Funding Strategies  |  News & Events in Philanthropy


November Newsletter
From the desk of AFN Director, Joe Antolín

Much of the discussion around "the greatness of America" is premised on the beliefs that we are strongest when we are embracing the promise of upward mobility, meritocracy, affordable education and a strong middle class.  

Many of us have experienced these promises and know they are realizable. According to a recent poll, 47% of Americans still connect the American dream with a college education to achieve a better life for their child (44%) or business success (22%).
Indeed, post secondary education remains a key in today's economy for upward mobility over a lifetime just as it was in past decades. Philanthropy is well positioned for helping move the dial and providing children across all economic and racial divides an opportunity for a good education and the economic lifetime success that follows. 

The momentum around Children's Savings Accounts to support students to save, strive, plan for and complete college is powerful.  The evidence is still developing, but waiting is not a plan we can afford. As part of AFN's effort to help foster best practices and to educate funders by sharing the latest ideas about philanthropic support for CSAs, please share with us your questions, approach and learnings. AFN strongly believes that through knowledge sharing, foundations and grantmakers are effectively empowered to leverage their resources to make more effective and strategic funding decisions, allowing each dollar invested to have greater impact.
Similarly, college success depends on efforts that help students feel that they belong.  This is especially true for low income children of color or first generation college attendees.  It is not just education reform or a savings account, but how philanthropy targets its support of an inclusive community that will allow these talented youth to succeed and to actively engage in asset building as adults to narrow the racial and gender wealth gap.   
If college is the key, philanthropy has to continue to explore innovations to inform how to make it more affordable and increase completion rates without the substantial borrowing that reduces a graduate's ability to build assets.  In doing so, investment strategies need to consider how the economic realities of today have changed opportunity.  

When I went to college, the idea of working through the summer or during the school year to pay for college was the norm for many in this country. This was true through the 60s, 70s, and 80s; today it is a myth.  

To illustrate, in 1979, a college credit hour at Michigan State was $24.50, so that a student could earn enough in a little over a day of work at minimum wage of $2.90.  Today, the credit hour costs $428.75, requiring more than 60 hours of work at the minimum wage. 

Philanthropy needs push the envelope: we can preserve the American Dream of upward mobility and realized opportunity by: 1 - investing in microbusiness ownership 2 - investing in the creation of better paying jobs for those with post-secondary education, 3 - creating a culture of employers allowing payroll deduction for college savings, 4 - supporting tax reform or alternatives to college debt, 5 - fostering the best results from children's savings accounts. These are just some of the transformative ways that asset building brings upward mobility. 
Over the past 14 years, AFN members and our many partners see asset building as the path to restoring opportunity through upward mobility.  Today, it remains one of the most important calls to action to foster an inclusive, equitable, and opportunity driven future. 

AFN provides the support and thought partnership to philanthropy in communities across the country to act, and we thank our members for helping lead the progress being made. 

As we begin to reflect back on this year, let's remember to celebrate the gains and resolve to continue to work towards an effective economic opportunity agenda. 


AFN Leadership
AFN Expands Upon Its Expertise
AFN is excited to announce it has expanded upon its leadership expertise with the addition of Steering Committee member Shelley A. Marquez.
Shelley A. Marquez
Wells Fargo
As the Senior Vice President and Community Development Manager for Wells Fargo, Shelley A. Marquez leads a team focused on supporting economic development initiatives related to affordable housing, financial education, workforce development and small business success across 16 states. Marquez brings 32 years of experience in financial services and has spent the last 22 years with Wells Fargo. She currently serves on the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas Community Development Advisory Council and is a board member of Housing Colorado, which is a statewide, member organization focused on affordable housing industry.  

A graduate of the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Denver program and the Latino Leaders program from the University of California Los Angeles, Marquez's commitment to helping low-income families achieve economic security and upward mobility is fully aligned with AFN's mission.

Members Making Impact
This month, AFN puts the spotlight on the impactful efforts of AFN Member
The Women's Fund of Greater Birmingham

Bringing Birmingham Together for Women's Economic Security

With the vision to move women beyond poverty, The Women's Fund of Greater Birmingham (WFGB) believes women and girls need to be economically secure in order to achieve educational, emotional, social and personal growth empowerment.  It means addressing education and skills training needs, as well as affordable childcare and mentors. It means bringing agencies that work with women and children together for a lasting solution.
Through its Collaboration Institute, WFGB encourages agencies to create partnerships and use two-generation approaches that provide wrap around services to support mothers and their children at the same time.
"An investment in the women and families of our community is an investment in the betterment of our entire community. When women move forward, the entire community moves with them," said Jeanne Jackson, WFGB President/CEO.
Based on work by Ascend at The Aspen Institute (Washington, D.C.) and HCA Foundation (Nashville, TN), the Collaboration Institute is a formal and well-resourced opportunity to reimagine what can be done to increase the economic security of women and their families. It incorporates a nine-month curriculum that provides area organizations the time and resources to create formal collaborations to simultaneously move women and their children beyond poverty by providing opportunities for both generations.  

Imagine childcare agencies partnering with community colleges to ensure that women in job training programs have access to affordable childcare throughout the school year.  Imagine women completing higher education with a job waiting for them on graduation day and the security of knowing their children are in top-notch early childhood education programs.
Current sponsors include Alabama Power, BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama, Wells Fargo, and Vulcan Materials Company.  

Coming Soon: Strategy Spotlight

Microenterprise: A Promising Strategy to Help Close the Racial Wealth Gap
Micro- and small-business development strategies can help tackle the growing racial wealth gap in the United States, according to a new Strategy Spotlight paper about to be released by the Asset Funders Network (AFN). Lower levels of business and financial assets held by African-American and Latino households are one of the key reasons for the racial wealth gap, suggesting that business ownership may be an important means to narrow the gap.
Written by Joyce Klein of FIELD at the Aspen Institute, with support from Capital One, the funder's brief, Narrowing the Racial Wealth Gap through Business Ownership, examines the available research on business ownership, and the connection between business ownership and wealth creation for diverse populations. The brief also identifies proven tools and strategies investors can employ to strengthen access to and effectiveness of business ownership as a means to build wealth and reduce the racial and ethnic wealth gap.
AFN Resources & Events

WEBINAR:  Wealth Inequality and the Tax Code
TODAY - November 9, 2015  |3-4pm EST | Live Online Event

We know that tax policy is one of the drivers of growing wealth inequality, but economic trends and the federal tax code are tough talking points.
Join AFN and the Tax Alliance for Economic Mobility in a webinar designed for advocates, practitioners, policymakers and funders, to address key issues related to tax policy communications and advocacy, including:
- What are the main issues at stake?
- How can we communicate the importance of these issues?
- What are national organizations doing to affect federal policy change?

th Annual Bay Area Asset Building Symposium:
Building a More Equitable Bay Area
November 12, 2015 | 8:30 am - 1:00 pm 
| San Francisco 

Join Bay Area funders, nonprofits, public agencies, and policymakers for a conversation about using asset-building strategies to build a more equitable Bay Area.  

Join us as we discuss how families, cities, and the broader asset-building field are responding to the challenges of rising rents and home prices, stagnating wages, and the suburbanization of poverty. 
Our morning keynote will feature Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, and Sarah Treuhaft, Director of Equitable Growth Initiatives at PolicyLink
Following the plenary, we'll break into Conver-sessions  - we disrupt the traditional, panel-led break-out sessions to elevate local perspectives in these audience-driven conversations, including:  Integration of asset building and job training; Housing and gentrification/ displacement; Municipal asset-building strategies; State & federal asset building policies.

North Texas Funders Forum 
Building Financial Capability through Products and Programs
November 20, 2015 | 8:45 am - 11:00 am 
| Dallas, TX

Numerous reports indicate that financial insecurity in North Texas is pervasive.  Addressing this problem requires more than just financial education; it requires financial tools and products that empower consumers to safely and affordably manage their financial lives. 

Community-based nonprofits are emerging as innovative and effective channels for "on-ramping" and engaging low-income consumers that might otherwise remain disconnected from the financial mainstream. 

Join the North Texas Asset Funders Network to learn about three exciting new financial tools that are actively helping low-income consumers escape pay-day loan traps, establish and build positive credit, and begin saving for the future.  Featuring presentations from Galen Gondolfi, Justine PETERSEN; Matt Hull, Texas Association of CDCs; Jade Shipman, EARN.

Who Should Come?  Grantmakers, Nonprofits, and Employers  concerned about improving the financial security of low-income and working families in North Texas.

Spotlight on Policy: 
California's New Asset Building Policies
December 1, 2015 | 9:30am - 3:00pm | Los Angeles, CA

California's New Asset Building Tools: Putting the Secure Choice Retirement Plan and the New State Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to Work.
Join asset building practitioners, advocates and funders for a symposium on helping families and individuals build assets and plan for the future through two new programs. California Treasurer John Chiang and Controller Betty Yee will join other special guests on Tuesday, December 1 to discuss the laws, and what is necessary for successful implementations.
Narrowing the Wealth Gap

Earlier this month in San Francisco, AFN Midwest Manager Jill Geltmaker presented the findings from our recently released brief,  Women and Wealth: Insights for Grantmakers, at the Women's Funding Network's 30th Annual Conference.
Co-presenting with Kristen Spangler of Women's Funding Alliance and Elizabeth Barajas-Román of the Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts, the session focused on exploring methods and models to advance pay equity for bringing together government, nonprofit, and business sectors to narrow the gender wage gap.  

Audience members were able to gain insight from the latest data on women's economic security and how the women's wealth gap lies at the heart of other social inequities impacting children, families, and our nation. 
DOWNLOAD Women and Wealth: Insights for Grantmakers. 


"Create an art space that doubles as a restaurant and train local high school students to prepare them for a career in the culinary arts world."

The Joyce Foundation's $2.56 million initiative provides an example of how foundations continue to blur the lines between traditional "organizational planning" arts funding and workforce development efforts.  MORE.

With an Eye to Impact: 
Investing Through a 'Gender Lens'

"This is a lens and not a limitation.  A gender lens helps you see opportunity and mitigate risk."   

The New York Times' Wealth Matters column says so-called gender-lens investing, which focuses on benefits to women and girls, is gaining popularity within impact-investing world. MORE.         

CSAs Advance

New Streamlined 529 options for Children's Savings Accounts
As Children's Savings Account (CSA) programs using 529 accounts have emerged in recent years, some administrative challenges have become apparent. 

It is because of these challenges that VistaShare, a leading vendor of administration software for CSAs, and Ascensus College Savings, a leading administrator of 529 plans, have come together in a strategic partnership to provide a 529 solution to sponsors of CSAs, designed to provide a solution for CDA programs that want to incentivize families to save for college through 529 plans.  Initial testing of the interface is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2015. To find out more about this collaboration, contact Dave Smucker.

New Program Helps Children of New Salishan Save for College
As part of its Education Project and in partnership with the Tacoma Public Schools (TPS), Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), and initial funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) in Washington state is now offering individual development accounts (IDAs) from kindergarten through high school.
New Salishan is not only THA's largest community but a HOPE VI redevelopment that created a mixed-income community of 1,350 renter and homeowner households on an award-winning design.  For learn more about the program and funding opportunities, click here.

Better than Free: What Americans Need More than 'Free College'

In the midst of the political debate over changes to college financing--including proposals for 'free college', 

AEDI Founding Director Willie Elliott, in his blog, considers the evidence regarding children's savings and educational outcomes, to ask what might be even better than 'free', when it comes to using higher education to place the American Dream truly within the reach of every child.  Click here to read. 

Tax Programs

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers many opportunities for those without health insurance to obtain coverage, and community tax programs are uniquely positioned to facilitate expanded coverage options. What have tax programs been able to accomplish in the first years of ACA implementation? What are the opportunities for the next open enrollment period and tax filing season?
Early this month the Taxpayer Opportunity Network and CFED discussed best practices for streamlining ACA integration at VITA sites. Steve Holt, who has been working with the community tax field on ACA integration since 2010 as a consultant for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, led the discussion and answered many of the listeners questions.  To hear a recording, CLICK HERE.  DOWNLOAD the slides.

As many funders know from their grantees who assist clients with their tax preparation, the tax refund is the largest single boost of income that many households receive in a year. It's a sizable amount of money for many American household. For low- and moderate-income (LMI) households, or your typical Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) client, that windfall of money could put them on path to financial stability.
The good news is many LMI households are saving at tax time. In many cases, they are doing so because of various nudges and prompts to save from their income tax preparer. This is why it's so important that income tax preparers have access to the best tools and references for delivering this compelling message. 
The Center for Social Development's (CSD),at Washington University in St. Louis, newly released toolkit, "The Volunteer Income Tax Preparer’s Toolkit: Showing Clients Why Tax Time is the Right Time to Save," serves as a communications guide for income tax preparers on encouraging their clients to save a part of their refund at tax time, based on findings from CSD's Refund to Savings (R2S) experiment
Funders of asset-building work are encouraged to pass the resource along to some of the grantees who may be involved with VITA sites.  DOWNLOAD the Toolkit.

Investing to Increase Economic Security
Why Wealth Inequality is Way More Complicated than Just Rich and Poor

When economists talk about wealth inequality, they often focus on the gap between the rich and the poor. 

But to understand what's really happening in the U.S., they ought to talk more often about the gap between the young and the old, and between different races.  CLICK HERE to read more.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) just announced a unique opportunity for funders' grantees to participate in the 2016 Your Money, Your Goals Cohort. CFPB is looking for approximately 20 organizations from around the country who are interested in using the Your Money, Your Goals toolkit to help build the financial capability of the people they serve. 

They are interested in working with organizations that serve low-income and economically vulnerable populations. These may include public and private social service, faith-based, legal aid, volunteer, and worker-focused organizations. Members of the 2016 Your Money, Your Goals Cohort will receive training, toolkits, and technical assistance. Technical assistance will include support for your organization as it develops and executes its Your Money, Your Goals implementation plan.  LEARN MORE about the opportunity/selection criteria.

If you think your program would be a good fit, send CFPB a Letter of Interest at by November 10th with the subject line 'Your Money, Your Goals 2016'. 

Trends in Philanthropic Strategies
As seasoned funders know all too well, philanthropy is as subject to shifting trends as any field.  Still, it's not every year that two leading national grantmakers embark on dramatic strategy overhauls.
In case you missed it, the Ford Foundation-the country's second-largest grantmaker-announced a new funding strategy to be implemented by Darren Walker, president since July 2015.   This came only three months after Julia Stasch took the helm of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, also decreeing a new grantmaking approach.
Intriguingly, the two funders' plans have little in common.  Both will narrow their grantmaking scope to focus on a smaller set of causes in hopes of realizing greater impact. Beyond that, though, the new strategies are couldn't be more different.   READ ARTICLE

Career Opportunities
Director, Office of Financial Empowerment
The San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) was created to help lower-income San Franciscans become financially empowered San Franciscans. OFE's mission is to use City Hall's strength and influence to help more of the City's lower-income residents enter the financial mainstream.  Ultimately, OFE works to give people opportunities: to learn more about money, open a checking account, take advantage of tax credits, save for a child's college education, overcome setbacks and gain independence.
Events in the Field

The Collaboration Conference
November 16-17, 2015| Houston, TX

Collaboration allows grantmakers to leverage the expertise and resources of multiple players toward more meaningful impact on systemic problems. It can take many forms, requires time and frequently involves working in ways that run counter to how philanthropy traditionally operates. 

The Collaboration Conference is designed for grantmakers who have experience with some form of collaboration and are looking for ways to improve their approach to be more productive partners and provide better support for nonprofit collaboration. CLICK HERE to learn more and register.

Re+Vitalize, a Place-Based Initiative (PBI) Symposium
November 17, 2015 | Dallas, TX

Re+Vitalize, a Place-Based Initiative (PBI) Symposium, is bringing practitioners, civic and government leaders and funding partners together to focus on neighborhood revitalization, collective impact efforts in community investments and PBI strategies.

The Symposium will feature a national line up of speakers and panels to address latest national trends in: neighborhood rebuilding efforts, the importance of government and policy in successful Place-Based Initiatives and how to build sustainable change and cultivate great leaders.  CLICK HERE to learn more and register.

Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers 2015 Annual Meeting: Philanthropy All In
November 19, 2015| National Press Club
From housing affordability to economic diversification, Greater Washington has significant regional challenges calling for regional solutions.  

Join other philanthropic leaders in discussing how philanthropy can learn from other regional success stories to position the Greater Washington region for prosperity into the future.  CLICK HERE to learn more and register.  

WEBCAST: Financial Well-Being Summit
December 8, 2015| 10am-5pm EST

Join the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, CFED and the Citi Foundation for the live webcast of the Financial Well-Being Summit to mark the release of the new book, What It's Worth: Strengthening the Financial Future of Families, Communities and the Nation, focused on opportunities to build financial health and well-being.

Topics to be covered include:  Education, Jobs, Housing & Health; Economy, Politics & the Financial System; Race, Gender, Age & Place; Insights into Financial Decision-Making.  CLICK HERE to learn more and register.  

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 Johnson, AFN Membership Coordinator.