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News from Innovative Changes



With mixed emotions I would like to share with you the news of my departure as Innovative Changes' Executive Director effective September 30, 2011.


Three years ago I began working with the amazing organization,  Innovative Housing, Inc., on what would become one of the most rewarding journeys I have had the privilege to lead, culminating in the creation and roll out of Innovative Changes, one of the most unique and dynamic CDFI nonprofit loan funds in the country. At Innovative Changes our approach has been collaboration and open communication -- with our funders, our partners, and most importantly, our clients. As a result, in just under two years, we have:

  • Developed and taught financial education to hundreds households - directly and indirectly impacting approximately over a thousand people;
  • Conducted close to 1,000 hours of in-touch education and individual coaching, including referrals to small business and homeownership programs;
  • Made hundreds of small dollar loans to help households catch up on back rent and utility bills, pay off high cost debt such as payday loans, make vehicle repairs in order to maintain job stability, pay off back taxes and collections accounts in order to avoid garnishment, and build credit, saving them tens of thousands of dollars in the process.
  • Signed partnership agreements with 31 community-based organizations and created a targeted programs with Bradley Angle for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, Hacienda CDC for Spanish-only speaking households, CASH Oregon for volunteer engagement, CASA of Oregon and Community Vision Inc. to help persons with disabilities acquire the adaptive technology they need to live independent lives, and the Housing Authority of Portland for households on the verge of falling back into homelessness;
  • Cultivated support in partnership with responsible traditional financial institutions  and referred over a dozen clients who could not previously access banking services for low-cost, low-risk bank accounts and revolving credit cards;
  • Received the "2010 Innovator of the Year" award from the Credit Builders Alliance. Some clients have increased credit scores by 48 points in less than a year; and
  • Leveraged over three quarters of a million dollars in support for our programs, operations, and loan funds (for a list of our generous donors click "here").

I have had the honor and privilege to work with phenomenal staff, a dedicated Board, and amazing partners and volunteers. My decision to leave was a difficult one, but is based in large part on my desire to spend more quality time with my young daughter and to explore starting my own law practice. I am also fortunate to have the opportunity to continue contributing to the national dialogue around responsible small-dollar consumer lending for the foreseeable future as Innovations Director for the Credit Builders Alliance, starting in October. In the meantime, our board has started the search for a new ED, check out the position description here.


As for Innovative Changes' ongoing progress? Please read about our latest initiatives and activities below. To all who have been a part of our success and our lessons learned to date - thank you!  


Sarah Chenven
Executive Director
Brenda's Story Bill


Brenda, a resident of New Columbia, was introduced to Innovative Changes through Nasir Idrees, Resident Program Coordinator at Home Forward (formerly the Housing Authority of Portland). Interested in learning how to manage her finances better, Brenda started taking all the classes and workshops that Innovative Changes offered in the winter of 2011. When Brenda discovered that she owed some money in fees to New Columbia's new management company, she didn't know what to do. Through her relationship with Home Forward and Innovative Changes, she was able to take out a small opportunity loan to cover that unexpected expense.


Aside from taking out a loan, Brenda started to do some credit building with Talia, Program Coordinator at Innovative Changes. Talia walked Brenda through the steps of pulling her free annual credit report and they sat down together to go over it. To Brenda's surprise, there was an item on her credit report that she was not familiar with! It was an overdue credit card from a bank she had never belonged to. "You don't always know what's on your credit until you look at it!" says Brenda. With a little help from IC$, Brenda disputed the item and had it removed from her credit report.  She has also been working to pay off past debt in order to boost her credit even more.


Volunteer Highlight: Kathleen Ward

Instead of a partner spotlight this month (not that our partners aren't great!) we're coming at you with a spotlight of our summer intern, Kathleen Ward.


Kathleen hails from Portland but has been living in Los Angeles for the past four years studying at University of Southern California. She graduated in May and returned to Portland eager to re-connected with the community here and make use of her hard earned bachelors in economics.


"I wanted to do something productive with my summer and was scrolling through volunteer opportunities on the web." Kathleen reflects. She came across the CASH Oregon website, and via CASH found Innovative Changes.


"I felt like the mission of Innovative Changes was very important. Through studying economics, I have seen just how complicated financial systems can be, so I completely understood the need for these services and wanted to get involved."


New Offerings: IDAs and Women's Groups

Back to School IDAs!


Innovative Changes is excited to announce that we will be offering Education Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) starting this fall! IDAs are special matched savings accounts that allow low- and moderate-income people to save for specific goals (e.g. buying a home, post-secondary education, or starting a business). For more information about IDAs in Oregon, visit the Neighborhood Partnership's website.


IC$'s IDAs will be administered through Community and Shelter Assistance Corps of Oregon (CASA of Oregon), and we will provide the classesand individual follow-up. Participants enrolling in our IDAs are required to complete our Financial Household Resiliency series and will be able to save up to $3,000 with 3 to 1 matched savings totaling up to $12,000 after 3 years. Although we have worked with our clients in the past to set up savings plans, this new initiative will be the next push to inspire better money management leading to tangible quality of life improvements.  

Innovative Changes Executive Director, Sarah Chenven says, "
We are thrilled to offer Education IDAs as the next phase in our programming. This initiative allows us to offer our clients more opportunities along the continuum from financial stability to financial security."


Women Ready!


The applications are in, dates set and facilitators on board! In September we are rolling out another new initiative: Women Borrower's Support Groups. In partnership with Metropolitan Family ServicesWays to Work Program we have recruited a group of six women for ongoing financial education, peer learning and leadership building. These women will meet for six weeks to share experiences around challenging and often taboo personal financial issues that they face in their lives. They will set and work towards their goals and learn how to be a mentor for other people. After these six weeks and a culminating training day, participants will then have the option to mentor other clients and get paid a small stipend for doing so.


"These groups will allow us to explore new ways of delivering financial education," says program coordinator Talia Kahn-Kravis. "With the more community-based, informal setting of the group, we will be able to gain a deeper perspective on what barriers our women clients face and, in turn, work to develop our tools and education more closely towards assisting clients to overcome those barriers."


This will be the first of two groups funded by the Portland Women's 

Foundation and the Women's Care Foundation. We look forward to the start of this pilot project which could be a great model for future culturally specific financial education. 

New Funding and Support


You may have seen the Press Release: Local Nonprofit CDFI Loan Fund Receives Federal Funding to Help Oregonians Gain Household Stability and Avoid Predatory Lending Options. Innovative Changes was one of three Oregon-based CDFIs to receive funds from the U.S. Department of Treasury's CDFI Fund last month. This grant will allow us to increase our capacity and deepen our programming. Click "here" to read the full press release.  


IC$ is also honored to receive up to $1,000 in funding towards building our capacity through the Women's Technical Assistance Fund administered by the Nonprofit Association of Oregon, formerly known as TACS. These funds will be used to bolster our strategic planning process as we enter our third year of operations - a critical milestone in the viability of any small business or nonprofit!

Financial Education Galore!  SLs

See below for our packed schedule of financial education, including Financial Household Resiliency workshops in Spanish!


Collections Seminar

Tuesday, September 13th, 5:30-6:30pm

Baffled by the world of collections? Do you get frequent calls from collectors and not know how to deal with them? Interested in finding out what your rights are as a debtor? Come to our seminar that will break down the often haunting world of collections. Learn what collectors are allowed and not allowed to do, how to work with collections strategically and more about the system of collections in general.

*These seminars are part of our ongoing monthly seminar series covering special topics of interest to our clients. For more information about our seminar visit our website here.


The seminar will be held at our Lloyd Center Office:  

3rd Floor of the Lloyd Center Mall (near Nordstroms), 2201 Lloyd Center, Portland


To Register: call or email Talia at (503)-249-5205 or [email protected].



Seemingly distant, but fast approaching, we will be hosting our Fall Financial Household Resiliency series in English and Spanish, open to everyone. Here is the schedule:


Financial Household Resiliency Workshops: 


Day 1: Saturday, October 8th   

Part 1: Making Ends Meet, 10am-12pm

Part 2: Budgeting and Saving, 12:30pm-2:30pm                  Day 2: Saturday, October 15th 

Part 3: Hands-On Banking, 10am-12pm   

Part 4: Building, Repairing and Protecting Credit, 12:30pm-2:30pm 


Our classes and seminars will be held at our new location:  

3rd Floor of the Lloyd Center Mall (near Nordstroms), 2201 Lloyd Center, Portland


To Register: call or email Talia at (503)-943-5620/[email protected].


The classes and seminars are $5 each or $15 for all four classes. Fee waivers are available for those who qualify.


 Financial Household Resiliency Workshops in Spanish!


*Every Thursday from October 6th to October 27th from 4pm-6pm


These classes will be held at Hacienda's Community Center Salon Comunal 6856 NE Killingsworth, Portland, OR 97218.


Please contact Norma to register or for more information:

(503) 737-7672 or [email protected]

Volunteer Opportunitiesspecial


Training of the Trainers for Volunteers:


If you are interested in becoming a Financial Household Resiliency Workshop facilitator (this is our 4-part series on Making Ends Meet, Budgeting and Saving, Hands-On Banking and Building, Repairing and Protecting Credit), you must attend a Training of the Trainers session. They will be held quarterly, and our first will be August 19th from 9am-1pm at our office in the Lloyd Center.


If you are interested in becoming a One-on-One Financial Coach, the Training of the Trainers session will be on September 16th from 9am-12pm at our office in the Lloyd Center. These trainings will be held quarterly as well.


 To sign up for either of these trainings please email Talia at [email protected] by August 15th.


*For more information about our volunteer opportunities please visit our website.

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 Resiliency 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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In This Issue
Don's Story
Partner Highlight: Home Forward
Article Headline
Article Headline
Financial Education Galore!
Partnership and Volunteer Opportunities
You Can Help!
Quick Stats
New Partners
Quick Stats
As of 8/11/2011

Partnerships  31


262, averaging $461.08 for a total of $119,880

Revolved amount  

Repaid loans: 66

Financial education clients

New Partners  




 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.