Skip to main content

Tag: Behind the Scenes

New Lending Circles Program in DC Area

Lending Circles to Debut in Washington, D.C. to Help Individuals and Entrepreneurs Build Credit


Latino Economic Development Center and Northern Virginia Family Service launch peer-to-peer lending program in partnership with MAF and Capital One

Washington, D.C. – July 8, 2015Latino Economic Development Center and Northern Virginia Family Service today announced the launch of DMV Lending Circles, a new peer-to-peer lending program in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland, through a partnership with MAF that helps low-income Hispanic communities safely build credit with zero-interest loans. Loan payments made through Lending Circles are reported to credit bureaus, and the average credit score increase for participants is 168 points.

Lending Circles draws on the immigrant tradition of peer borrowing to empower members of communities to support one another. Participants make monthly loan payments and take turns receiving zero-interest social loans ranging from $500 to $2,500. All loan payments are reported to credit bureaus, enabling participants to build a credit history, raise credit scores and work towards greater financial stability.

“LEDC’s asset-building programs around homeownership and entrepreneurship are most successful when clients start with a solid credit history,” said Marla Bilonick, executive director, LEDC. “We were so excited to be selected by MAF to provide Lending Circles to DC area clients because credit-building is a critical piece for achieving financial empowerment and building wealth. Lending Circles give LEDC another tool to help our clients improve their financial well-being and fulfill their dreams.”

“Our clients are hardworking, extraordinarily motivated entrepreneurs. The NVFS Escala Program simply provides them with the missing skills and information to help them overcome barriers that many low-income immigrants face when starting a business,” said Adrienne Kay, Escala program manager, NVFS. “One of those barriers is credit and access to capital, and we are thrilled that through our partnership with MAF, our clients will access affordable loans, build credit history, and prepare for a financially stable future.”

According to a recent report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), one in every 10 adults does not have any credit history with a nationwide consumer reporting agency, making it incredibly challenging for them to do anything that requires a credit score, including getting an education, starting a business, renting a car or buying a home. This same report found that Hispanic consumers and consumers in low-income neighborhoods are more likely to have no credit history or not enough current credit history to produce a credit score.

 “Without credit scores, there are no ‘good options’ when you want to start a business or get a small loan,” said Jose A. Quinonez, CEO, MAF. “Now, with the support of Capital One and partners like LEDC and NVFS, together we are providing a solution that works right here in the nation’s capital.”

LEDC, NVFS, MAF and Capital One will celebrate the launch of Lending Circles at an event taking place on July 8th at WeWork’s offices in Washington, D.C., where DMV Lending Circle members will speak about their experience and success with the program.

“Having a strong credit history is essential for individuals to thrive in today’s economy and ensure their financial well-being,” said Daniel Delehanty, Senior Director, Community Development Banking, Capital One. “As Greater Washington’s hometown bank, Capital One is proud to partner with LEDC and NVFS and support the regional expansion of Lending Circles, leveraging technology, credit reporting and MAF’s proven track record of harnessing the power of community to have a positive impact on individual economic success and stability.”

In addition, as part of their Building Entrepreneurial Economies program, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development has partnered with NVFS to further the expansion of Lending Circles in Virginia, with a particular emphasis on Prince William County.

For more information on Lending Circles, please visit lendingcircles.org


About MAF and Lending Circles

MAF is a San Francisco-based nonprofit on a mission to create a fair financial marketplace for hardworking families. Its social loan program, Lending Circles, helps hardworking families access a zero-interest loan, receive financial education, and start building a credit history safely and effectively. People around the world lend and borrow with each other when bank loans aren’t an option. With technology and credit reporting, Lending Circles transforms this traditional practice to help borrowers access affordable loans, build credit history, and build financial stability. Social loan programs have demonstrated their ability to help people open bank accounts, avoid predatory lenders, and quickly and safely build their credit history. Lending Circles provides a safe and reliable way for hard working families to save money, pay down high cost debt, and break free of predatory lenders, while building the credit they need to thrive. For more information about MAF, visit: missionassetfund.org or lendingcircles.org.

About the Latino Economic Development Center

The Latino Economic Development Corporation/Center (LEDC) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization incorporated in 1991 in response to civil disturbances in the Mount Pleasant community. For 24 years, we have delivered comprehensive community and economic development services to build the capacity of DC area Latino and other underserved families. LEDC’s mission is to drive the economic and social advancement of low- to moderate- income Latinos and other D.C. area residents by equipping them with the skills and tools to achieve financial independence and become leaders in their communities. LEDC achieves its mission through four key service areas: small business development, microlending, affordable housing preservation; and homeownership and foreclosure counseling. We operate out of our Headquarters in Washington, DC and two satellite offices in Wheaton and Baltimore, Maryland.

About Escala

Escala, Northern Virginia Family Service’s Small Business Program for entrepreneurs, provides one-on-one small business development consulting and coursework to low- and mid-income families living in Northern Virginia. The program aims to assist clients in overcoming barriers to launch and grow sustainable businesses that increase household incomes, create jobs, and contribute to the local economy.

About Capital One

Capital One Financial Corporation, headquartered in McLean, Virginia, is a Fortune 500 company with branch locations primarily in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Its subsidiaries, Capital One, N.A. and Capital One Bank (USA), N. A., offer a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients. As part of its ongoing commitment to communities across the country, Capital One recently launched Future Edge, a $150 million commitment to empower more Americans to succeed in a digitally-driven economy through community grants and initiatives over the next five years. To learn more about Future Edge and other Capital One initiatives please visit

www.capitaloneinvestingforgood.com.

Lesson Earned #4: (MAF) Metamorphosis


The best part about working for a small organization is the mobility that such a structure enables.

When you walk through MAF’s offices, you’ll notice the colorful walls and vibrant artwork that are so reflective of the members we work with. If you look closely, you’ll see much of this artwork integrates a very specific image: the butterfly. A symbol of the immigration community, the butterfly has a lot of meaning behind it.

It only seems natural that my time at MAF has mirrored the metamorphosis that all butterflies undergo.

In my first post, I talked about MAF’s agile nature and that things moved fast. I’ve spent the last couple of months jumping from project to project so quickly that I almost didn’t notice the transformation my role was undergoing.

It all began with the start of our BBA campaign, our efforts to expand Lending Circles throughout the Bay Area. My role at MAF changed each time these organizations took one step closer to becoming a Lending Circles provider moving from strictly a marketing position into the intersection of marketing and partnerships.

It’s in this new position where I will be best equipped to provide our partners with the tools they need to succeed.

I conducted outreach to invite them to our presentations in January (marketing), answered their questions about the program and application in February (outreach and programmatic knowledge) and reviewed their applications in March (partner success).

These large steps have brought me to where I am today: working towards creating and implementing systems that will enable long lasting partnerships with our Lending Circles providers.

Here are the pieces that will make up my position at MAF in the coming months:

  • Recruitment: Reaching out to organizations interested in becoming Lending Circles providers, explaining the benefits of the program and reviewing incoming applications.
  • Management: Helping our current partners get on-boarded and trained while providing them with continued technical assistance throughout their time as a Lending Circles Provider.
  • Retention: Building out our online Partner Resource Platform- Lending Circles Communities- while sharing provider success stories.

Partner management is the base around which recruitment and retention envelope.The three pieces together enable the butterfly to fly.

The recruitment piece allows MAF to set realistic expectations of the partnership. It also enables MAF to find organizations with a community who could benefit from the program and the capacity to see it through. Management smooths out all the bumps in the road. Finally, retention focuses on demonstrating support for the organizations we work with by providing them with the tools they need for continued success.

Being able to slide into such a role is a demonstration of why the mobile mentality at MAF works so well. As the number and type of partnerships we form grow, partners needs change. The weeks ahead are sure to include much training and learning on my end, but I’m looking forward to being in a place where those changing needs can be met.

Bringing together a Better Bay Area


MAF is bringing together the 10 best ideas for a more financially empowered Bay Area.

MAF is excited to announce the Better Bay Area initiative awardees! This moment has been months in the making. The Better Bay Area initiative launched late last year with support from Google, Y & H Soda Foundation and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to invite nonprofits in all of the 9 Bay Area counties to become Lending Circles providers.

Since then, we have been engaging with hundreds of people from a diverse group of organizations that provide imaginative and impactful programs and services and want to help their community build credit and increase their financial stability.

We are excited to be working with such an amazing organizations representing the diverse group of people and communities across the Bay Area to implement the Lending Circles program! In the next few months we will be sharing the stories of these new partnerships, the families they work with, and how lives are transformed through the power of Lending Circles. Stay tuned!


We’re excited to introduce the 9 organizations that will join the next phase of financial empowerment through credit building social lending in the Bay Area.

Brown Boi Project, Oakland:

Launched in 2010, Brown Boi works to empower womyn, trans-men, and queer/straight men of color to become social justice community leaders. They prioritize support that improves the lives of the community, and feel that financial empowerment and financial literacy are key factors in creating positive change. Brown Boi Project wants to implement the Lending Circle program to help their clients take their economic readiness to the next level.

Building Skills Partnership, San Jose:

BSP launched in 2000 from a collaboration of the SEIU-USWW and property service employers in Northern California. BSP improves the quality of life for low-wage property service workers and their families by increasing their skills, access to education and opportunities for career and community advancement California. BSP believes that Financial empowerment is a key factor towards acquiring individual success. They intend to use the Lending Circle program to provide hands on financial trainings that also support accessing money for citizenship fees , saving for college, and credit building for their clients.

Game Theory Academy, Oakland:

Game Theory Academy’s (GTA) mission is to improve economic decision-making and provide economic opportunities to low-income youth, to increase their financial stability and help them develop analytical skills that they apply to many areas of their lives. GTA is excited to incorporate Lending Circles into their programs in order to give young people the opportunity to build a strong credit foundation, practice budgeting in a supportive environment, and prepare for financial independence.

OBDC Small Business Finance, Oakland:

OBDC Small Business Finance’s mission is to create economic opportunity by empowering entrepreneurs. Through innovative partnerships, they provide business owners with capital, education, and relationships that allow their clients to flourish. Since 1979, OBDC has been helping their clients expand in size, increase their profits, and reach their goals. They plan to use Lending Circles to provide business owners with credit building opportunities, financial education, and community relationships to help their businesses thrive.

Peninsula Family Service, San Jose:

Founded in 1950 to strengthen families in the wake of Word War II, Peninsula Family
Service continues to help members of our community achieve their full potential. The organization reaches over 10,000 individuals each year, assisting underserved populations to overcome barriers to opportunity, financial stability, and wellness through an integrated network of tools and support. Lending Circles will bolster their existing Financial Empowerment services by adding a new credit-building tool to their innovative financial education, prepaid debit card, IDA, and vehicle loan programs.

Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center
, Mid-Peninsula / East Palo Alto:

Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center breaks the cycle of poverty by bringing the power of entrepreneurship and financial capability programming to low-income and economically vulnerable individuals, families and communities. Through our Secure Futures partnership with Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto and Nuestra Casa our Mid-Peninsula site is able to provides financial education and coaching to different communities in San Mateo County. As students are learning about setting savings goals, implementing household budgets, understanding the banking system and using credit beneficially, they are also introduced to safe financial services and products. Lending Circles will provide our clients with a safe and beneficial way to increase or build credit, lower existing debt or start saving for a predetermined goal of their choice!

Rubicon, Richmond:

Founded in 1973, Rubicon’s mission is to transform East Bay communities by equipping low-income people to break the cycle of poverty with a personalized, comprehensive collection of services that includes job placement, housing, legal services, and financial literacy. The organization is looking forward to using Lending Circles to financially empower adults in their financial boot camp as well as those who have been formerly incarcerated and/or homeless.

The Unity Council, Oakland:

The Unity Council is a non-profit community development corporation committed to enriching the quality of life of families primarily in the Fruitvale District of Oakland since 1964. Its mission is to help families and individuals build wealth and assets through comprehensive programs of sustainable economic, social and neighborhood development. The Unity Council will use the Lending Circles credit building program to increase the capacity of their work with small business owners and aspiring homeowners, as well as help their low income clients rise out of poverty.

Veterans Equity Center, San Francisco:

The Veterans Equity Center is a nonprofit organization located in the South of Market of San Francisco. Established in 1999, VEC was originally established to provide services for Filipino World War II veterans. VEC has expanded its services to include low-income seniors, families, people with disabilities, immigrants, LGBTQ, formerly incarcerated and homeless individuals. VEC provides support services to these groups through counseling, free legal clinic, affordable housing opportunity assistance, advocacy and activities for seniors and adults with disabilities. The Lending Circles program will complement their already robust services to further help immigrant and veteran clients become more financially empowered with the resources and credit they need.


Thanks to Jon D’Souza for his contributions to this post. 

Keeping Lending Circles hot with Chhaya


Check out how Chhaya CDC is using Lending Circles to support their economic development curriculum.

The temperature crept down to -1 degrees on the streets of Jackson Heights, New York. Even in the frigid conditions of this harsh winter evening, the Jackson Heights neighborhood is the quintessential American melting pot. People from all walks of life, all cultures, and all ages existing together. Even in the frigid dark of night, smiling, laughing people walked hurriedly over icy streets, through a light curtain of snow. The whole area is bathed in a flickering yellow and red glow, emanating from the neon lights floating in the night. Right off the bustling streets, away from the hum of the overhead train tracks, in a snow cloaked brick building, the Chhaya CDC offices released an unusually warm and inviting glow.

In the early 2000s, Chhaya, which means shade or shelter in many South Asian languages, came together to help provide housing assistance and community support to South Asian families. To ensure the long term stability of their community, Chhaya complemented their successful housing program with an economic development program. Through these programs, Chhaya was able to directly impact a larger range of social outcomes, including physical health, mental well being, increased financial security, community pride, and self worth.

With an already robust housing and economic programming, Chhaya was looking for a way to have their clients actually put their skills into practice, building their financial skills while building assets.

When they heard about Mission Asset Fund’s Lending Circles program, they knew it would be the perfect accompaniment to their financial education curriculum.  Chhaya applied through an intensive RFP process with National CAPACD (Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development) to receive technical support, training and financial assistance to implement the social-loan program with MAF.

Chhaya staff member Zarin Ahmed was one of the first staff working on the Lending Circles program after it had been implemented. “It was very daunting at first, selling the idea of Lending Circles to our clients,” she says as she lets out a little laugh.

The idea of informal lending is not new to South Asian populations.

Most know the Hindi term chit funds. Normally chit funds are done within family groups, so presenting the idea of social loan between community members was a little bit of a hard sell.

But Zarin and the Economic Development team at Chhaya had a great idea. They started their first circle with Zarin and several women who knew each other from a community group that Chhaya runs. Even though people loved the idea of Lending Circles, they were wary of this brand new program. But once people saw how safe it was, and when the women who were in the circles started telling their friends and family about it, there was an increase in interest in the program.

In its first year of partnership, Chhaya has provided access to $16,000 in Lending Circles to their clients.

The program is popular with their clients because they can put all of the economic training that Chhaya has provided them into action, while building the credit they need to thrive. They have already completed 3 Lending Circles with a fourth ending in March of 2015.

Along with Chhaya, National CAPACD sponsored three other Asian American development organizations with generous support from Citi.  National CAPACD has recently funded a second cohort of non-profits whom are about to launch their lending circles as part of their service delivery to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

MAF is proud to collaborate with National CAPACD and organizations like CHAYYA to implement Lending Circles.  We’re excited to see where we go next!

Thanks to Jon D’Souza for his contributions to this post. 

Lesson Earned #3: Think Small


With such a heavy focus on bringing organizations to scale, we’ve forgotten the power community holds.

Growing up, Mia Hamm posters plastered my walls – I even put one above my bed so the thought of joining the U.S. Women’s National team was my last thought at night and the first when I opened my eyes. Needless to say, I had a “sky’s the limit” mentality.

As I’ve grown older, I haven’t stopped dreaming big.

I searched for ways to achieve big impact in the world of civic engagement during my freshman year of college. That’s when I stumbled across social entrepreneurship, and immediately recognized the the opportunity social enterprises had to solve a social problem and scale it to reach more people.

It was through my work with social enterprises that I latched on to the Lean StartUp Movement. Last December, I was able to snag a free ticket to the Lean StartUp Conference.  Most people associate this movement with failing fast. More specifically, this method calls for commitment to iteration. Build. Measure. Learn. The conference shed light on what makes my work with MAF so fulfilling.

In the nonprofit world, there is a tendency to expand organizations as far and wide as possible.

This makes sense, of course, because social services should be given to all those in need. The trouble is, non-profits will build, measure and learn once (if at all) and then replicate the exact same model every time they expand to a new location. Yet what works in one community might not work in another. Your expanding organization most likely has no idea how to successfully implement its fantastic solution in a completely different environment.

The Lean Startup thinking is embodied in MAF’s partnership efforts. By working with partners to bring Lending Circles to different communities, we ensure not only efficient implementation of our programs, but also effective implementation.

Expansion through partnerships enables our mission to grow deeper instead of just wider.

This philosophy has manifested itself most recently through the Better Bay Area Campaign. This initiative allows us to reach more nonprofit organizations in the nine Bay Area counties working to improve the lives of those lost in the financial shadows. The Bay Area is pretty small, but the range of communities nestled within it is vast, each one with its own nuances.

As our community grows through these partnerships, we get to see all the exciting ways Lending Circles programs can be adjusted to meet more and more needs, like access to affordable housing.

This interaction sparks new programs like Lending Circles for Homeownership, initiated by long-time MAF partner, CLUES, in Minneapolis. The staff at CLUES realized that as their organization offers resources for homeownership, many of their clients were using the social loan received through Lending Circles to finance homeownership costs like down payments and other fees.

Since good credit scores and sufficient savings are vital to purchasing a new home, the Lending Circles program was the perfect path for these prospective homeowners to take. Iteration on the traditional Lending Circles program came easily and CLUES has already had 20 participants join this new program.

As we take on new partners at MAF, I’m excted to see how we can tailor the Lending Circles program to best meet the needs of the communities they serve. These small leaps from partner to partner lead to big impact – nearly $4,000,000 in social loans, over 3,000 clients served and 32 partnerships formed. Such results prove that small thinking is really anything but small.

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!  

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.

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.

From Partner Extraordinaire to Board Member


Follow Aqui’s journey with MAF and how she became our newest board member.

Expanding community with a new board member

I am thrilled to announce that we have added a brand new member to our family – this month our board voted in Aqui Soriano, Executive Director of the Pilipino Workers Center, as our newest board member!

Aqui has been working with the Pilipino Workers Center in LA for 14 years and is a leader in the national domestic worker’s movement.

One thing people don’t always know about Aqui is that she will keep calling until it gets what she wants for her community.

When she heard we were expanding Lending Circles to other organizations, she started calling me periodically to see if we were ready to go to L.A. Each time I would tell her “We’re just working on the Bay Area right now, but soon. Soon.”

Once the time was right, and thanks to winning the LA2050 Challenge, we brought on PWC as our very first L.A. partner. Fast forward a few years later and PWC is the only partner who is currently offering all of MAF’s programs – from Lending Circles to Security Deposit Loans.

“As a partner, we have seen firsthand the impact the organization has had,” Aqui says.

So when we were thinking about expanding our board membership, Aqui’s name immediately rose to the top because she has a unique perspective as a partner. I recently asked Aqui what her goals are in joining our board. She said “I see the value MAF has in building communities – in its lending circles as well as building broader community. I also appreciates that MAF knows how to build organizational infrastructure and systems to grow and scale.”

I couldn’t be more thrilled to have Aqui join us on the board and really look forward to your future with MAF.