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Tag: Roadshow

Lending Circles Coming to More Los Angeles Communities


MAF is inviting Los Angeles nonprofit organizations to apply to become Lending Circles social loan providers.

Mission Asset Fund (MAF) today announces the Build a Better Los Angeles initiative to expand Lending Circles in Los Angeles. Dynamic nonprofit organizations are invited to to apply to join MAF’s national network of 50+ Lending Circles providers through a special application process. This initiative is sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Roy & Patricia Disney Family Foundation.

MAF’s award-winning Lending Circles are a fresh take on social lending, helping participants safely build credit while increasing assets and improving financial health. The average credit score increase for participants is 168 points.

“We are proud to partner with MAF to help more Los Angeles households improve their financial health,” said Colleen Briggs, Executive Director of Financial Capability, JPMorgan Chase. “Lending Circles help families achieve their financial goals through regular savings and affordable credit building. Families are using lending circles to start businesses, save for college, and buy a home. The benefits do not stop with them but extend to their communities and the broader economy.”

According to a recent report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 45 million adults in the U.S. are invisible to credit markets, making them unable to access affordable credit. Los Angeles has one of the highest unbanked rates in California at 17%, compared to 8% for the state overall. “Without credit scores, people must turn to payday lenders to start a business or get a small-dollar loan,” said Jose A. Quinonez, CEO of MAF. “Lending Circles give people the tools to build credit and enter the financial mainstream.”

“The Roy & Patricia Disney Family Foundation is proud to support Mission Asset Fund’s efforts to build vibrant, economically secure communities in the Los Angeles area through its innovative Lending Circles program. It’s with great pleasure that we support the Build a Better L.A. campaign, which will connect even more low-income Californians with pathways to the financial mainstream,” said Sylia Obagi, Executive Director.

To learn more about the Build a Better Los Angeles initiative or apply to become a Lending Circles provider today, please visit the Request for Proposals here. Selected organizations can gain access to subsidized training costs, training from MAF staff, and on-demand access to an exclusive social loan platform. Applications are due March 18th and new providers will be announced on April 29th. Applicants must be 501c(3) organizations located in the greater Los Angeles area including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Interested organizations are encouraged to register for an in-person information session on February 26th at 10:30am at the ImpactHub LA to learn more. Register today to reserve your spot.

Join Us for an Info Session
Date: February 26th
Time: 10:30 am
Location: ImpactHub LA

About Mission Asset Fund

Mission Asset Fund (MAF) is a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to helping financially excluded communities – namely, low-income and immigrant families – gain access to mainstream financial services. Learn more at missionassetfund.org and lendingcircles.org.

Behind the Credit Curtains in Houston


A trip to Texas to talk about credit invisibles and how Lending Circles can help

Until recently, my time spent in Texas was limited to a single quick stop over after a study abroad program in Santiago, Chile. I barely had any time to take in the beautiful landscapes seemingly painted on the DFW windows before I was back up in the air again. That’s why I was thrilled to be asked to take some time to head to Houston with our CEO, Jose, to headline an event about Lending Circles for a large group of community-based organizations. I didn’t know what to expect.

My eyes were wide with anticipation as Jose told me about what I would be doing.

I was eager with anticipation to speak to a larger, new audience about the credit building benefits that Lending Circles.

Sure, I talk on the phone to partner organizations throughout the nation every week, and I often lead webinars for partners, but to present in a non-virtual way felt foreign (although refreshing). Everyday is a new adventure at MAF, but there’s always a comfortable structure to that adventure. I typically know which of my coworkers I will need to talk to and what questions to ask them. I was grateful for the opportunity to meet with so many valuable organizations face-to-face.

With a few butterflies in my stomach and an open mind as I left my hotel, I hopped in an Uber and made my way to the United Way of Greater Houston’s office. JP Morgan Chase, Experian and The United Way were coming together to help us host an event so we could talk to nonprofits in Houston about joining our nationwide network of Lending Circles providers.

My Uber driver, James, told me about the amazing diversity of the Houston community as he drove me through the city. He talked about all the new cultures that were growing together and the new little enclaves and neighborhoods that were popping up – it sounded wonderful. He said that this renaissance had accelerated recently due to an impressive population growth in recent years. I loved the thought of being in a city that was growing together at such an amazing pace.

But I knew the stakes, too. The Houston Metro Area has a very high number of unbanked and underbanked families (39%). That’s more than 1/3 of families in the Houston area that are underbanked and credit invisible.

On top of that, 43.9% of Houston families are considered to be “liquid asset impoverished” (that means they don’t have access to adequate credit are one emergency expense away from long term financial disaster). It only made my purpose of speaking about the power that Lending Circles can provide even more critical. By the time all attendees were seated with coffee and breakfast, over 70 representatives from Texas nonprofits were in the room! We were energized by the tremendous turn-out.

The presentation started with the United Way of Greater Houston welcoming all of the attendees, followed by short introductions from Carol Urton of Experian and Yvette Ruiz of JP Morgan Chase. Jose then dove, fearlessly, into speaking about who MAF as an organization and how it formalized the concept of individuals coming together to financially support one another.

Following Jose’s lead, I walked up to the podium and took my place, beginning with the respective responsibilities for the participant and the partner to get clients enrolled and Lending Circles created. It was key to emphasize to this group of potential providers how the transition to a more robust social loan platform has made the expansion of 40+ Lending Circles partnerships possible in states like Texas, a platform that is designed around the capacity and user experiences of both partners and clients.

I was humbled by the engagement of the crowd.

It was clear that almost everyone knew each other from the way each person greeted one another like old friends do. Although everyone at the event was a new acquaintance for me, two staff members from a Lending Circle partner attended: the Houston-based Chinese Community Center. This partner is one of five current providers offering Lending Circles in Texas: Family Pathfinders, YWCA Fort Worth, and El Paso Collaborative, a new partner signed in April 2015.

The only question that remains: which one of the 70 Houston organizations will I get to work with next?

A Warm Reception for Lending Circles in Minnesota


Thanks to our partner CLUES and a tight network of community nonprofits, we find lots of opportunity for credit-building in the Twin Cities

Journeying to the “land of 10,000 nonprofits” as Minnesota is known was the perfect opportunity for MAF to visit one of its strongest Lending Circles providers and host a roadshow event to engage new organizations looking to serve the financial needs of their clients.

Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1981 in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. CLUES’s programs and services focus on the Latino family, but the organization has the experience and capabilities to serve individuals and families from all walks of life including new immigrants and low income families who dream of a better future. This organization has a tremendous reputation in the Twin Cities for their comprehensive services ranging from mental health to education as well as their culturally competent client engagement.

On our first day in Minnesota, my colleague, Daniel, and I went to visit CLUES to get to know the staff and clients.

The weather was chilly but we were happy to get such a warm reception from everyone there as we got a full tour of the Minneapolis office and met all the passionate CLUES staff.

CLUES has been a partner of MAF since May 2012 with funding support by the Northwest Area Foundation.The organization currently offers Lending Circles, Lending Circles for Citizenship, Lending Circles for Dreamers, and just launched a new program, Lending Circles for Homeownership. I was amazed at how many services they offer the community and the diversity of languages spoken there.

The Lending Circles program, managed by Alejandro and David in the financial empowerment team, is actually advocated to all clients who may not be aware of the importance of credit building when they come to CLUES seeking other services. The Lending Circles for Homeownership idea came out of the desire to help CLUES’ clients who want to buy a home in the next year but need to repair their credit or build their credit. After those clients complete their required homestretch class and learn the process of buying, they can join the Lending Circles for Homeownership program to access capital and build their credit. CLUES is the first organization to offer this program, so they’ll be piloting it this fall with 20 people.

Because so many of CLUES’s clients and staff are Latino, they were familiar with tandas and extremely receptive to a culturally relevant program like Lending Circles.

I took some time to interview a number of inspiring clients who were trying to pay off their debt, grow businesses and save up for a home, as part of our new campaign to share the diverse stories of our partner clients across the country. They were all thankful for their new credit scores and the opportunity it gave them to work towards their financial goals.

We also hosted a presentation at the Northwest Area Foundation, allowing us to connect with more local organizations who were all very interested in asset and credit building. Some had heard of us through CLUES and others were learning about the impact of Lending Circles for the first time. It was great to meet so many different nonprofits represented and hear what they’ve been doing on the ground to meet the needs of entrepreneurs, job seekers, aspiring homeowners and immigrants.

On our second day, we held a staff training on Lending Circles and I got to interview the staff about the partnership experience.  I met with President Ruby Lee and VP of Programs, Karla Bachmann, who shared CLUES’ inspiring mission and strategic approach to community development. The four pillars that guide the organization’s work are: Health and family well-being, economic vitality, educational achievement, and cultural and civic engagement. Lending Circles fits perfectly into the economic vitality category and serves as a vehicle for integrating communities and providing opportunities.

I hope we’ll be able to build off of the enthusiasm and creativity of nonprofits like CLUES to open more doors for financial inclusion and empowerment.

Our schedule was definitely packed over the two days with all our events and meeting, but we did get to squeeze in some time to grab lunch at the Midtown Global Market and explore the enormous Mall of America! This was my first time in Minneapolis so I didn’t know what I’d expect, but thanks to the fantastic staff at CLUES and the Northwest Area Foundation, I’m inspired to come back to explore the offerings of such a welcoming place to so many different communities.

Delivering Lending Circles to The Mile High City


Find out what connects a lunchbox, social loans, and Denver, Colorado.

As I carried my Dad’s tiffin (A small metal Indian style lunch) box through the airport before boarding my flight to Denver, a TSA agent dutifully inspected what appears to be an unusual metal container.

Without a liquid or even a semi-liquid like hummus to cause alarm, all I could offer the TSA agent, as would be my grandmother’s practice whenever she is stopped by Customs officials, was my food and my charm.

Yet that slight delay actually created an intriguing moment of cross-cultural exchange.  I described the practice of millions of lunch boxes being delivered in Mumbai every day. Each Tiffin is filled with food made at by someone in their home and expertly delivered to hundreds of thousands of workers, by bicycle, without ever getting lost. A premise that lent itself to the polite love story of a new cross-over Bollywood movie “The Lunchbox”.

My experience, however, was more educational than romantic and perhaps foreshadowed what was to come with the upcoming presentation I was giving in Denver.  I got to share something new (my tiffin) by relating it to something familiar (the Lunch Box).

Colorado is new territory for MAF.

Chase graciously invited us to have them show us around, introduce us to people and sponsored MAF’s presentation so we could share our Lending Circles program with potential non-profit providers.

My colleague Tara and I presented in during the convening of the Clinton Global Initiative with about 25 non-profit professionals who came to hear how Lending Circles could complement their mission.

MAF working with new partners in Colorado makes a lot of sense to me.  Like San Francisco’s Mission District, it is often referred to as “up and coming”.  I experienced the thriving nightlife, where the streets were scattered with various food carts, selling delicious treats among old Jazz venues and new dance clubs.  I also read a story on Sunday in the Denver Post about micro-finance opportunities for recently arrived refugees and immigrants.

A conversation I had one evening in Denver with a college friend of my Dad’s from India made me even more determined to bring Lending Circles to Denver.

He told me about the rental shortage, a housing crisis similar to the one that’s gripping the Bay Area right now, coupled with a high number of foreclosures in his neighborhood.

These moments reminded me that with any progress, there’s inevitably some who are left behind. There are those who haven’t built up their credit to rent an apartment, who are strapped by making payments on their mortgage and don’t know how to choose the best financial product for them. MAF provides a solution to non-profits who are interested in building or expanding their programs to serve underbanked communities living in the financial shadows.

We are on a mission to expand our Lending Circles program across the country and boldly say that we will bring on 40 partners by 2015. MAF’s innovative Lending Circles Communities platform enables people to sign up for social loans through a mobile device, but it’s built on a time honored tradition of borrowing and lending money to each other.

Just like a lunch box, Lending Circles may look like a new kind of social loan, but it’s actually incredibly relevant and familiar to many communities.

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.