Tag: Behind the Scenes

FinTech pros and consumer advocates


Meet MAF’s four passionate new members of the Board of Directors: Alex, Cara, Lissa, and Sagar

MAF is thrilled to welcome four new members to our Board of Directors! They bring rich experience in law, financial tech, consumer advocacy, and business. Read on to learn more about these inspiring leaders and what motivates the work they do.

Meet Alexandra

Before joining her current law firm as a Financial Services Partner and lead of the FinTech team, Alexandra worked as Senior Counsel in the CFPB’s Office of Law and Policy.

Alexandra learned about the power of informal lending practices at an early age while growing up in Monterrey, Mexico.

Her grandmother, a landlord, used to organize tandas to help tenants afford rent and other expenses.

Alexandra remembers witnessing firsthand how the capital from tandas helped people cover medical bills, car repairs, and other unexpected expenses. She’s eager to bring her legal training, experience in consumer protection, and deep personal connection to fair lending to her role with MAF.

Meet Cara

As a corporate attorney for Dropbox, Cara brings valuable experience in the legal, finance, and tech spheres to her role as a Board Member. Before Dropbox, she held the role of Vice President & Counsel at BlackRock, where she specialized in alternative investment vehicles and provided advice on legal, regulatory, and general corporate matters.

Cara has an inspiring track record of leveraging her skills and expertise in the interest of justice.

Since becoming an attorney, she has provided pro bono immigration legal services to many of the same communities that are part of MAF’s Lending Circles network.

When asked what drew her to MAF, she shared, “What I see in MAF excites me deeply: an organization that has already found a sustainable, elegant, and effective way to foster financial inclusion of communities most in need.”

Meet Lissa

With 12 rich years of experience as a management consultant at McKinsey, Lissa is passionate about all things teams: cultivating and retaining talent, adapting to change, and building a purposeful culture. As Co-leader of McKinsey’s OrgSolutions, which provides clients with innovative design technology and advanced analytics to help them make the best decisions for their organizations.

Lissa shares that she’s long been dedicated to tackling income and asset inequality at its roots.

Over the past year, she’s found herself growing ever more passionate about defending the idea of an inclusive America.

She sees great potential in MAF’s Lending Circles model, which she describes as “both powerful and powerfully simple.”

Meet Sagar

A seasoned tech and finance professional with a passion for social justice, Sagar currently directs Strategy and Operations at Salesforce. In addition to his tech savvy, he brings valuable experience as a former member of the Big Brothers Big Sisters leadership board in Chicago.

His passion for financial inclusion stems from his family’s immigration story.

When his parents came to the U.S. from India, they had little savings and no credit history, and they struggled to make ends meet.

It was the generous help of family friends that helped them get on their feet and begin to build a future for themselves. Sagar knows that a strong social network can make or break someone’s ability to thrive, and he sees his role with MAF as an opportunity to build that network for others.

We’re delighted to welcome Alexandra, Cara, Lissa, and Sagar to MAF’s board!

We’re grateful to them for lending their skills and talents to help us take our work to the next level. ¡Adelante!

With ❤️, From: Mom, Charu, Mama, 엄마, Hajurmuma


From a thriving chocobanana business to a spicy pinch of kimchi that literally means “I love you.”

At MAF, we’re always looking for an excuse to share stories. In celebration of Mama’s Day 2017, a few MAF staff members and Lending Circles clients told us about their moms, grandmas, and chosen mothers—and just what makes them so special.

She’s an inspiring example of resilience for me.

Charu, aka “mom” (Chicago, IL)

Well, aside from the fact that she’s simply the most radiant woman I know, she’s hilarious—especially when she’s feeling #nofilter. She has the best commentary when we’re watching Bollywood movies together.

I also admire her creativity and her drive to keep learning and trying new things. In addition to being my mother, she sells her handmade jewelry at trunk shows and craft fairs around Chicago, and she teaches, performs, and delights her family with her Indian classical music singing!

$$ LESSONS: She taught me the importance of financial independence. As a result, I’ve made an effort to spend wisely, save consistently, and manage my debts responsibly.

– SAMHITA, Partner Success Manager

I lost my mother 10 years ago, and Reyna stepped up to the plate.

Reyna, aka “mama” (San Francisco, CA)

Reyna is my best friend’s mother, but I felt a very motherly love from her from the moment I met her. She is hilarious, hardworking, and she has a drive at the age of 52 that can barely keep up with! She told me, “no matter what you need, I am here.” She has done that—and more.

$$ LESSONS: Never give up. Reyna struggled as an immigrant coming to this country 25 years ago. I went through similar immigration battles, but thanks to her guidance early on and her unconditional love and support, I was able to persevere. She even told me about a traditional lending circle (long before I discovered MAF!) she had been part of, and she encouraged me to join. That helped me save money for all the costs that came along with my immigration process.

– SHWETA, Lending Circles Client, Member Advisory Council

She’s the most selfless person I know.

Irene, aka “mom” or “Reeny” (Long Island, NY)

She is a deeply and naturally generous person. I always joke that she never sits down at dinner because she is making sure everyone else has what they need. She’s taught me to find the humor and a silver lining when things don’t go as planned. This was especially relevant while we were planning my wedding!

$$ LESSONS: Her own mother passed away when she was 19, so my mom had to learn by necessity how to save for the future, spend wisely, and stretch a dollar. She instilled in me from an early age the value of being intentional about spending. Sometimes it’s worth paying a little extra for something if you anticipate keeping it for a long time. Don’t be tempted by things that are inexpensive in the short term—that’s often a waste of money.

ALYSSA, Partner Success Manager

She’s always been hardworking and trustworthy. Now she has the credit score to prove it.

Celia (San Francisco, CA)

Oh, my mother is so special! She is my inspiration, my role model. She is joyful and courageous. No matter what life obstacles she faces, she is fearless with a smile on her face.

$$ LESSONS: She’s a natural leader, and people flock to her for advice. People would come to her with their money problems. She created many lending circles in her community to help people pool resources and build savings. Although my mother has always been a dedicated saver, she didn’t have the opportunity to establish a credit history. I was thrilled to introduce her to MAF. After participating in a few of MAF’s Lending Circles, she’s built a beautiful credit score for herself!

PATRICIA, Lending Circles Client, Member Advisory Council

She’s a fighter.

Ana, aka “mami” (San Francisco, CA)

My mom? She raised three girls on her own. She overcame enormous obstacles to put food on the table and a roof over our heads.

$$ LESSONS: When I was about ten years old, before we moved to the U.S. from El Salvador, my mom helped my sister and me get a little business going that we ran out of our house. We offered two distinct services: photocopying (we’d invested in a printer) and chocolate-covered bananas (official name: chocobananas). We didn’t even have to advertise—people just knew to come to us for their printing and chocobanana needs. And we learned some very valuable lessons from this entrepreneurial venture, most importantly: 1) work hard; 2) try not to eat all the chocobananas in your inventory. Those lessons continue to guide me to this day.

KARLA, Client Success Manager

She was one of the first women from her home state of Orissa, India, to attend medical school.

Sarat, aka “Mama” (Odisha, India)

There’s so much I admire about my grandmother: her ambition, intellect, passion, and humor, just to name a few. And she’s given me so many gifts throughout my life. My grandmother has been my yogi. It’s thanks to her that I developed my own yoga practice and have even taught yoga a different points in my life. Another gift that I cherish: her stories. Her letters, previously handwritten and in more recent years delivered by email, are simply the best.

$$ LESSONS: My grandmother taught me the importance of savings and frugality. She would know. It was her rupee-pinching and homemaking that ensured opportunities for her children and grandchildren. She instilled in me an appreciation of the importance of being able to stand financially on my own two feet.

MOHAN, Director of Programs and Engagement

My 엄마 / umma is my #1 bae.

Young Ki, aka 엄마 (Queens, NY)

She’s her own type of “tiger mom.” She never pressured my brother and me to get straight A’s but instead to find and pursue our passions. She’s a fierce dreamer who came to NYC with no idea what was going to happen to her. I’ve definitely inherited that idealism and rebellious spirit. I also inherited her love for food. Growing up, we weren’t always able to communicate in Korean or English too well. I learned that a pungent bite of kimchi could literally mean “I love you.”

$$ LESSONS: My mom taught me the importance of taking risks. She never saw money as an end goal but always as a means to something more. She was the one who pushed my dad in owning our grocery business, purchasing our first home, and investing in my brother’s and my college educations. Her financial philosophy guides and inspires me.

JAY, People, Fun & Culture Coordinator

She exudes joy, warmth, and love.

Nilsa, aka “mama” (Mission District, SF)

My mom is the most powerful woman I know. I look up to her, and everything I do is to make her proud. I feel very fortunate and honored that she is the woman that raised me into who I am today. She’s given me so many gifts over the years: excellent hugs, wise and compassionate advice, and a love for music and salsa dancing.

$$ LESSONS: My mom has taught me so many important financial lessons that have saved me money and heartache, and I’ve been sure to pass them down to my own children. And those lessons have been about more than just money. They’re about life: save consistently and manage your money wisely, no matter how much you have or earn. Focus on paying your bills and rent on time; worry about the wants later.

DORIS, Client Success Manager

She is one of my “five stars,” the five most influential women in my life.

Sulochana, aka hajurmuma (Kathmandu, Nepal)

Hajurmuma is the official term for grandmother in Nepali – hajur means “with respect” and muma means “mom.” And my grandmother is worthy of every ounce of respect. I so deeply admire her strength, grace, and beauty. She’s taught me so many important lessons that have made me the person I am today. Her best piece of advice? That no matter what happens in life, you must always remember to dance. It keeps your spirit alive.

$$ LESSONS: My grandmother’s life is an example of the lessons she’s taught me: the importance of working hard, getting a good education, and achieving financial independence. As a young widow, my grandmother managed to successfully run a business in her community in Nepal. In those days, it was unheard of for a woman to do that. I am so inspired by her bravery and independence! She also bought me my first piggy bank and taught me my first lesson in finances: “save, save, save.” That’s a lesson I have practiced to this day, and finance has become my life’s work.

SUSHMINA, Accounting Specialist

No one can make spare ribs and asparagus like she does…

Chau Phung, aka “mom” (San Francisco, CA)

There are many things I love about my mom… But one of the first things that comes to mind is her cooking! She is a very talented cook and baker. And she has shared those skills and her passion with me!

$$ LESSONS: Well, considering I’m the Financial Services Associate at MAF, you can probably guess that finance is pretty important to me. And that’s all thanks to my mother. From the time I was very young, my mom always made a point to teach me important financial skills so I would be independent and prepared for the future. She taught me how to make a budget, stick to it, and save for a rainy day. She’s a dedicated saver—no matter what challenges came up, she always had savings to count on. She’s diligent about living within her means and not overspending. I’m grateful to have learned those skills from her.

JENNIFER, Financial Services Associate

My mother is superwoman incarnate.

Sonia, aka “mami” (Key Biscayne, Florida)

Take for example: her daily routine when we were kids. She would get us all fed and out the door, go to work managing senior home care services, squeeze in a quick 30-mile bike ride, and finish the day off cooking a delicious dinner while singing along to her iPod. Her energy and upbeat attitude radiate from her. Through the ups and downs of life, she keeps us all in good spirits.

$$ LESSONS: Starting when I was little kid, my mom would “encourage” (um, force) me to put my birthday money straight into savings. She even gave me a credit card on my 18th birthday to teach me about credit and how to build it slowly! It was painful back then, but I’m forever grateful for those lessons.

CARLOS, Partner Success Manager

Thank you, Mom.

With love,

The MAFistas

It’s who you ask that matters


A conversation with a founding member paints a picture of what a new member-driven council will contribute to the Lending Circles program.

It’s about keeping it real. As we grow and evolve, we know that engaging real people will be key to gathering feedback that improves and informs programs and products. With this in mind, we set out to form our very first Member Advisory Council (MAC) earlier this year.

The goal? To encourage dialogue among clients who use our programs and take a closer look at their experiences. The Member Advisory Council will provide advice on new programs, the client experience, and will help shape our strategic goals.

Last month the Member Advisory Council, made up of 8 of our clients (a.k.a. members) representing the diversity of our community met for the first time. We sat down to get to know one of those members, Santos, and to hear what MAC means to him.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I grew up in the heart of District 9, most commonly known as “La Mission”, at 26th and Valencia Streets, where the intersections saw me grow and become who I am now. Growing up in La Mission, it gave me perspectives that you don’t get to see or experience in other Districts in San Francisco. La Mission is full of cultures from every corner of the world. We have locals that are very outspoken, that are not afraid to speak against injustice.

What do you do for a living?

Growing up with some of the La Mission ideals, I wanted to do something for my community, something that could teach – or how we say it here in the Bay, “Speak some game” – to the younger generations. So I started working for the Bay Area Urban Debate League. As the regional coordinator for San Francisco, I am in charge of all the programs that the League has here in San Francisco. I work primarily with the High Schools such as Mission High School, Wallenberg High School, Downtown High School, June Jordan School for Equity, and Ida B. Wells High School.

Why did you join the Lending Circles program?

I joined a Lending Circle because my mother thought it would be a good way to start generating some credit. At first I was skeptical. I knew what a Tanda was but those were sometimes sketchy and didn’t always work out. Fast forward to 2016 and I have done 3 or 4 Lending Circles.

One of the things that I enjoy the most about the Lending Circles is the finance class you have to take. It is a requirement to take the class every time you join a Lending Circle. The constant reinforcement of financial education is key. I’ve learned so much from that constant reminder. I’m constantly trying to get people to join the program. I usually just show them the website and tell them a bit of my story.

What was your reaction when you learned about MAC?

When I got the call, I didn’t know how to react. I happened to be on the roof of my building when I got the call. The call came in as a breeze of air, it was like deja vu. When I spoke to Karla about becoming part of the first group of MAC members, it was a no brainer and I immediately said yes.

What part of MAC is most exciting to you?

One of the things that Is really interesting to me is that you get to represent a community. You get to speak for the people that cannot be heard. That’s a power that not everyone gets to feel. The decisions that MAC members will make, will affect the community and that’s what’s really got my attention.

The fact that I get to experience and be a direct decision maker for the community is beyond my dreams. With the help of the seven other members we can make our community better. The first generation of MAC members will set the standards for the next generation and so on we will build a group that prioritizes the community.

MAC’s next meeting is scheduled for August 3rd where the group looks forward to discussing their goals for the coming year.

Innovations: Making the Invisible Visible


CEO Jose Quinonez gives a behind-the-scenes look into MAF’s origin story in MIT Press’s “Innovations” journal.

The following excerpt was originally published in “Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization,” a journal published by MIT Press. Read the full essay here.

I was 20 years old when I realized that my mother had died because we were poor.

She passed away when I was nine, too young to understand the complex and dangerous nature of life in poverty. At that time, I had to muster everything inside of me just to survive the avalanche of sorrow and change in our family life.

It was only as an adult that I came to terms with my painful childhood. I see it now as the source of the deep empathy I have for people who suffer and struggle in the world.

That is why I’ve dedicated my life to working against poverty.

And it is how I became the founding CEO of Mission Asset Fund (MAF), a nonprofit organization that strives to create a fair financial marketplace for hardworking families. When I joined MAF in 2007, the organization was a nonprofit start-up with plans to help low-income immigrants in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Eight years later, MAF is nationally recognized for developing Lending Circles, a social loan program based on people coming together to lend and borrow money. With cutting-edge technology, we transformed this invisible practice into a force for good.

Program participants are freeing themselves from the grasp of predatory lenders by opening bank accounts, building credit histories, paying down high-cost debt, and increasing their savings. They are investing in businesses, buying homes, and saving for a better future.

Lending Circles brings to light what’s already good in people’s lives.

And within that light, participants are forging a sure path into the financial mainstream, unlocking their true economic potential every step of the way. The program’s success is serving as a model in the fight against poverty, demonstrating new and effective ways of helping low-income people without belittling them in the process.

This is the behind-the-scenes story of how we made this happen.

Passionate Leaders & Product Experts: Meet Our New Board Members


Introducing MAF’s new board members: Dave Krimm, Salvador Torres & Stephan Waldstrom

Earlier this year, MAF had the pleasure of welcoming three new members to our Board of Directors. Read on to find out who they are, where they’re from, and what inspired them to join the board — from the cutting-edge technology driving Lending Circles to our innovative model for building financial capability.

Meet Dave

Dave Krimm is a seasoned financial services professional, with a passion for the “positive impact of microlending: the difference that a small loan can make in an individual’s or a family’s success.” His experience working as a financial product development consultant and leading fundraising and marketing at the San Francisco Foundation make the MAF Board a perfect match for Dave.

Dave is no stranger to nonprofit boards.

Most recently he served as Chair of the Opportunity Fund Board in San Jose, California, where he helped oversee an exciting period of growth for the organization. Now, he’s eager to bring his talents to a nonprofit rooted in his home of San Francisco. When asked what he’s most excited about in his new role, Dave shared that, “I’m looking forward to strengthening MAF’s ‘support team’ on the Board, to match the broadening impact of MAF’s programs locally and the expansion of our nationwide network.”

Meet Salvador

Salvador Torres is well acquainted with the informal lending and borrowing that happens on the margins, and he’s eager to uplift MAF’s work making the invisible, visible. Salvador shared that, “My family members have used lending circles to share resources, but they rarely went beyond close family ties and didn’t help build credit. Now with MAF’s Lending Circle products and partners, people around country are able to access capital and build the credit necessary to transition into the financial mainstream.”

He knows just how crucial financial health is for building strong, resilient communities.

Salvador spends his days working in Washington, D.C., as an investment banker and consultant at Penserra and 32Advisors, where he helps companies build growth strategies. He’s also served as an Advisory Board Member of the Posse Foundation, a college access organization, where he saw firsthand how close-knit social circles — “posses” — could transform the lives of students and their communities.

Meet Stephan

Stephan Waldstrom hails from Belgium (via Denmark), and is the Director of Risk and Product Development at RPX Corporation, a risk management company based in San Francisco.

Stephan is passionate about all things product development.

And he’s ready to use that passion to give back to his community. Stephan believes that “MAF has found a simple yet powerful model that can significantly improve the financial security of its members and potentially countless people across the U.S.” A product guru at heart, Stephan is excited to get his hands dirty helping MAF develop the first-ever Lending Circles mobile app, a new tool that will connect clients with on-demand loan information. In addition to his Board seat, Stephan is lending his expertise as a member of MAF’s Technology Advisory Council — which helps guide the design of the technology that powers MAF’s programs.

We’re happy to welcome Dave, Salvador, and Stephan to MAF’s board.

And we’re grateful to them for sharing their collective skills and talents to as we chart new courses — from the mobile app, to our Lending Circles Summit, to new research shaping our understanding of financial health. Adelante!

Time to Reflect & Refresh: Announcing My Sabbatical


Jose Quiñonez, CEO of MAF, announces a three-month sabbatical, sponsored by O2 Initiatives.

I’m taking a sabbatical!

Thanks to a generous grant from O2 Initiatives, I start a three-month sabbatical on December 21st. Since 2007, I’ve had the privilege of building MAF from a neighborhood nonprofit into an organization with a national network of 53 nonprofit partners, providing Lending Circles across 18 states. After overcoming many challenges and achieving much success through the years, I feel that now is the time to take a step back and reflect on all we’ve accomplished — and to envision what’s next for MAF as we continue to uplift credit-building as a force for good, forge new partnerships, and expand to new communities.

I am ever grateful to O2 Initiatives for providing me with the gift of time to reflect and refresh.

Over the next three months, I look forward to traveling and spending time with my family, reconnecting with old friends, and reading hardcover books. I have a stack of books on my nightstand just waiting to be picked up. I can’t wait thumb through their pages.

During my absence, MAF’s Chief Operating Officer Daniela Salas will take the helm as Acting CEO.

Daniela has been a critical force behind MAF’s success since our founding, and I have the utmost confidence in her ability to lead the organization as it embarks on an ambitious plan for 2016. We will continue to move our research agenda forward by studying the impact of Lending Circles on consumers’ financial well-being; we will break new ground in developing technology for our clients to have awesome experiences with Lending Circles; and we will go the extra mile to ensure that our partners have the right tools and training to successfully implement Lending Circles in their communities.

I look forward to returning to my role as CEO in April 2016.

With renewed energy, we’ll continue to build on what’s good and forge ahead in our fight against poverty. Onwards!

Introducing Chris, MAF’s Product Manager


Chris is on a mission to put data and technology in the service of social change.

As you may have noticed over the years, we’ve had great luck with Residency in Social Enterprise (RISE) fellows from New Sector Alliance. Today, we’re continuing that streak:

We’re excited to bring on Chris Ferrer, a former RISE fellow who’s now serving as MAF’s Product Manager.

Chris recently completed his fellowship at the Center for Care Innovations (CCI), where he created dashboards and complex reports in Salesforce to help identify key performance indicators and translate those findings into their first-ever annual report. Now, Chris is bringing those analytical skills to MAF.

He has quickly become our resident Salesforce guru.

In his work at CCI, Chris loved finding ways to leverage data to impact social change. He was naturally drawn to this role at MAF, which gives him the opportunity to apply
his expertise and improve our Salesforce platform — as well as the new challenge of developing a mobile app to better serve our clients.

Chris was particularly impressed by the “multifaceted approach that MAF takes through direct service,” which allows us to help low-income individuals build credit. He also appreciates MAF’s efforts to critically evaluate our services and measure their success, always searching for new opportunities to improve them.

“I think that this is an ideal and effective model to holistically effect change.”

Chris grew up in Maui before attending Claremont McKenna College, where he majored in Philosophy and Literature. One of the highlights of his college years was studying abroad in Paris. Despite growing up in Maui, he admits to being a terrible surfer — but“could give you some tips on falling.”

Chris is a huge soccer fan and loves watching the British club Chelsea. He enjoys listening to new music and likes to cook new foods. When I asked him if he wanted to share any other fun facts, he said “I love cheese!”

Meet Kelsea, Our New Development Manager


Kelsea comes to MAF with a passion for breaking down barriers to mainstream financial services.

No stranger to new places, Kelsea McDonough has lived all over the world: from Santiago, Chile, and Granada, Spain, to San Francisco and Oakland, which she’s now proud to call home. But she originally hailed from Boston, where she graduated from Tufts University with degrees in Spanish and Psychology.

During her formative years in Boston,

Kelsea volunteered at an immigrant advocacy nonprofit and worked at a rape crisis center. She then had the opportunity to spend a year in Granada, Spain, teaching English to preschoolers. Upon her return, she made her way to the Bay Area. She worked for several years in fund development at Prospera (formerly WAGES: Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security), an Oakland nonprofit that empowers low-income Latinas to build workerowned cooperatives. During that time, Kelsea also volunteered as a domestic violence counselor at WOMAN Inc. in San Francisco.

She first learned about MAF in 2013.

A colleague came to Kelsea raving about her great experience building credit through Lending Circles, and Kelsea was immediately inspired to join a Lending Circle with a group of co-workers. She still remembers the day they formed their circle, which they named “Celery Sticks with Buffalo Sauce” — the snack they were enjoying at the time.

Kelsea strongly believes that we must break down barriers to the financial mainstream for low-income communities in the U.S., and she’s admired MAF’s innovative Lending Circles strategy for many years. From the moment she walked into MAF’s colorful, high-energy office, she was impressed by how the team lives its values on a daily basis.

“Now that I’m here, every day I’m inspired by the whole team’s drive to push the envelope on creating meaningful financial products for low-income consumers.”

What does Kelsea find so inspiring about MAF? “Everything!” she says, “but I’m especially fascinated by how MAF uplifts informal community practices of lending and borrowing money and formalizes them so people can enter the financial mainstream.” Having seen a similar strengths-based approach in action at Prospera, she believes that this is the most effective way to achieve social change. Kelsea also admires MAF’s ability to seamlessly navigate so many fields, from community development and asset building to financial inclusion and FinTech.

Today, Kelsea manages the growth of MAF’s individual donor program and supports our overall marketing and development efforts. With the growing cultural consciousness about the need for more economic mobility — especially in the Bay Area where income inequality is skyrocketing — the time is ripe to mobilize support for MAF’s programs. Philanthropy brings people together to create a world where everyone can thrive.

Kelsea is excited to help MAF realize its bold plan to scale Lending Circles across the country.

In her free time, Kelsea enjoys exploring the Bay Area by bike, practicing kundalini yoga, and taking leisurely strolls around Lake Merritt. She has an unabashed love of cheesy pop music and makes playlists (both cheesy and non-cheesy) for any and all occasions.

Welcome Elena to the Partner Success Team


Elena’s passion for empowering communities and budding entrepreneurs makes MAF a natural fit.

Elena Fairley is a brand new MAFista, but her connection to MAF began three years ago. She first heard about MAF during a presentation at the California Co-op Conference. She was passionate about supporting local community members and entrepreneurs, so the idea of social lending clicked with her immediately.

Soon after, she organized a group of her friends into a Lending Circle.

Even now, Elena’s memory of her Lending Circle experience is vivid and warm: she remembers sharing stories, food, and laughter, and supporting one another achieve their goals. Her circle dubbed themselves “Holy Monkeys, We’ve Got Credit!” — a name that turned out to be true, given the big increases in their credit scores.

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Needless to say, Elena has been a fan of MAF ever since.

Before settling in Oakland, Elena was born and raised in Portland, OR, and graduated from Colorado College with a degree in International Political Economy. As you might
guess from the list of places she’s called home, she’s an outdoor adventure fanatic. When she’s not at work, you can find her outside, splitting her time between rock climbing, surfing, hiking, and biking.

This connection to MAF was no accident.

Elena has been a long-time believer in the power of communities to come together to support one another. Before coming to MAF, Elena was the Learning & Partnerships Director at Prospera (formerly WAGES). This Oakland nonprofit provides training and assistance to Latina entrepreneurs so they can build co-ops — local businesses that are owned collectively by the workers.

At Prospera, Elena had the unique experience of seeing groups of determined, entrepreneurial women come together, pool their skills and resources, start businesses, and achieve economic prosperity. Much like Lending Circles, co-ops are all about leveraging the strengths of communities.

So why MAF?

The second she saw this opportunity, Elena felt a connection. It was an exciting role, a chance to work at the organization she’d admired for so long — a prospect she new she had to explore. Elena is thrilled to have been hired as MAF’s newest Partner Success Manager. She looks forward to forming close relationships with many of MAF’s diverse partners, from Game Theory Academy in Oakland to The Resurrection Project in Chicago.

NCLR Presents MAF with the 2015 Family Strengthening Award


This recognition from NCLR helps us pave the way toward a fair financial marketplace for hardworking families

KANSAS CITY, Mo.—At the National Affiliate Luncheon held today at the 2015 NCLR Annual Conference in Kansas City, Mo., NCLR (National Council of La Raza) recognized two community-based organizations that belong to the NCLR Affiliate Network for their outstanding efforts to empower Latino families and broaden opportunities available to them. This year’s awardees are Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco and Guadalupe Centers, Inc. in Kansas City, Mo.

“We are honoring Mission Asset Fund and Guadalupe Centers at the 2015 NCLR Annual Conference for work that has transformed the lives of young Latinos and their families. Their dedication and success strengthen our entire community,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR. “We applaud these exemplary organizations and their innovative approach to helping the Hispanic communities in Kansas City and San Francisco gain access to safe credit and affordable health care.”

Presented annually, the NCLR Family Strengthening Awards honor two NCLR-affiliated community-based organizations for their commitment to bolstering the success and strength of the Hispanic community through a combination of programs and services. Each recipient receives a $5,000 cash award to further their work in the community and their partnership with NCLR.

Founded in 2007, Mission Asset Fund works to create a fair financial marketplace for hardworking and low-income families who lack the access and resources to reach their financial goals. The organization was recognized for its innovative Lending Circles program, a zero-interest credit-building social loans program designed to help weave low-income families into the financial mainstream. The program enables participants to build credit scores and credit histories and achieve financial stability.

“We are thrilled to be chosen as this year’s recipient of the NCLR Family Strengthening Award,” said Jose Quinonez, CEO of Mission Asset Fund. “This recognition from NCLR helps us pave the way toward a fair financial marketplace for hardworking families in the U.S. Together, we expand access to thousands of credit invisibles across the country, ensuring they aren’t stuck with predatory loans from payday lenders and instead are building on the strengths of their community to take the next financial steps in their lives.”

Established nearly a century ago in 1919, Guadalupe Centers, Inc. in Kansas City, Mo., is the oldest operating community-based organization for Latinos in the United States. Enhancing the quality of life for Hispanics through a comprehensive set of educational, social, recreational and cultural services, Guadalupe Centers, Inc. is improving the lives of Latino families. The group was recognized for its launch of the Guadalupe Educational Systems, a charter school program that provides a rigorous and enriching learning experience for Latino K–12 students. Through this program, Guadalupe Centers, Inc. is helping remedy the educational gaps affecting Kansas City Latinos and empowering young students to reach their full potential.

“Throughout 96 years of service, Guadalupe Centers, Inc. has provided educational programs for the Latino community. We appreciate the collaboration with NCLR in these endeavors and are honored to receive this recognition,” said Cris Medina, CEO, Guadalupe Centers, Inc.

NCLR—the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. For more information on NCLR, please visit www.nclr.org or follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

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