May 2012 Newsletter
AFN New Logo

In This Issue
AFN Spotlight
Asset Building News and Information
Events - Funders Only
Events - Open to All
Quick Links

AFN Steering Committee


Merle Lawrence 
Levi Strauss Foundation   
Steering Committee

   Amanda Feinstein

Kilolo Kijakazi

Laura Sparks 

Citi Foundation 

K. Sujata

  Chicago Foundation for Women

Beadsie Woo

 The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Sponsoring Members

Champion Sponsors 
Sustaining Sponsors

Supporting Sponsors

AFN Membership 

Are you a grantmaker and want to get more involved with AFN and asset-building grantmaking? 


AFN is a community of foundations and grantmakers advancing programs, policies, and strategies that help low-wealth individuals accumulate financial assets, build their net worth, and become owners and stakeholders in their communities. 



Stay Connected to AFN!

  Have asset-building news or event information to share in the next
AFN newsletter?

Please send to 
All info undergoes a review process. 

AFN Welcomes Newest Members


Thank you and welcome to the following institutions and individuals for joining AFN as members!

Institutional Members

Chicago Foundation for Women

Friedman Family Foundation

Wells Fargo  


Individual Members

Wende Burton, Communities Foundation of Texas


Asset Funders Network Welcomes New 
Co-Chairs in 2012

Merle Lawrence and Benita Melton have been active members of the AFN steering committee, and we are excited to have them lead AFN as co-chairs this year. Thank you, Merle and Benita!

Merle Lawrence

Merle Lawrence is a Senior Manager with the Levi Strauss Foundation, an independent private foundation that conveys the pioneering spirit and enduring values of Levi Strauss & Co.: originality, empathy, integrity and courage.  She leads the Foundation's U.S. grant making in two areMerle Lawrenceas: helping low-income people save and invest in their futures and advancing social justice.   She joined Levi Strauss & Co. in 1991 as Manager, Child Care Fund, a new initiative to help the company's manufacturing employees access quality child care options in their local communities.  During her 20-year tenure with Levi Strauss & Co., she has managed various programs including Community Affairs and Employee Volunteerism, as well as cause branding projects and corporate social responsibility initiatives. 

Merle served as Program Manager at the Children's Council of San Francisco and the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network, where she led the California Child Care Initiative public/private partnership, and on the founding board of the Mission Asset Fund.


Benita Melton


Benita Melton is a Program Officer with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Headquartered in Flint, Michigan, the Mott Foundation is a private philanthropy supporting nonprofit programs throughout the United States, and on a limited Benita Picgeographic basis, internationally.  Its major grantmaking programs are Civil Society, Environment, Flint (its home community) and Pathways out of Poverty.  Benita joined the Pathways Out of Poverty Program in 1995 and currently manages the Foundation's work on budget and tax policy and asset development issues.  Within the broader philanthropic community, Benita serves on the steering committee of the Grantmakers Income Security Taskforce and now as co-chair of the Asset Funders Network.   


Prior to joining the Mott Foundation, Benita worked for The Pistons-Palace Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Detroit Pistons basketball franchise.  A native of Detroit, Michigan, Benita graduated from Michigan State University and is pursuing a Ph.D. in public policy from Wayne State University.


Learn more about Levis Strauss Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. 

AFN 2012 Grantmakers Meeting Recap 


Paving the Road to Financial Security

March 20th-21st

Houston, TX


This year's AFN Grantmakers Meeting was our largest to-date and reflects the increased focus on promoting financial opportunity and stability for working Americans.  


During the two-day event, the fields' founders, leading thinkers, and new voices laid out an ambitious agenda for rebuilding working families and communities. Alan Jenkins AFN looks forward to supporting your grantmaking in pursuit of these goals. Please do not hesitate to let us know how we can support you and your organization.


 Find meeting agenda and materials on the AFN website.

Asset Building News and Information
Request for Proposals: Phase One for Financial Empowerment Centers

Phase One Proposal Submission Date:
June 1, 2012 by 6pm EST

The Mayors Project at Bloomberg Philanthropies aims to spread proven or promising ideas between cities, replicating innovative programs, policies, and leadership strategies that solve pressing challenges and position municipal government to create greater impact. Bloomberg Philanthropies has partnered with Living Cities, and its newly established Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund, to support five cities to implement the Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) model, an evidence-based intervention developed by New York City to provide free high-quality one-on-one financial counseling to residents in need, with an emphasis on strengthening the delivery of other core City services.

Download full RFP.

Cities for Financial Empowerment.
Policy Brief: Access to Employment-Based Retirement Savings in Illinois

Illinois Asset-Building Group and Woodstock Institute 

April 2012 

As millions of older Americans near retirement age, retirement income has become a major concern for households and policymakers. Many people nearing retirement face income insecurity and fear that they will outlive their money. It is clear that other asset-building strategies, such as employment-based retirement plans and tax-deferred savings, will play an increasingly important role in retirement planning.

Using employment data by industry and estimated retirement plan sponsorship rates, this report identifies the number of Illinois employees who likely do not have access to employment-based retirement savings plans and describes the basic principles that are essential to expanding access to employment-based retirement savings plans.

Download entire policy brief.

Learn more about Illinois Asset Building Group and Woodstock Institute. 
Redesigning Matched Savings to Scale: EARN's Efforts to Improve Efficiency and Increase Autonomy 

EARN Research Institute 
Case Study
April 25th, 2012


The EARN Research Institute published a new case study: "Redesigning Matched Savings to Scale: EARN's Efforts to Improve Efficiency and Increase Autonomy." It's an incisive and timely exploration of how EARN redesigned its matched savings accounts to serve more low-income families, more effectively, and at a lower cost.  

The current model of matched savings accounts is only serving .2% of the over 57 million Americans who need it. EARN's case study explores redesigning matched savings accounts with the aim of serving exponentially more low-wage working Americans at a fraction of the cost. With the recession driving a renewed interest in savings and an increased savings rate, we see a key opportunity to harness this momentum for the nation's future. 

Read entire case study.

Learn more about EARN.

The Assets Report 2012

New America Foundation
April 2012 

While the recovery from the Great Recession appears be taking hold, economic hardship remains pervasive. Poverty is still The Assets Report 2012 Picon the rise and many families feel that the forces of recession have displaced them from the middle class. As the Presidential election year unfolds, these cyclical and entrenched threats to financial security provide a backdrop to public debates. Expanding opportunities for upward mobility has become a common call. While there is a marked divergence in policy prescriptions, the spotlight remains focused on the American Dream, what it takes to achieve it, and the role of government in that process.

Typically, we think of "success" as being able to raise a family, educate our children, buy a home, start a business, and live securely in our retirement years. While these objectives may change over time and vary by individual, being able to save and accumulate assets is an essential foundation for success. In the near term, even modest amounts of savings can help families remain financially stable when the unexpected occurs. Over time, these resources can be invested productively in ways that promote economic mobility and well-being. It is the mobility and resiliency features of savings and assets that justify the wide range of federal policies and programs intended to promote their accumulation. In our calculations, direct spending programs and policies that are embedded in the tax code together account for $548 billion in pro-savings and asset building resources for fiscal year 2013.

Read full report

Find out more about New America Foundation.


Aspen Asks: Can America's Small Businesses Deliver Growth and Financial Security? A Conversation with Karen Mills  


Aspen Institute

Interview Video Recording 

April 12, 2012    


As part of the Aspen Institute event series "Building the Economy We Want: Aspen Asks What Will it Take?" Karen Mills, Administrator of the Small Business Administration, considers what is needed to make small businesses a robust engine of development for jobs that offer financial security for workers.


The roundtable series is the collaborative work of eight of Aspen's top policy experts whose work at Aspen over the last 20 years has involved promoting a variety of solutions to ending poverty and creating security and opportunity.

Learn more about the Aspen Institute.


Building Financial Security in America: A 2020-2030 Vision


AFN Brief 

Lisa Mensah, Aspen Institute

March 2012


The vision for the next two decades - America by the year 2030 - is one where low- and moderate-income Americans enjoy a transformed relationship with their money. It is a vision where money becomes easier to manage, grow and to protect. It begins with an easier way to save for emergencies and the needs of daily life. This kind of new account would be protected by traditional banking regulations and by the new consumer protections around financial products in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The 2030 vision is also a boldly reformed system of new accounts and a system of matching money that accelerates the growth of funds in these accounts.  


Read full report.

Find out more about the Aspen Institute and the CFPB. 


More than 1.4 million families live on $2 a day per person 


USA Today

March 2012 


That's up from 636,000 households in 1996, says a new study released by researchers at the University of Michigan and Harvard University.


Government benefits blunt the impact of such extreme poverty, but not completely, says one of the researchers, Luke Shaefer, a professor of social work at Michigan.  
When food stamps are included as income, the number of households in extreme poverty, defined as living on $2 a day, drops to 800,000, Shaefer says. That's up from 475,000 in 1996.    
"This seems to be a group that has fallen through the cracks," says Kathryn Edin, a Harvard researcher and professor of public policy.  
Living on $2 a day  

The number of American households with cash income of no more than $2 a day per person doubled in 15 years:  

Read full USA Today article

Read full policy brief Extreme Poverty in the United States, 1996 to 2011  by the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan
Economic Security Database Launch 
Wider Opportunities for Women
March 2012

Wider Opportunities for Women announces the launch of its new Economic Security Database, which provides local information on how much families and elders need to make ends meet in one easy-to-use online tool. With potential benefits for a wide range of audiences (including policy makers, direct service providers, advocates, rese
archers, families and elders) the database offers a realistic framework of building economic security across the lifespan.

Potential applications of the database include: case management, career planning, financial literacy training, advocacy efforts and more.

Visit the Economic Security Database at to find your local information now!

Linking EITC to Other Supports for Low-Income Familes

EITC Funders Network

Connecting low-wage workers who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to public benefits like health insurance or food stamps and financial services like credit scores and savings accounts is challenging and complex. However, if EITC
recipients access and keep the benefits they are eligible for and utilize basic financial services, they are more likely to achieve financial stability, accumulate assets and build long-term economic

Read full report here.
Find out more about EITC Funders Network.
Economic Mobility: What's the Problem and What to Do About It? 

New America Foundation's Asset Building Program
Meeting Video Recording
Feb 2012

Economic mobility and inequality are increasingly framing political debates. In a recent speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, President Obama described how the prospects of upward mobility for a child born into poverty have dimmed substantially, and he identified the path to inclusive prosperity as "the defining issue of our time."
But has the climb up the economic ladder really become more arduous? Have more families in the middle class fallen downward? What can and should be done to increase economic security and create opportunities for upward mobility?

Scott Winship, fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution and former research manager with the Economic Mobility Project, argues the answers to these questions are more complicated than they often appear. Winship suggests taking a closer look at data from a range of areas, such as employment, debt, and mobility, to tell a more realistic story of changing economic wellbeing, opportunity, and risk.
Watch full video recording.
Find out more about the New America Foundation

Upcoming Events - Funders Only  


GIST, GCYF and GIH Co-Sponsored Briefing 

Post-Election Philanthropy: Votes, Values and Vision

December 17-18th, 2012

Washington, DC

Assessing the new policy and funding environment that will be created after the 2012 elections will be critical as we build compelling and successful agendas for advancing our work. The Grantmakers Income Security Taskforce (GIST), Grantmakers for Children, Youth & Families (GCYF), and Grantmakers In Health(GIH), invite you to attend Post-Election Philanthropy: Votes, Values, and Vision on December 17-18, 2012 in Washington, DC.

This timely briefing will help inform grantmakers
about the outcomes of the national, state and local elections and what it suggests in terms of opportunities and challenges for the short-and medium-term, and provide a forum for funders to identify strategies for individual and collective action.    
A detailed agenda will be available shortly.

This meeting is free of charge and open to foundation
representatives and philanthropic advisors only.

Download full save the date.

For more information, contact Cema Siegel at

Upcoming Events - Open to All   


Center for Financial Services Innovation Webinar 


Compass Principles - Enabling Financial Services to be a Force for Change   


Tuesday, May 8th

1:00pm-2:15pm CDT 


CFSI, in partnership with a cross-section of industry participants, created the Compass Principles.  These aspirational guidelines set forth a proactive role for the industry, defining how the industry can work towards a vision for the future in which financial services are safe and actively contribute to improving people's lives.   


During this webinar, Romy Parzick, Manager, Innovation and Research, will discuss the Compass Principles in greater details.


Register for CFSI webinar.


Learn more about CFSI and Compass Principles. 


Center for Financial Services Innovation Presents 


7th Annual Underbanked Financial Services Forum


June 13th-15th

Westin St. Francis Hotel

San Francisco, CA 


Find out more and register. 


CFED 2012 Assets Learning Conference 


Ideas into Action  


September 19th-21st  

Washington, DC


As this year's premier gathering of asset-building practitioners, funders and advocates, the 2012 Assets Learning Conference will feature four conference institutes, four plenary sessions and over 40 concurrent sessions covering the most pertinent and cutting-edge topics for the asset-building field. The conference will begin on Wednesday, September 19 with four half-day and full-day conference institutes covering a range of topics including ChAssets Learning Conferenceildren's Savings, Entrepreneurship and Policy Advocacy Strategies. Day two of the conference will feature two plenaries and four sets of concurrent sessions followed by an evening reception. The final day of the conference will include two plenaries and two sets of concurrent sessions and conclude with visits to Capitol Hill to meet with legislative staff.


Register Today!
Learn more about the 2012 Assets Learning Conference and CFED.

2012 Statewide Illinois Asset Building Conference
Save the Date!

Assets Matter: A Bridge to Economic Security

November 15th -16th, 2012
Champaign, IL

Registration details to follow.

Find out more about IABC and the conference.
Rick Williams