, healthcare, transportation costs, and mortgage payments. Spending on television, computers, and many other non-essentials fell.[1] In other words, when securing their children’s educational future, looking after the health of their loved ones, or securing a dwelling place to own, households experienced the fragility of their finances.

A Love that Lasts

Families that dream of home ownership learn firsthand the value of love; the siblings or parents helping them, its costs. A couple may able to make the monthly payments on a mortgage but their credit files are too thin or their savings too low to qualify for it. They may need a sibling to co-sign on the loan, someone who cares for them and is willing to invest in their family’s security. If there are no other ways to increase the applicants’ credit scores or to shore up savings, compelling a family member to incur more risk seems to be the only answer.

But there are other ways. Rather than decry the negative effects of love, why not mobilize caring relationships to promote economic security? It has been (and can be). Love.

[1] Joseph N. Cohen, “The Myth of America’s ‘Culture of Consumption’: Policy May Help Drive American Household’s Fraying Finances,” Journal of Consumer Culture DOI: DOI: 10.1177/1469540514528196

Frederick F. Wherry is a Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Center for Cultural Sociology (CCS) at Yale University. He is currently studying the effects of culture, institutions, and social relationships on the banking and budgeting experiences of immigrant and minority households.

Google Challenged

A look back on our incredible Google Challenge experience

“You guys are not going to believe it!” Tara Robinson, MAF’s Chief Development Officer, said with a wild glint in her eye and a smile spreading across her face. Daniela Salas, MAF’s COO, and I were both eager to hear what her amazing news was.

Months earlier, Tara had written a grant application on a whim for a very special opportunity. She had completely forgotten about it since we were launching a new website, onboarding me as a new employee, and rebranding all our platforms.

As Tara clutched her phone, she began to read the email aloud, “We are excited to announce that…”

She stopped.

Daniela and I hung on the pregnant pause with excited anticipation.

“Oh”, Tara mused. “This is top secret, so none of you can tell anyone yet.” Daniela and I agreed immediately, because who doesn’t want to be in on a secret?

“We’ve been notified that MAF has been chosen as one of the top 10 nonprofit organizations in the Bay Area by Google! ” Tara said.

Daniela and I were confused but excited.

“So what does that mean for us?” I asked.

“Well, we have been chosen to participate in the Google Bay Area Impact Challenge,” Tara explained. Little did we know that this conversation would be the beginning of a whirlwind few weeks of strategizing, organizing, writing, campaigning, and voting–in short, one of the most transformative experiences that MAF has been through so far.

Challenge Accepted

Google looked at over a thousand organizations for three main points: need, program impact, and scalability, to select the top 10 Bay Area nonprofits that would be voted on by the general public to receive up to $500,000 in grant funding. And we were in the top 10!

Once we were able to break the news to the rest of the staff about this exciting event, our first task was to make our Lending Circle program and its impact easily understandable for people in and out of the Bay Area, so they would vote for us.

For most people, talking about credit-building is as interesting as watching paint dry.

Our solution was to run a visual social media and email campaign. We had to find a highly innovative way of creating content that could be seen quickly and tell not only MAF’s story, but also the story of our members and what our programs do. Often, all of this had to be conveyed in less than 140 characters!

Our marketing team worked together to assemble a robust campaign of stories, images, social media posts, and key messaging that would tell people who we are and the kind of impact we could make in our community with their support. We also gathered together a list of our partners, supporters and advocates locally and nationally to help us get the word out. We created a schedule to pass out flyers and posters at local businesses, attend events, festivals, canvas on street corners and more! From May 22 to June 2, it was all hands on deck to push out our content and inspire our friends, family and networks to vote for us on the Google Challenge voting site.

Giving Credit

We approached the invitation to the Google Challenge from a celebratory standpoint. Google had not only identified us as a high impact organization, but it had also identified access to credit building and affordable financial tools as a critical need for local communities in the Bay Area. For us, this alone was a major victory.

In the end, MAF did not receive a top 4 spot in the voting campaign, but what we did get was much more valuable. We were able to reach a whole new group of people (more than 2 million!) and let them know how critical financial empowerment and credit building is to creating sustainable futures for hardworking families.

We were humbled by the amazing support from our members, partners, and supporters all over the world. We’re also grateful for an award of $250,000 for making the top 10, so we’ll be able to scale our program to thousands of families in 14 new communities in the Bay Area.

It’s interesting how something as small as an email can change the course of an organization. The voices you raised in support of hardworking families really made a difference. We were able to bring light to the everyday challenges that people without bank accounts or credit scores face, share their triumphant stories of perseverance, and kickstart an important conversation on creating a fair financial marketplace.

Thank you all for being with us through this amazing experience. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Let’s Buddy Up: Joining the Lending Circle network

MAF collaborates with CABO to expand Lending Circles in Los Angeles

When the Assets & Opportunities Network convened in December, Andrew Chang and I had just met, but we ignited a friendship that compelled us to find a way for our two organizations, MAF and CABO, to expand Lending Circles in Los Angeles.

Fortunately, the JPMC technical assistance fund for A&O Members, along with support from Citi and key funders, enabled us to organize a “roadshow” presentation on the Lending Circle model with CABO network members, as well as lead an in-person training for MAOF and CCNP, MAF’s two newest Lending Circle providers.

The roadshow on June 4th and training on June 6th sandwiched well with the CFSI 2014 EMERGE Forum, where MAF CEO Jose Quinonez served as a panelist. Coming full, dare I say “lending circle”, just a couple years before, MAF received an award from CFSI to expand Lending Circles through the Bay Area. Since then, MAF had not only proven through an academic evaluation the success of individual participants including credit score increases and debt reduction, but the ability to replicate the model through non-profit organizations in other areas.

Now MAF is providing Lending Circles through partner non-profit organizations in 11 states.

MAF is looking to expand further, including New York, Texas, Florida, Chicago, the Mid-atlantic.  MAF had been able to scale, and will continue to even more by employing innovative technology including online financial education and web-based trainings through a new “Lending Circle Communities” platform.

MAF’s roadshow took place at the United Way in Los Angeles. Over ten financial coaches within the CABO Network participated to learn about Lending Circles, a culturally relevant model of social lending and affordable, responsible product to build credit and realize larger financial goals.

Though the challenge of accessing affordable credit is not unique, there are certain ways of course this plays out for local communities, like the unbanked community in Los Angeles.

Andrew shared for example, how Los Angelinos with thin credit files often borrow at a 25% interest rate for a used vehicle at “Buy Here, Pay Here” car dealership.  GPS tracking devices and “kill switch” allow the vehicle to be easily repossessed in instances of default.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that makes installing these devices illegal without the consent of the borrower, but sub-prime borrowers often have few alternatives.  They also end up paying more for less without a responsible alternative to establish credit before taking out a loan.

Since moving to Oakland four years ago from New York, I have gotten used to relying on public transportation, but I quickly learned during what felt like a family road trip to Universal Studies, that having access to a safe and reliable vehicle is not just a part of the car culture, but a necessity in Los Angeles.

Better credit, not only means more saving, but more financial security and peace of mind, so that hard-working families can get to work and take care of their families.

I look forward to the next A&O convening to share our story of collaboration with other organizations in the asset-building field.

MAF’s Emerging in LA

MAF is setting the stage for the future of Social Lending

I recently started working at MAF and before I got in the door, Daniela, our COO, asked me if I wanted to attend a conference in LA. My reply was an emphatic yes! I’d only been to L.A once, so I looked forward to learning more about MAF’s work in L.A. communities and the great city. Before I knew what was going on, my colleagues, Mohan, Nesima and I were bleary eyed and on a commuter flight to attend EMERGE, a conference organized by the Center for Financial Services Innovation.

The goal of the EMERGE conference is to focus on how the financial services industry can reach low to moderate income individuals.

Since MAF focuses its innovative social loan products and programs in communities that are invisible to the mainstream financial system, it was natural for us to attend and be ready to bring our innovations to the table. Personally, I wanted to get a glimpse of what this sector of the financial services industry was all about and the impact it was making.

MAF’s own CEO, Jose Quinonez, was a panel speaker for the first pre-conference session, “A Primer on Consumer Financial Challenges and the Underserved Market.” Hearing about the industry’s approach to innovation (more mobile access to fee based financial products, more innovation with pre-paid cards, to name two).

It became clear to me (and I may be a little partial) that MAF had a highly unique and innovative take on both the consumers being discussed and on providing access to an affordable, fair financial marketplace.

I found two sessions particularly interesting. The first was a data analysis and review by LexisNexis on the population dynamics of the underbanked consumer after the recession. Lots of (propriatary!) data was shared, but one piece really struck me: relative to their financial health before the 2008 recession, the underbanked under 30 years of age were still much worse off than those 31 and over. Hmmm…

The conference’s final session was a presentation on the U.S. Financial Diaries research project. The preliminary research found, amongst other things, that folks that were low to moderate income tended to lend and borrowed money to each other as an alternative to conventional financial markets.Who knew? Why, MAF did! In fact, MAF was referenced several times in the presentation as being a driving force of innovation and scale in this area.

For me, the key moment was when a slide during the presentation told me the story of these communities and how MAF’s been ahead of the curve for years.

It was a great conference week, finishing with a whirlwind (but very moderate) meal with a few allies & partners  at La Costa, with some great people and awesome leather booths. Thanks, L.A., for a great trip!

Screwing in the light bulb with GoogleServe

How many Google employees does it take to screw in a light bulb?

We don’t know. But we do know how many Google employees it takes to elevate the user experience for our new online social loan platform: five.

How did we get five Google employees in our office in the first place? No, we didn’t trick them by luring them onto a MAF bus. (We didn’t have time to pull off a plan like that.) Instead, we had the honor of hosting five amazing employees for the 2014 GoogleServe event.

Google encourages their employees to build relationships and create positive impact within the communities that they live and work in. One of the many options Google provides to employees is a day of service known as GoogleServe.

As one of the organizations lucky enough to be chosen as one of the GoogleServe locations in the Bay Area, we began to compile a laundry list of tech-related needs. Realizing that five people weren’t going to be able to provide solutions to all of our requests we whittled it down to one – helping us create a better flow for our new Lending Circles enrollment process.

It had been an issue we had been working on for a little while, and we felt that some fresh eyes and highly analytical minds would give us some clear direction towards an answer.

That Thursday morning our staff puttered around the office in hot anticipation of our incoming visitors. As the volunteers began to filter in, we were met with warm, friendly people who were excited to meet us and get started on the project at hand. Arriving with a box full of sandwiches from the Google office, Axel, Wenzhe, Dan, Chris and Sudarshan were happy to join a startup environment.

Together, we set out to create a better experience for our members and partners when they enroll in our program and we wanted the volunteers to make that process even more intuitive. It is important for us to show the ease of our program from start to finish, and the enrollment process is the first interaction that everyone has with MAF.

They were interested in every angle of our process, the members needs, the partners needs, the ways to access the new platform, even the times of day we expected our partners and members would be trying to access the enrollment process. Once they had gathered the important information, they set to work. By noon, the MAF staff sat down to have lunch with the volunteers and thank them for all their hard work. We all discussed what it was that made us so passionate about our respective work.

Like the volunteers, we had a thirst for knowledge and a drive to create a better world through technology.

The volunteers talked about their experience as residents of the Mission, their admiration for the local communities, and the love they felt for the vibrant cultures and characters that make up the neighborhood. For them, credit was not something they thought about often, so they were surprised to hear how the lack of credit and access to a fair financial marketplace was negatively impacting the ability for families in the Mission to thrive.

One volunteer offered his own experience moving to the states from another country and how difficult it was for him to build credit. We also received a tutorial on how to quickly fold t-shirts, for Doris this was a life changing experience.

As the day progressed, we watched in awe as the whiteboard became progressively covered in words, lines, numbers, and random scribbles.

After a few hours, the Google employees had taken our goals for the new enrollment process and laid out a simple, workable plan to achieve them. We were able to find a solution to an issue critical to increasing access to our Lending Circles program as well as a new approach to creating innovative solutions.

Through the Google team we learned some creative new strategies for viewing a question, and creating innovative solutions. We talked about the importance of credit and financial stability for the health of our communities. Most importantly, we had time to sit down and meet like minded people who love San Francisco and its residents as much as we do. Plus, a few staff members even learned a unique way to fold a t-shirt. It was an interesting and eye opening experience, and we would do it again in a heartbeat!

Jonathan D’Souza is the Marketing Manager at Mission Asset Fund and he loves to talk to talk to people about the importance of credit building while showing them too many photos of his dog Phoenix. You can reach him at

Training our partners for success

We travel to LA to form MAOF’s first Lending Circle

Watching a group of people form their first Lending Circle is an inspiring experience, especially when that group will go on to form more Lending Circles in their own community. My colleagues, Mohan, John, and I trained staff members at the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF) and Central City Neighborhood Partners (CCNP) in Los Angeles, two new partners who will be offering our Lending Circles program.

These partnerships have been almost eight months in the making after Mohan first met with Andrew Chang from the Center for Asset Building Opportunities (CABO), who introduced Lending Circles to his network of 10 asset-building nonprofit partners.

“My goal was for MAF to come and expand their products and services to the populations and communities we serve in LA,” Chang said.

MAOF, based in Montebello, California, is one of the largest Latino nonprofits in the country and is celebrating its 51st year of supporting the socio-economic betterment of Latinos in California. MAOF offers programs in education, asset-building, youth education and senior services. Lending Circles’ credit-building opportunity fit a tangible need for the organization’s clients. Many of MAOF’s clients have been living in the US for more than 5 years and are somewhat acclimated to the financial system but still find it hard to completely access.

CCNP is a nonprofit collaborative working to provide social services for children, families and communities in LA to break the cycle of poverty. The organization has been involved in a number of community economic development campaigns such as Bank On LA to connect unbanked residents to affordable financial services and Lending Circles is a great example of a program that clients can use once they have opened up bank accounts.

Seven staff members came together with different financial goals from paying off debt, improving their credit, saving for a house and preparing for retirement.

Many of the them had participated in an informal lending circle or were aware of their existence from their cultural experiences. The credit-building aspect was intriguing for the members and they all were looking forward to the ability to improve their scores.

During the training, Mohan explained the enrollment, recruitment and formation process for Lending Circles and guided the staff through scenarios they could encounter when facilitating the program with their clients. Moving forward, our partner trainings will be done online through webinars and presentations in our Lending Circles Communities platform, but it was really great to have an in-person connection with the MAOF and CCNP staff members and share best practices together. I also got a chance to talk to MAOF’s marketing director to plan future storytelling and engagement opportunities to spread the word about the program.

The Lending Circles program has been operating in in LA for two years through our partnership with the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California. We’re excited to welcome these two outstanding organizations to the Lending Circles network.

Working with MAOF and CCNP will allow us to reach new communities of aspiring car owners, citizenship applicants, entrepreneurs, students and families who want to tackle their debt and lay the foundation for increased financial capability.

Nesima Aberra is the Marketing Associate and New Sector Fellow at Mission Asset Fund. She loves storytelling, social good and a good cup of tea. You can reach her at

Lending Circles son bienvenidos a Miami!

Find out how MAF is making waves in Miami!

Jose, Daniela, and I set off to visit a promising new community to bring the Lending Circles program, Miami! I had been waiting for this day ever since I joined MAF. Now the day was here and it fell on Cinco de Mayo! On my way to the hotel, I decided to take a detour down Flagler Street, one of the main arteries of Miami community, the busy street runs right through little Havana and leads directly to downtown Miami.

I was not surprised to see that this vibrant street was share many similarities with MAF’s home in the historic Mission District of San Francisco.

Unfortunately one of the similarities was that it was riddled with check cashing and payday lenders. It was a visual reminder of why we were there and it gave me a better sense of what opportunities the nonprofits in the area we striving to create. Needless to say, I felt amped to deliver the presentation the next day.

Throughout Miami folks were preparing for Cinco de Mayo, I was preparing to give a presentation on how Lending Circles can transform communities. We entered the Miami JP Morgan Chase headquarters, as people began filtering in off of the warm Miami streets.  The sweet smell of Rosa Mexicano filled the room, while I have to say San Francisco has some amazing Mexican food, I will say that this was a close second.

At first with everyone entering and networking it was hard to judge the amount of people coming to hear about MAF’s Lending Circles.

As the the presentation started, I noticed that more people were coming in! By the time the presentation had ended people were lining the edges of the room. It was invigorating to feel everyone’s energy and to hear from the audience themselves the opportunities they saw by having Lending Circles serve their local community.

The next day I had the pleasure of doing a site visit with one of the local nonprofits, Catalyst, who had come to hear about what a partnership with MAF could do for them and their communities. They are a nonprofit in Dade County that acts as a diverse resource to jump start families and community members in a path towards success, a true catalyst.

The Catalyst team (Terry and Gretchen) gave me a warm welcome and gave me a wonderful tour of their site. I couldn’t help but admire their art work, some very personal, some that their own members had created, and of course some just completely awesome.

Overall it was an amazing experience. It was truly great to meet the JP Morgan Chase team and all the nonprofits that are working hard to make their communities a better place for families.

Calling all Dreamers

Jesus Castro shares his own story and hopes it inspires others to apply for DACA.

One of the things I find so empowering about our work at MAF is seeing young leaders follow their passion and give back to the community. Jesus Castro is one of those leaders who joined Lending Circle for Dreamers and has gone on to advocate for immigrant youth. I interviewed him about an exciting public service announcement he has developed with the SF Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs to raise awareness about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

How did you get involved with the SF Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs?

The first time I came in contact with the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA), or more specifically OCEIA’s director, Adrienne Pon, was at the Coro Annual Luncheon. After giving a speech on how Coro’s Exploring Leadership Program changed my life, several people came up to me to congratulate me, and discuss my career path, I was really honored. A couple minutes after Director Pon approached me and I think she stood out to me the most because of her offices name. I am very passionate about the fight for immigrants and, their name being The Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant affairs just caught my eye right away that’s when I knew that I wanted to get that internship more than anything.

What was the purpose of the PSA video?

The PSA’s purpose was to create a useful outreach tool to educate people about DACA and encourage them to come forward and apply. We were also hoping to incorporate it in our one year of DACA event this in celebration of DACA’s one year anniversary, so in response this PSA video came into play. During the process there were some hiccups and the video was delayed but with help from an awesome friend, and my own little grain of sand the video was finally completed and it’s now on YouTube. The video is also posted on our dreamSF website.

How did you feel sharing your personal story in the video?

Sharing my story is something that I really enjoy doing not only because it empowers others to share their stories, but also because it also gives me the strength and courage to keep sharing my story.  It’s a domino effect they need a little courage from others to share their stories, and these people’s positive feedback gives the person telling their story the courage to keep doing sharing.

What are some reasons DACA eligible youth have not applied yet?

I can’t know for sure and I can’t speak on behalf of those who haven’t yet applied for DACA, but if I were to guess why they haven’t applied I would say it’s because of the fact that they don’t have the money to do so. The cost to apply for DACA is $465 which is a huge investment and many people are also unfamiliar with the application process and what it takes to renew, so we need to provide the right educational and financial resources.

How did you find out about MAF?

Mission Asset Fund (MAF) has definitely played a huge role in my life. The first time I heard about them was through Legal Services for Children, the organization that helped me with my DACA application process. They suggested that I go to MAF for financial assistance because at the time they were offering a $155 scholarship for DACA applicants on top of their lending services to pay for the DACA application. I joined what they call Lending Circles for Dreamers were I got a step by step on filling in the application in order to receive the check that would pay for my application. Now, the program offers participants an opportunity to get a group loan and save so you can pay for your application.

What are some other ways the city is trying to assist immigrants?

Specifically, our office is assisting immigrants with language access, naturalization services and in terms of DACA youth/adult immigrants, we are launching a dreamsf fellows program that is specifically for DACA approved people and we have a Pathways to Citizenship initiative.

What are your hopes for comprehensive immigration reform?

A comprehensive immigration reform would be exceptional for all immigrants that currently reside in the U.S. I’m sure this comprehensive reform is around the corner but we just all have to make an effort in the process and show an interest in it. We currently have DACA but what about our parents and those who don’t meet the requirements for DACA? Not every undocumented person qualifies for DACA so many families are being broken up while immigration reforms is at a standstill. We need to move forward or our communities suffer.

What does civic engagement mean to you and how it is important in your life?

To me, it’s the 2nd chapter to my story. I have been with OCEIA for 2 years now and it’s really a home away from home. I can’t thank Director Pon enough for giving me the opportunity to be part of her team. Since the beginning of my internship the work has been tough, and I mean that in the most thankful way. Thankful because from all the work that I have done I know feel better prepared me for whatever other job comes my way. I also want to thank Richard Whipple he has been there every step of the way. He not only guides me through work challenges but also through life’s challenges. Although I have done a lot with OCEIA, this is only the beginning.  I am still looking forward to many years with them, and as OCEIA grows, I will as well.

Nesima Aberra is the Marketing Associate and New Sector Fellow at Mission Asset Fund. She loves storytelling, social good and a good cup of tea. You can reach her at

California DREAMing: DACA and the making of an American dream

MAF member, Ju Hong, talks about Mr. Hyphen and the American Dream.

Ju Hong is a man of few limitations. He is a research assistant with Harvard University, on the National UnDACAmented Research Project (NURP), a coordinator at the Men’s Center on the Laney College Campus, a graduate student at San Francisco State University and newly crowned Mr. Hyphen.

Ju is the ideal of the American Dream, Ju is undocumented. He came to the United States from South Korea when he was younger with his mother who wanted a better life for her children.

“My mother works two jobs at restaurant, twelve hours a day, seven days a week, and never had a vacation ever since she arrived to this country. She is tough,” says Ju.

As an undocumented student, Ju was unable to get a job, access financial aid, and get a driver’s license. Ju took his mother’s example and decided he was going to work as hard as he could to make her proud. That’s when Ju heard about a contest hosted by Hyphen Magazine. With this contest, he saw a chance to bring visibility to the lives of undocumented immigrant populations.

Creating Visibility

“Hyphen magazine was a great avenue to highlight a critical immigration issue. One out of seven Korean immigrants are undocumented. Asians are now the largest group of new immigrants in this country. The AAPI community cannot ignore this issue. In fact, the AAPI community should engage in the conversation and join in efforts to push for a fair and humane comprehensive immigration reform.”

Of the 11 million undocumented people in the United States, 1.3 million are Asian, many of whom are youth who have lived most of their lives in the United States. But it costs $680 just to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a substantial barrier standing in the way of for hardworking families like Hong’s.

A Circle of Support

When Ju first came to Mission Asset Fund he was looking for a way to build his credit now that his DACA application was approved, and access the financial education he needed to succeed. During the Lending Circle program Ju gained the financial skills, money, and credit he needed.

“I decided to apply for the Lending Circles program with five other undocumented students. The Lending Circle has given me an opportunity to better understand credit, loan programs, and finance in general.”

Ju received DACA, his work authorization and driver’s license. Now, Ju has started making plans for the future. He no longer feels the stigma and pressure of being undocumented, and he wants to make sure that no one has to feel that way either. After he finishes his graduate studies at San Francisco State, he plans on working to make immigrant communities healthier and happier through public service.

This is a dream that is driven by his admiration for his mother. “My mother is my best friend, my mentor, and my role model. One day, I want to be like my mother, becoming more of a risk taker, hard-worker, and never giving up on a dream.”

Behind the design: interview with Digital Telepathy

Check out the design thinking behind the creation of our new website!

Our new website has been a labor of love for us at MAF, but we couldn’t have delivered the product without the brilliant design team at Digital Telepathy. Nate, Brent, and Eduardo were nice enough to take time out of their busy schedule to share their perspective on what the design thinking behind MAF’s rebrand and the importance of the user experience in furthering our mission to create a fair financial marketplace for all families.

What are some current design trends that inspire you and the team?

Lately design has been moving towards minimalism. Trendy designs are flat and have more white space than they used to have.

This trend is very much in line with our formula for “betterment” of our designs.

Betterment = Simple + Compelling – Friction

What was the process like for coming up with the new MAF and Lending Circles logo?

Very collaborative – for the MAF logo we started with the core concepts of the organization and worked with company stakeholders to sketch our initial ideas in a workshop format. Each of us, MAF stakeholders included, contributed a number of sketches for consideration. We collectively decided on a direction and our designs moved from there.

How did you incorporate storytelling and infographics into the user experience?

MAF has so many inspiring stories to tell; the success of the organization can easily be seen by looking at its members.  We were able to partner with a photographer to produce compelling imagery that does a great job of telling the story of MAF.  We worked to create designs that would showcase these images and also created some supporting illustrations to highlight some of the statistics that support MAF’s cause.

How do you approach Objective Based Design for nonprofits like MAF?

The answer is in the name of our service – Objective Based Design. At most place, projects are begun with the end in mind… the team works furiously to build “something”. Our service is unique in that our primary focus is on achieving a specific objective.

In MAF’s case, we knew one of the reasons they are successful is their ability to meet people where they’re at, speaking to them on a person to person level. We kept this in mind going into design, looking to create something visually appealing and at the same time speaking to the audience in a very approachable and direct manner.

What was a memorable or challenging part of the MAF or Lending Circle website design process?

Our kickoff design workshop for the Lending Circle site was really great.  We had stakeholders from MAF and members of their development team come to our offices. We were able to cover a lot of ground because we had all the right people in the same room.  It was a ton of fun, everyone got involved in sketching out ideas and we were able to get alignment between all parties on our work for the next couple of months.  We had such a good time that we actually wrote a blog post about it!

What do you want users to come away with when they visit the new sites?

We want website visitors to feel connected to the cause. Putting actual stories of neighbors helping neighbors through lending circles (social loans) helps a website visitors understand how they can make a difference in someone else’s life.

How do you measure the success of a website?

That’s a complicated answer. A website is a tool for marketing, communication, PR, etc. So much of a website’s effectiveness is influenced by the rest of the ecosystem to which it belongs. For MAF, there are both quantitative metrics (how many visitors became donors) and qualitative metrics (effective application of brand messaging).

We hope you’re as wowed by Digital Telepathy as we are. Get in touch with them here!