Tag: website

Shifting the focus on finance: Interview with Sarah Peet


An insight into how Sarah Peet captures the essence of social lending and the people of Mission Asset Fund.

Sarah Peet is a passionate photographer who specializes in destination wedding photography and originally from Vermont. She captured the stories of our Lending Circles members and staff for our new website and we’re thrilled to share the story behind her great work!

What do you feel is the best way to approach storytelling through photography?

Having true compassion and interacting honestly with the subjects is a great way to share their stories. I feel it is best to know as much information about the people you are photographing before you take the images. It is nice to know their history and the emotions they are feeling.  I think making people feel comfortable with you always evokes genuine and telling images. Also really encouraging them to relax seems to be a good way to let them forget they are being photographed. This allows their natural selves to come through in the image. Shooting photos in spaces that are personal to the subject seems to convey the story of their lives by showing all the little details in their world. The emotion can be conveyed through their expressions as well as the activity being performed by the subject.

Sarah Peet

What is your process like when you begin a new project?

Working on projects gives me a chance to hear people’s personal stories and then to document them through images. I research the history of a company, person, organization, etc. and find out as many details as I can about the story that I am capturing with images. I spend time scouting the location for good settings for the subject to be photographed in and for the lighting conditions. I try to scout as close to the time of day I’ll be taking photos, so I know if natural light will work best, or if additional lighting will be required. I love meeting new people and hearing the details of their lives, I am naturally inquisitive.

Economic and social justice are two important values at Mission Asset Fund. How are you able to capture those concepts on film & was it difficult?

Economic and social justice are values prevalent in all of the images I’ve taken with MAF.  I have taken photos of people facilitating and being a part of a Lending Circle – which gives people financial opportunities they otherwise would not have had. I have documented growing business that were supported by MAF and have facilitated safe living conditions, higher education, healthier food, and many other successes. Many people have thrived and risen above poverty and difficulty because of the great support system MAF provides. It’s been great to hear about people’s success because they used photographs I have taken to build their own website, which helped their company expand and grow. I documented the happiness and proud moments which convey the concepts of economic and social justice such as a proud chef standing in her own restaurant or in front of her independent food cart or in her own home away from an abusive past.

What was your favorite photo from your time with us and what was the story behind it?

I’ve really enjoyed knowing Alicia’s story (of Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas). She is such a kind, loving and warm person. I like the photos of her looking proud and standing in front of her own independent food cart. She has worked really hard and is also so appreciative of all the support of MAF and those around her. Veronica of El Huarache Loco also has a very successful business and I loved documenting her in her kitchen of her own restaurant. I also loved seeing the spread with all of the DREAMers. It is nice to see a collage of so many faces of all different ages assisted by MAF.

What was the favorite thing you learned during the process with MAF?

I have loved hearing the sweet success stories that have come out of working with MAF.  There is so much abuse, negativity and struggle in the world, so it has been really nice to focus on moments of joy, support, love and assistance for people that are working hard to succeed.  It has been nice to hear how people have been able to change their living conditions for the better through their connection with such a great organization.


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

Screwing in the light bulb with GoogleServe


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Behind the design: interview with Digital Telepathy


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

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

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

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

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

Betterment = Simple + Compelling – Friction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you measure the success of a website?

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

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

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