Funding Strategies, News, and Events in Philanthropy


   July 2015
   From the desk of AFN Director, Joe Antolín


Across the country, events of unjustified violence -- that have heightened awareness of the legacy of hatred, racism, and racial inequity -- are also spurring debate, hope, expressions of grace, cross-community conversation, policy change, and hopefully lasting reform.  Whether it is to reinvest the country in the principle that Black lives matter or to understand and address the gulf that actually exists between the races and ethnicities in our country, essential to the solution is expanding opportunity and increased economic security that closes racial and gender gaps.  


With constrained public resources and policy gridlock at the Federal and state level, Philanthropy has the opportunity, if not responsibility, to change the playing field through an array of promising asset building strategies.    


If you focus on the children, the first reality to acknowledge is that according to the U.S. Census, in the next 3-5 years the majority of our nation's children (ages 0-17) will be children of color. The demographics mean that increased opportunity requires a focus to employ the best asset building strategies to effectively reduce the gap between White households and Black, Latino, Asian and mixed-race households.


As the researchers at the Institute for Assets & Social Policy at Brandeis University and Demos recently documented, the key asset building strategies to close the racial and ethnic wealth gaps are home ownership, small business ownership, and higher education.   


There are at least four intervention points that are of interest to funders: 

  • preparation of the children, beginning as early as birth or preschool 
  • entry into college
  • college (post secondary) completion
  • post-secondary-related debt. 

These intervention points increasingly require funders to develop their role with intermediate and long-term investment and advocacy strategies around Children's Savings Accounts (CSA), financial coaching and family savings, employer roles with payroll deductions to CSAs, youth savings for college, and debt management. These approaches, when well designed, represent a long-term investment in closing the wealth gap and fostering an economy that will provide equitable opportunity for future generations.


Over the next two months, AFN will be convening a funder Advisory Council on Children Savings Accounts to help identify and elevate the investment and leadership roles for philanthropy. This will help our sector contribute meaningfully to the continuing expansion of available accounts and the research to document the return on investment where needed.  If you are interested in participating in this AFN's funder convening, please contact René Bryce-Laporte our Children's Savings Account Project Manager at  


We look forward to partnering with you as we work to bridge the racial and gender gaps that face us.  Check out AFN's events page and join us




Members Making Impact

One Crisis Away, Communities Foundation of Texas' Collaboration with KERA TV, Wins National Award


North Texas public television, KERA TV, received the first-ever national consumer finance award from PRNDI (Public Radio News Directors Inc.) and the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) for its series, One Crisis Away, which followed four Dallas area families on the financial edge.  This series and public forum addressed the issue of asset poverty, which is a household's inability to access wealth resources that are sufficient enough to provide for basic needs for a period of three months.


This series was sparked by Communities Foundation of Texas' collaboration with KERA to raise significantly more public awareness about the issues faced locally by low-income working families.  Click for the award announcement and a link to the KERA website.



Melton: Mott Foundation's Driver for Children's Savings Accounts


Industry publication, Inside Philanthropy, sits down with AFN Steering Committee Co-Chair Benita Melton, Program Officer in the Pathways to Opportunity program at the Mott Foundation, to hear about the promise of Children Savings Accounts and her efforts and drive over the last twenty years to promote these accounts as an essential tool in the effort to reduce poverty and bring more marginalized young people into the middle class.


Melton sees the work that Mott does in developing children's savings accounts as growing out of a theory of grantmaking that relies on identifying both strong leaders and strong ideas. She describes how, early on in the asset building movement, she and her colleagues at the Mott Foundation realized they had a powerful role to play in advancing children's savings accounts. "It's the aspirational and the practical that holds unique appeal for us around children's savings accounts."  READ the article.



K. Sujata's Editorial in Crain's Puts Spotlight On Gender Wealth Gap


In an editorial for Crain's Chicago Business, K. Sujata, President and CEO of Chicago Foundation for Women, shares her knowledge and expertise on the unbalanced distribution of wealth and the disadvantages women, especially women of color, continue to face in comparison to men.


Chicago Foundation for Women helped fund new research just released in AFN's latest brief, Women and Wealth: Insights for Grantmakers that looks at the wealth gap through the lens of women. The findings are deeply troubling. Single women own 32 cents of wealth for every dollar that men have, and the median wealth for black and Hispanic single women is almost zero.  READ the full editorial in Crain's.

AFN Expands Upon it's Expertise
AFN is excited to announce it has expanded its reach and capacity with two new staff additions: Abby Hughes Holsclaw and René Bryce-Laporte.

Holsclaw has focused her work on local solutions, asset building, children/youth and workforce strategies, serving with the National League of Cities, Goodwill Industries International and as a consultant for The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.  In her role as AFN's Southern Region Membership Manager, Holsclaw will work closely with AFN Members on asset building strategies and look for opportunities to engage more funders in this growing field.


Heading up AFN's work on Children's Savings Accounts, Bryce-Laporte's goals are to help define the role for philanthropy with CSA's, encourage greater investment and increase the availability of CSAs in new communities.  In addition, he will work to identify best practices and participate in framing discussions. Bryce-Laporte comes to AFN with a very strong asset building foundation having worked at Aspen and CFED on a range of issues including early children's accounts (SEED), microenterprise and housing. 


Register Now - AFN Grantmaker Webinar

Investing in Enduring Advocacy Capacity: The Advocate-Coach-Intermediary Trifecta


Improving family economic security in communities requires a combination of providing access to opportunity and changing the systems that create or hinder those opportunities. High impact asset-building programs can quickly hit a limit in their ability to scale without broader advocacy and systems change work. 

This webinar explores how funders can support more effective policy change and build enduring advocacy capacity by investing in state and local advocates in conjunction with a network-building intermediary that is harnessing national advocacy coaching and technical expertise, and expanding impact to new communities.



Christianne Lind, Northwest Area Foundation 

Jennifer Brooks, CFED

Janet Byrd, Neighborhood Partnerships (OR)

Loren White, Native CDFI Network and Native American Development Corporation (MT)



Stephanie Upp, West Coast Manager, Asset Funders Network


Women & Wealth: Insights for Grantmakers

Women and Wealth: Insights for Grantmakers, released by AFN and written by Dr. Mariko Chang, finds wealth inequality between men and women at all ages and education levels, with great discrepancies by race and ethnicity. The report, which analyzes the 2013 Consumer Finance Survey data, recommends programs and policies that can help women build wealth, which grantmakers can create or support.


Women & Wealth: Insights for Grantmakers narrows the lens to examine the systemic barriers that continue to keep women from having the opportunity that men have to build wealth over their life course. Through this brief, AFN offers funders collaborative and proven investment strategies and challenges them to explore new more robust solutions to catalyze narrowing the gender wealth gap, strengthen the economy, sustain greater economic security with upward mobility for girls and women.  Read the Report or the Executive Summary.

Research and Policy Updates

The Demographics of Wealth: The Role of Education


New research by the Center for Household Financial Stability shows that there's a strong correlation between education and money. More of the former often leads to more of the latter. However, correlation is not causation - there is no guarantee that more education will lead to more wealth. 


For this study, only those heads of families  at least 40 years of age were studied - because by age 40, the vast majority of adults have completed their formal education. Download the full report.  



Examining the Canadian Education Savings Program and its Implications for U.S. CSA Policy


While authors Melinda Lewis and William Elliott III believe that there are significant lessons to be learned from the Canadian experience with education savings programs, as the United States moves towards more comprehensive Children's Savings Account (CSA) policy, they acknowledge that there are some noticeable differences in the political, educational, and economic contexts of Canada and the United States.


Analysis finds that a son raised in the bottom decile in Canada has about the same chances of reaching the top half of the earnings distribution as a third-decile son in the United States; being Canadian instead of American, then, provides as much of a mobility advantage as being born into a family three times more prosperous.  Read more here.



Living on the Financial Edge: New Debt Challenges for At-Risk Americans


Over the last year, Filene Research Institute has released a series of reports on the financial state of three groups: Gen Y, pre-retirees, and Hispanics.  The data paints a troubling picture of various American subgroups' financial capability. (A report on Women is currently underway).


These reports rely on key data from the National Financial Capability Study to analyze significant indicators of Americans' financial capability, including short-term and long-term debt. The research demonstrates how essential it is for lending institutions to respond to the financial needs of these groups.   

See the Reports on each of the groups studied:  Gen Y |  Pre-Retirees  | Hispanics 



Newly Released Research Illustrates How Children build Financial Capability from Early Age


Most kids don't shoulder much responsibility for their household's finances-but they are still beginning to develop financial skills, attitudes and habits, and to develop the cognitive abilities they need to successfully navigate financial matters as adults. Taken together, these attitudes, habits, skills and cognitive abilities represent a developmental understanding of youth financial capability.


CFED and the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin-Madison led a research project, in partnership with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to deepen our understanding of youth financial capability and explore the behaviors, types of knowledge and personality characteristics that help children and youth achieve financial well-being in adulthood.  Three critical processes for building financial capability in in children were identified:

  • Developing executive function in early childhood or pre-school years.
  • "Financial socialization" in middle childhood.
  • Building financial skills and deliberate decision-making strategies in adolescence and young adulthood.

This research was published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs earlier this year. Read more from CFED.

Moving Toward a Policy Agenda for Improving CSA Delivery Systems


The Children Savings Account field (CSA) field has experienced rapid growth, with programs and policies proliferating around the country. The accounts that form the core intervention within these CSA initiatives are delivered through two principal delivery systems:

  • traditional depository institutions (banks and credit unions), and
  • state-sponsored 529 college saving plans.

Newly released paper, produced by the Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion (AEDI) at the University of Kansas and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, describes the design, key features, and respective challenges of each principal delivery system. This paper attempts to contribute to the critical task of building the knowledge base needed to help children's savings programs begin to weigh the pros and cons of each of these existing delivery systems. READ MORE. 



Counterbalancing Student Debt with "Asset Empowerment" and Economic Mobility


Education provides one of the best opportunities for American children to build the capacity to climb up the economic ladder. It has even been called the "great equalizer" in American society. By 2020, 70% of jobs by 2020 will require some postsecondary education or credential.


Unfortunately, equitable access and success in postsecondary education are hard to come by. In this piece published by the New England Board of Higher Education, AFN's CSA Advisory Committee Member Anthony Poore joins William Elliott and Monnica Chan a dialogue demonstrating how the educational attainment gap has steadily grown since the 1970s and where Children's Savings Accounts can provide the needed counterbalance to debt dependency. READ MORE. 

CSAs Make their Way Across the Country

A Regional Approach to CSA Development: The Case of New England


Last month the Center on Assets, Education and Inclusion (AEDI) released a new paper detailing the development of Children's Savings Account (CSA) policy in the New England region. All six states-Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont-either have enacted CSAs or are actively considering them, and the region is home to the nation's only regional CSA Consortium.     


The paper discusses the origins, features, intended aims, and emerging evaluative approaches of each CSA and considers the potential of this type of regional momentum to help to catalyze national CSA policy. DOWNLOAD the paper.



President Clinton Kicks Off Campaign for Every Kid's Future: 1.4 Million Kids with Savings Accounts by 2020


Last month, CFED with a number of partners launched the Campaign for Every Kid's Future, a five-year effort to connect 1.4 million kids with savings accounts to help them go to college and secure a stronger future. The Campaign was formally kicked off with an announcement from President Clinton at the CGI America Conference in Denver.


For organizations interested in partnering and adding their name to the growing list of local, state and national organizations working to increase the number of large-scale children's savings programs in the United States, contact Carl Rist,  LEARN MORE.    



YMCA Program Starts College Savings Plan for Preschool Kids


Parents of children in the downtown Topeka YMCA preschool child care program can start saving for college now with the help of a new YMCA program. With a donation from a local businessman, parents with children enrolled in YMCA of Topeka, Kansas' downtown child care program can start a Learning Quest 529 college savings account.


The #BelieveInMe program allows parents to enroll in 529 investment plans with a contribution from the YMCA and its donors. READ the article.  



EDITORIAL: City Treasurer's Parking-for-Scholars Program Holds Promise


When St. Louis residents park in a city-owned garage or stick a couple of quarters (or a credit card) into a parking meter in the city, they could be doing their small bit to help a needy kid go to college 13 years from now.


St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones is preparing to launch the College Kids Children's Savings Account Program. Every child enrolled in a St. Louis Public Schools or charter school kindergarten class will get a college savings account with a $50 "seed deposit" from the treasurer's office.  READ MORE.



Philanthropy Kickstarts CSA Program in Vermont  


A new law that aims to give kids a jump start on saving for college by opening a savings account for every child born in Vermont got a boost this month when Gov. Peter Shumlin accepted the first donation - $25,000 from President and CEO of Subaru of New England Ernie Boch Jr. - to help fund the program and make it a reality.


In March, Shumlin urged passage of H.448, to create child savings accounts in Vermont, which can increase the likelihood that a child will go to college, boost expectations of college entry among children and parents, and increase high school GPAs. 


Just as in the recently-established program in Maine, the Vermont program will be funded through private donations, like the one made today by Subaru of New England, and will not rely on state funding.  READ the News Release. 

On the Bestseller List

Is it Still Worth It for Low-Income Students to Attend College? 


Written by William Elliott III and Melinda Lewis, The Real College Debt Crisis: How Student Borrowing Threatens Financial Well-Being and Erodes the American Dream presents a viewpoint about the fiscal realities of the current debt-based college loan system and questions the extent to which student loans can be a viable way to facilitate equitable access to higher education.


Early this month, New America NYC and New America's Asset Building Program hosted a discussion forum with the authors on the state of education, making it in America, and the new ideas required to ensure students don't graduate from college worse off than when they began.


To listen to the taped discussion, CLICK HERE To order the book, call 805-968-1911 or contact

In the News

For the Poor, the Graduation Gap Is Even Wider Than the Enrollment Gap


Rich and poor students don't merely enroll in college at different rates; they also complete it at different rates. The graduation gap is even wider than the enrollment gap.


This New York Times article shares how the American Dream for many low-income students -- no matter how talented they may be -- seems to be out of reach for many of them.  READ the article



A Hard Day's Work Deserves a Fair Day's Pay


President Obama proposed a new rule to expand overtime protection for nearly 5 million workers, with an outsized benefit for Black, Latino, and women workers concentrated at the lower end of the wage scale. It would be the first time the federal government has changed the eligibility standard for overtime coverage since 1975.


Currently, workers who earn less than $455 a week - below the poverty line for a family of four - qualify for overtime coverage, increasing the threshold to $970 a week, and adding more than $1.2 billion in wages for newly eligible workers.  As As Obama wrote in the Huffington Post,  "It's good for business owners who are already paying their employees what they deserve - since those who are doing right by their employees are undercut by competitors who aren't."


COMMENT on the Rule.  READ the Dept. of Labor report.  SEE visual explanation.  READ  Statement from the White House.  Huffington Post article written by Obama


Events in the Field


October 5-7, 2015, Chandler, AZ


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.  Click to Register.



Philanthropy Southwest's 67th Annual Conference

October 22-24, 2015, Santa Fe, NM


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. 



Equity Summit

October 27-29, 2015, Los Angeles, CA


PolicyLink hosts its fifth national summit hosted focused on inclusion, justice, and prosperity in the urgent issues of today and connect them to the creativity and bold vision of the equity movement. Advocates from Ferguson to New Orleans, Minneapolis to New York, and all points in between, will be part of interactive panels, tours, and in-depth, skills-building sessions that showcase how local leaders can impact policy change.  Equity Summit 2015: All in for inclusion, justice, and prosperity. 


Making Waves: Philanthropy, Communications Investments and Creating Change - GIST Fall Meeting

Save the Date! 

November 2-3, 2015, Washington, DC

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

Connect, educate and empower.  Join the conversation.  To join or find out more about AFN, contact Kristen, AFN Membership Coordinator.