April 2015 

      From the desk of AFN Director, Joe Antolín


     Asset Building: An Optimistic Strategy        

     that Can Move the Needle



     I continue to be excited by the possibilities and research presented and discussed at the AFN Conference, Integrating Across Sectors, in Dallas earlier this month.  Our Conference was energized by national, regional and local community funders from across the country, reflecting their growing commitments to an array of asset building strategies.    


     It was refreshing to hear the varied perspectives from Ray Suarez (a journalist), Alan Jenkins (Executive Director, The Opportunity Agenda), and Alfreda Norman (Senior VP, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas providing her own views), pointing to how the economic well-being of each generation is dependent on the other generations and their contributions to the economy, the tax base, Social Security and community stability. Increasing stability will involve increased long term opportunity building and collaborative efforts.   

     Bob Friedman (Friedman Family Foundation) succinctly made the case that tax policy reform can address the current upside-down tax expenditure incentives and support asset building; if so tax policy will be a powerful vehicle to helping individuals and families help themselves.  


     John Bouman (CEO, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law) reinforced the point recently made by the IASP at Brandeis University, that to reduce the wealth gap, workers need to rely on government enforcement of the laws that ensure fairness, reduce conflicts of interest, and affirm non-discrimination coupled with more asset building opportunities.


     Our closing panel of North Texas funders reminded us about the power and impact of collaboration, shared communication, and local funding.   


     Many of the key strategies discussed among the funders and the invited experts affirmed that when asset building investments are joined with efforts to reduce social determinants, to increase post-secondary education opportunities, to sustain efforts developing the workforce, or to build wealth through homeownership, microbusiness or employee owned cooperatives, these philanthropic investments will be the catalyst for increased security.  Overwhelmingly positive feedback reinforced that the topics proposed by funders allowed us to explore the ideas and the nuances for investment and replication.


Overall, the Conference reaffirmed that Philanthropy can effectively use asset building strategies to:

  • Foster Alignment and Cross Sector Integration,
  • Spur Innovation locally through replication, testing new ideas, and documenting what works,  
  • Promote Opportunity Building Inclusion through stakeholders, community based providers, millennials, immigrants, health workers, social workers, educators and local media,
  • Ensure Impact using common metrics, long term funding, research while embedding asset building across service sectors
  • Frame the Communication to share positive messages  

I was again reminded of the honor it is to work for AFN.  Asset building is in many ways unique -- a fundamentally optimistic strategy that can move the needle to reverse the toxic economic insecurity affecting too many of our neighbors and to reinforce economic mobility.  With philanthropy's leadership we can decrease the wealth gaps and increase opportunity.  




Integrating Investments in Asset Building:

A Framework for Impact


Philanthropic investments can have a tremendous impact on advancing and sustaining greater economic security.  Funders are uniquely positioned to serve as catalysts for asset building, connecting and leveraging the resources of stakeholders who strive to increase family health, well-being, and advancement.


AFN demonstrates how in its newly released, updated paper,  Strategic Philanthropy: Integrating Investments in Asset Building - A Framework for Impact. 


Strategic Philanthropy outlines how asset building integration shifts investment goals from remedying deficiencies to building on strengths by increasing capability, access, and opportunity. It shows funders how to integrate and expand the scope, scale, and long-term impact of their work, shifting the focus from families' vulnerabilities to their opportunities for success.


In addition, funders are also invited to hear directly from the author, Janet Boguslaw, Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University, and funder Daria Sheehan, Citi Foundation, and Rafael O. Morales, Silicon Valley Community Foundation on Wednesday, May 6, 12pm CST/1pm EST as they discuss the strategic framework of asset development, how it can impact sector-based strategies, and examples of how funders are applying this strategic approach to effect greater social and economic impact.







Retirement Savings Strategies


Hear how funders can support retirement options and opportunities for workers who do not havesuch benefits through their employment.  This webinar, recorded on April 29, reviews:

  • recent federal and state policy changes (myRA, Illinois Secure Savings);
  • how philanthropy can support and create a climate for worker retirement (research, coalition building, education);
  • and current initiatives taking place across the nation.

Speakers included:

  • Courtney Eccles, Woodstock Institute
  • Naomi Stanhaus, The Retirement Research Foundation
  • Elaine Ryan, Vice President, State Advocacy & Strategy Integration, Government Affairs, AARP
  • Andrea Ambriz, Office of Legislative Affairs at the U.S Department of the Treasury
Click here to view the recording of this webinar, as well as other AFN peer-learning webinars.




June 29, 2015

Women and Assets


Join AFN and Dr. Mariko Chang for the latest in gender wealth gap research and effective strategies, also highlighting the latest Asset Funders Network funder brief, Women and Assets.





Engaging funders in asset building is an on-going slog of education and coordination - it's not the kind of work that people intuitively "get" or can really do on their own.  In that vein, the regular drumbeat from AFN, including symposiums and conferences, webinars and written briefs, is critical. 


  Amy Brown   

  Program Officer   


Tax Policy Project 

is Getting Attention; 

People are Listening


The Tax Policy Project, originally convened by AFN back in 2012, is starting to see the fruits of its efforts.  Recently renamed the Tax Alliance for Economic Mobility after transitioning the leadership of the project to PolicyLink and CFED last fall, this initiative is making significant headway in garnering the interest of policymakers and the media in its tax reform analysis and proposals.


Tax Alliance for Economic Mobility was recently invited to submit recommendations to two Senate Finance Committee subcommittees on tax reform.  A letter reflecting the collaborative work of the 35 member organizations of the Tax Alliance, was submitted to the subcommittees and shared with the media earlier this month.  Several media outlets followed up including Forbes


Read more news articles by Tax Alliance members:


The New York Times, The Worst Tax Breaks


Huffington Post, Why We Should Care About Tax Policy 


The Tax Alliance for Economic Mobility is gaining traction as a respected voice (and alliance of voices) in equitable tax reform.  This is an important milestone in the work that AFN launched two years ago -- when it created the neutral space for the many diverse voices to come together -- to achieve tangible, large scale savings opportunities that provide security and power upward mobility for low-income individuals and families.   




A 'Promising' Way to Help 

Low-Income Students 

To and Through College


Would a federal program that promised Pell Grants to low-income eighth-graders increase college attendance and degree completion rates?


Stephen Burd, a senior policy analyst with New America's Education Policy Program, takes a close look.  Click here to read Stephen's viewpoint




Why Student Loans 

Are Different


To better understand student loan struggles, New America's Education Policy Program commissioned a series of focus groups in six American cities. 


The report finds that:

¨  The way that borrowers take out student loans leads to surprising loan balances and monthly payments.


¨  Borrowers expressed alarm that qualifying for a loan was so easy but were conflicted about whether it should be more difficult to obtain them.


¨  The federal loan system allows students to easily postpone, delay, or procrastinate on their payments, which often merely compounds loan balances and monthly payments.


The report suggests that the solution is not to admonish borrowers for laziness or irresponsibility, but to reexamine what makes federal student loans different, and what processes and incentives can be put in place to correct for those differences.  Click here to read the report.




Unanswered Questions:

Student Debt and 

Emotional Well-Being


New research on the relationship between student loan debt and psychological well-being suggests an alternative way to examine this issue. 


Click here to read Brookings Institution's latest from it's Brown Center on Education Policy.      




Building Financial Capabilities 

of College Students


The Financial Capabilities Group of the Federal Reserve of Boston's Regional & Community Outreach department recently introduced a resource handbook designed for community college personnel, potential partners and supporters with an interest in empowering students to better manage their financial lives.


The handbook, Promoting Pathways to Financial Security, describes financial capabilities and ways to build them among students, and it makes the case for why this work is important and valuable to both students and the institutions that serve them.


Click here to view or download Promoting Pathways. 


The Racial Wealth Gap 

We Hardly Talk About:

What Happens in Retirement?


Much has been said about the racial wealth gap and how the financial crisis widened that disparity, especially as minorities have had a harder time keeping their homes and rebuilding their portfolios.  But there's another side to those challenges that doesn't get as much attention - the retirement savings gap.


If minorities are less likely to get an inheritance from a family member than a white person is, or to have wealth to fall back on when they want to buy a house or start a business, they are likely to have less money to save for retirement, too. And if they are saving, the weaker safety net makes it more likely that they'll have to raid that reserve or take on debt when things go wrong.


Click here to




White Money v. White Privilege:

Philanthropy and Civil Rights 

From Selma to Ferguson


Philanthropists have played a key role in backing civil rights groups over the past sixty years, and this history shows how the upper class has long been more ideologically diverse than most people realize.


To read David Callahan's article in Inside Philanthropy, click here.






New Research:
Integrating Services Spurs 
Financial Mobility for 
Low-Income Americans

A study just released offers a rare, hopeful view of the economic outlook for some of the country's poorest residents. LISC researchers looked at data from 62 of its Financial Opportunity Centers across the country and found that low-income people who accessed a range of services focused on employment, income supports and financial management made significant progress. 


With the help of a financial coach, they were more likely to find and retain their jobs, increase their incomes and improve their credit scores than people who didn't participate in the bundled services. 


Click here to read or download the report.  


Are Governments Efforts 

to Help Poor People 

Manage Money Working?


Cities have offered financial counseling to low-income people for years, but only recently have some tracked the impact of these services on clients' debt, credit and savings.  Nonprofits that serve the poor have tried to impart lessons about managing money, but until recently it's been hard to know whether the services work. Now a multi-city initiative is tracking and sharing results, addressing the effectiveness of financial counseling for the poor.


Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund) awarded $16.2 million in grants to five cities that would offer financial counseling to low-income households. The premise behind the centers was that low-income people would benefit from meeting one-on-one with professionals who could offer advice about budgeting, improving credit scores and making better use of public assistance. The general concept of financial counseling for the poor wasn't new, but CFE Fund added its own twist by putting mayors in charge of financial counseling centers.


Click here to learn more.





Earned Income Tax Credit 

Helps Low Income Families


Since it was enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support in 1975, and expanded three times during the 1990s, the earned income tax credit has become one of the largest anti-poverty tools in the United States.


Despite the fact that the earned income tax credit has been around for almost 40 years, many eligible taxpayers still do not claim it. There are a wide variety of reasons for this. Often workers do not file taxes because they work seasonally or their annual income is below the income threshold requiring them to file. What some people do not realize is even if you're not required to file taxes by the IRS, you might still be eligible to receive the earned income tax credit , but you must file in order to get this tax credit. This could result in extra money to help pay bills, build assets, open a savings account, or make needed purchases like a reliable car, books for school, or security deposit on an apartment.


Read how one local community action agency in Whatcom County in Washington State are assisting residents.  Click here to read more.  





Consumer Voices On 

Credit Reports and Scores


To better understand consumers' perspectives on their credit reports and scores, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) conducted focus groups with consumers from diverse backgrounds across the country. Through this research, CFPB examined issues such as whether consumers were checking their credit scores and reports, how they were doing it, and what motivated them to check it.


Key takeaways from the research include: 

  • Consumers who had seen their reports or scores accessed them from a variety of channels
  • Some consumers reported being confused and frustrated about how to check credit reports and scores, what information these include, and how to improve them.
  • Consumers may lack information to take action to improve their credit histories
  • Consumers who are more engaged in the financial system check their credit reports regularly

 Click here to view or download the report.




Native Americans in Philanthropy 

25th Anniversary Conference


Prior Lake, MN

May 4-6, 2015


NAP's 25th Anniversary Celebration and Gathering is a convening of over 200 tribal and community leaders, practitioners, Native and non-Native philanthropic and nonprofit professionals to engage in reciprocity, learning and sharing, collaboration and networking around shared interests and best practices in supporting healthy Native communities (urban, rural and tribal) through philanthropy.  This year's Native Philanthropy Institute (NPI) theme is The Next 25 Years of Giving.


Click here to learn more.




Assessing Nonprofit Financial Health: 

What Grantmakers Need to Know


Center for Healthy Communities

Los Angeles, CA 90012

May 19, 2015 


Grantmakers continually seek to leverage our resources and increase the impact of our grants.  By aligning grant dollars to the financial and business needs of nonprofit organizations, grantmakers can not only better support nonprofit financial sustainability but also achieve better outcomes.


Featuring real world case studies and interactive group work, Social Sector Partners' David Greco will lead a workshop to provide grantmakers with the tools to better understand nonprofit financial health and sustainability: 

  • The challenges of nonprofit finance and barriers to scale and impact;
  • How to engage grantees in discussions about financial management challenges; and
  • Ways to structure their support to improve long-term sustainability and impact.

Click here to learn more and register.






Chandler, AZ

October 5-7, 2015


Whether you're looking to challenge your assumptions or hungry for practical knowledge, CONNECT offers something meaningful for everyone. Find inspiration in sessions that explore innovative strategies for advancing philanthropic impact or immerse yourself in sessions on philanthropy's fundamentals.  CONNECT offers a safe, empowering space to build critical skills and knowledge while forming real, lasting relationships with peers and other experts. We bring together our welcoming staff, field thought leaders and expert partners to facilitate connections and weave networks through a variety of casual conversations and structured experiences.


Click here to learn more - Register before June 1 and save. 




Philanthropy Southwest's 

67th Annual Conference


Santa Fe, NM

October 22-24, 2015

Philanthropy Southwest's Annual Conference consistently draws several hundred trustees and staff attendees from grantmaking organizations of all types and sizes. Registration is open to trustees and staff of grantmaking organizations and provides the opportunity to connect with fellow philanthropists located or making investments in the Southwestern United States.


Click here for Registration Tips.


Engage Now - Join AFN

The Asset Funders Network (AFN) is a membership organization of national, regional and community-based foundations and grantmakers strategic about using philanthropy to promote economic opportunity and financial security for low- and moderate-income Americans.  AFN works to increase the capacity of its members to effectively promote economic opportunity and financial security by supporting efforts that help low and moderate income individuals build and protect assets. 


AFN is a must for funders wanting to see families and communities move from surviving to thriving, from vulnerability to opportunity, and from insecurity to long-term well-being.  Through membership, innovative and promising approaches are shared, promoting both scale and effectiveness while also increasing financial security for individuals and working families.  


Connect, educate and empower.  Join the conversation. 


To join or find out more about AFN, contact Kristen, AFN Membership Coordinator.

Contact Us                 AFN Steering Committee             Membership