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News from Innovative Changes


This year we opened our doors to provide financial education, credit building, and small-dollar consumer loans as a responsible alternative to payday lenders, and to help low-income and underserved households avert financial crises and establish a stable foundation from which to sustainably improve their quality of life.

While our efforts to date have been recognized as meeting a real need in the community, we understand that the socioeconomic barriers our clients face are complex and multi-faceted. Our program can only be successful if it exists within what we refer to as a larger "Fair Finance Ecosystem." Other key nonprofit, private and public stakeholders also offer a range of general and financial support (from social services to asset building) within this Ecosystem - and all of our efforts combined are essential to providing a holistic pathway for people from poverty to prosperity.


When individuals and families have better options, they can make better choices.

As we come to the end of 2010, all of us at Innovative Changes want to thank our clients, donors, and partners for your hard work, enduring support, and dedication to ensuring that our program continues to serve those who need it into the new year. We will continue to leverage our partnerships and our mission-driven consumer finance expertise to advocate for sensible policies and programs that combine consumer protection with access to the resources that households need to alleviate money pressures and the resultant stress that can perpetuate unhealthy life choices across generations.

This month in our newsletter we bring you:
  • A story of two clients who, as empty-nesters, are working to repair their credit so that they can eventually buy a home;
  • A recap of the outcomes and impact we achieved this past year;
  • An invitation to help us continue to make a difference in the lives of fellow Oregonians (we're happy to announce that we can now accept donation on our website via PayPal);
  • A partner spotlight with Charles Funches of Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives (PCRI), an organization committed to providing services that help families achieve stability, self-sufficiency and wealth creation; and
  • An announcement of our upcoming Financial Household Stability workshops in January and February.

A special THANK YOU to the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund at Northwest Health Foundation for awarding us our biggest grant to date - $250,000 over the next two years!

Happy reading and best wishes for the New Year!


Sarah Chenven
Program Director

Miriam and Jose's Story

Miriam and Jose G.Miriam and Jose G. came to Innovative Changes from our partner organization Proud Ground where they had sought help achieving their dream: to own a home.

Because credit was one of their stumbling blocks, Proud Ground referred them to Innovative Changes. They are also working closely with one of our other partner organizations, the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA).

In the 6 months since enrolling in our programs, they have taken out a Credit Builder and an Opportunity Loan.

"We're glad we came here and got help," Jose said. "Our dream is now reachable."

The Year in Review

2010In 2009, Innovative Housing, Inc., Innovative Changes' founding agency, identified lack of access to mainstream affordable credit, along with low financial literacy and poor credit histories as major barriers to a stable and healthy life for people transitioning out of poverty.

For example, a $300 car repair may mean that a single mother cannot get her children to daycare or herself to work on time. This quickly results in lost wages and potentially unemployment. When she takes out a payday loan to fix the car or pay late bills, she is pushed into an unsustainable cycle of debt, dramatically decreasing future opportunities and creating overwhelming stress that often results in physical crisis.

In early 2010, Innovative Changes opened its doors to provide financial education, credit building, and small-dollar consumer loans as a responsible alternative to payday lenders and to help low-income and underserved households avert financial crises and establish a stable foundation from which to sustainably improve their quality of life. In just under one year Innovative Changes has:
  • Served 278 households through a combination of loans, credit building and financial education. Among our clients: 71% are women (56% of whom are single heads of households), and the 65% represent minority groups. Thirteen percent have a form of disability, 33% have experienced domestic violence in their lifetimes, 64% rely on public benefits, and 51% have turned to check cashers and payday lenders for financial services and credit in the past. The vast majority have either poor or no credit at all.
  • Made 123 loans, totaling $58,150, and revolved $15,942.19 into our loan fund at a 92% repayment rate, including 14 loans repaid in full. Among our borrowers, at least 50 have used their loans to catch up on back rent and utility bills, 10 have used them to pay off high cost debt such as payday loans, 3 have used them to make vehicle repairs in order to maintain job stability, 2 have used them to pay off back taxes in order to avoid garnishment, and 58 are using them to build credit. In addition, 70% of our clients report that they are taking steps to reduce stress about money in a way that positively impacts their lives, and 87% report that they are working towards achieving a long-term goal.
  • Connected a dozen previously un- and under-banked clients who have been locked out of the financial mainstream with a range of bank account and asset building opportunities.
  • Signed Memoranda of Understanding with 27 community based partner organizations and trained over 100 partner staff on our referral process.
  • Leveraged $446,991 in grant funding from private funders.
  • Presented on small-dollar consumer lending at 2 conferences and contributed to public policy discussions around state and federal consumer protection legislation.
Continue reading >

Image credit: doug88888

You Can Help!

Innovative Changes is able to keep its rates low because of the donations it receives from those who care about Oregonians. Please help us continue to meet our clients' needs by making a generous donation today.
  • $25 allows an individual to attend our 4-part Household Stability financial education class on cash flow planning, budgeting, saving, banking, and credit.
  • $100 keeps a family warm this winter by covering their heating bill.
  • $150 covers 6 months of intensive individual financial coaching for 1 family.
  • $500 helps a family make car repairs to commute to work.
  • $1,000 keeps a family facing eviction housed.
Your gift will make a difference. Thank you from all of us at Innovative Changes for your generosity this holiday season.

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Partner Highlight: PCRI

PCRI logo

Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives (PCRI) is a community development organization providing affordable rental housing to low-income families, primarily in North and Northeast Portland. In addition to housing, PCRI  provides associated services that help residents achieve family stability, self-sufficiency, and wealth creation.

Homeownership Program Manager, Charles Funches,works closely with first-time home buyers on the home buying process, both before and after their purchases. He also assists PCRI residents in accessing community services and support systems.

According to Charles, "We help our residents transition to whatever life they want for themselves."

Financial Household Stability Group Workshops

Money tree

Back by popular demand, in 2011 we will be hosting another exciting series of Financial Household Stability Workshops taught over the course of January and February.

The four part series, with classes on Making Ends Meets, Budgeting and Saving, Hands-On Banking and Building, Repairing and Protecting Credit, can be taken as individual classes, or as part of the full sequence and are meant to give individuals tools to organize their finances and plan for a successful financial future.

The classes will be held at the New Columbia Opportunity Center on Thursdays from 4-6pm starting January 20th to February 10th and on Saturdays from 11-1pm at the Broadway Vantage Apartments from January 22 to February 12. Visit our website for more details class topics, locations and registration.

In This Issue
Miriam and Jose's Story
The Year in Review
You Can Help!
Partner Highlight: PCRI
Financial Household Stability Group Workshops
Quick Stats
New Partners
Quick Stats
As of 12/9/2010



123, averaging $468.95 for a total of $58,150

Revolved amount

Repaid loans

Financial education clients

New Partners

Dress for Success Oregon

Read the full list of our partners >

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Our Mission
Innovative Changes exists to help low-income individuals and families, and those who otherwise lack adequate access to capital and/or financial services, manage short-term financial needs in order to achieve and maintain household stability.