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Lending Circle Program Evaluation Released

At MAF, we’re all about understanding the impact of our work in the communities that use our products.

Over the years, we have seen hundreds of people who have been on the margins of the financial mainstream walk through our doors looking for a way to help themselves navigate the world of finance by joining a Lending Circle. While witnessing these lives transformed by a Lending Circle has made us believers, it’s often been difficult to communicate these diverse impacts to the world. We know that a Lending Circle can help people achieve their financial goals, and but we needed the numbers to prove it. That’s why we had independent evaluators at San Francisco State University’s Cesar Chavez Institute study the impact of a Lending Circle on credit improvement among more than 600 participants in five Bay Area communities over two years. We learned that:

1) Pairing the Lending Circle program with financial education is a great model for increasing the financial capability of low-income consumers nationwide.

  • Average increase in credit score post-Lending Circle: 168 points
  • Average reduction in debt per participant post-Lending Circle: $1,000 
  • Average credit score post-Lending Circle: 603

2) Our Lending Circle model works with different non-profit partners.

In their second report, the researchers found that the Lending Circle program has similar results with a wide range of communities and organizations, including recent Chinese immigrants offered the program though The Chinese Newcomers Service Center  and the LGBT community offered the program through The SF LGBT Center, demonstrating its wide appeal.

  • Participating in financial education increases credit scores by an additional 27 points
  • Community-based non-profit organizations are an ideal vehicle for implementing the Lending Circle program

With the results from these two reports, we’re able to effectively communicate the impact of our work to the world. We’re finally able to prove that a little idea that started 5 years ago in the Mission is can make a huge difference in the financial lives of hardworking families.

For more in-depth insights, be sure to check out the full reports.

A special thanks to the Ford Foundation, Center for Financial Services Innovation, and Citi Community Development for supporting our work!