I'm still beaming from the news, on May 3rd we closed our 500th loan! I am so proud of our staff, board of directors, supporters, and most importantly our borrowers - who day in and day out prove that you can make responsible small dollar consumer loans to people with no or poor credit. We have lent over $220,000 to help hundreds of people overcome unanticipated financial challenges and to help close to 150 people build their credit. Our opportunity loans enable our borrowers to avoid payday loans - often their only other credit option - so use of our loans equates to tens of thousands of dollars in savings on predatory loan fees that would have trapped our borrowers in "quicksand" debt. Our credit builder loan has been a tool to help people with no or low credit scores amass tens of thousands of points with the major credit bureaus - that's a lot of on time payments!
We've learned a lot, we are still learning, and we have lots more to do. At this milestone I am reminded of a parable from the Quechuan people of South America about a hummingbird facing a forest fire, told here by my hero, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai. In the general scheme of things our work may not yet be as expansive as we want, but together with our borrowers, we are doing what we can to bring access to credit and financial stability to people who need it, use it wisely, and go on to share what they have learned with others. Our client profile this month is great example of someone acting on the power of her convictions and being a true change agent.
I hope you all have an opportunity to do what you can for the challenges that speak to you. Together, we can stop a forest fire.
|Change Agent of the Month: Christina's Story
Christina has lived on a tight budget for as long as she can remember. She raised her kids by pinching pennies and says that "controlling my spending has never been an issue but the money coming in never seemed to be enough for my family." For many, this situation is overwhelming and stressful, however Christina used this as a chance to get creative. Over time she developed a real knack for resourceful frugal living. Working for Clackamas County, Christina realized that this was a skill that could come in handy for a lot of people and set out looking for a way to share her knowledge and continue learning to manage her money. Through a lucky web search, she found her way to Innovative Changes website and the next thing she knew, she was signed up to participate in IC$s' first ever Women's Financial Support Group.
Christina says, "It was refreshing to be with a group of other women sharing the same financial challenges, like dealing with kids and making the money last throughout the month. Money isn't something you're going to talk to your neighbor about, so it's nice to be in a constructive setting working on those issues." She says that she left the groups with a "suitcase of information" that she carries with her every day. During the group, Christina set the goal of creating a cookbook of $1 meals. Several months later, she had compiled hundreds of low cost recipes. Her favorite? Homemade minestrone soup and garlic bread.
Fueled to continue helping others live on a tight budget, Christina kept developing resources and eventually landed a gig at Clackamas Community College teaching a course on frugal living several times a year. From that income she was able to put some more money away and has been saving for her son's college education through Innovative Changes' Individual Development Account (IDA) program. Christina reflects that her son, graduating with a degree in music, "won't be burdened with thousands of dollars of debt because of the IDA. He also won't feel pressured to do something that he doesn't want to do- this is the best gift I can give."
Christina has been successfully saving in the IDA and piecing together income from delivering the Oregonian, teaching classes, crafting and more. All was going well, until her car broke down. Worried that she might not have any choice but to buy a jalopy, Christina asked IC$ for some ideas. IC$ told her about the Unitus Community Credit Union Smart Advisers program which offers low cost auto loans. Christina went to her local branch in Beaverton and because she had been working to build her credit and had a positive history, she was approved for a low interest loan. Her lenders at the Beaverton branch helped steer her away from sketchy deals and towards good ones. After a month of searching, Christina found a car in good shape that she fell in love with (see picture). She uses this car everyday for her job and is steadily paying off her loan.
Christina is a true change agent and continues to have a positive impact on IC$ and the people around her. She has presented on frugal living to our two other women's groups and offers her frugal living materials as a resource to IC$ clients. In the future, Christina hopes to become more financially stable so she doesn't have to work as hard, continue teaching, publish her book and live a low-key lifestyle. Drawing from one of her favorite financial guru's, her words of wisdom to other IC$ clients are "If you can't manage your money when you have a little bit what makes you think you will be able to manage it when you have a lot?"
|Partner Spotlight: Maggie Starr & Camille McDaniel, CASH Oregon
As many of you may have noticed upon arriving at our office to find it bustling during tax season, we share office space with CASH Oregon
, a non-profit committed to improving the financial health of low income working families and individuals through Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) outreach and free tax preparation programs. CASH OR coordinates 140 tax sites throughout the state of Oregon, the Lloyd Center being one of its four super sites. This year trained volunteers at the Lloyd Center completed almost 4000 returns between January and April. Our offices seem so quiet now that all the tax time excitement is over, so we checked in with Camille McDaniel and Maggie Starr of CASH Oregon, two key orchestrators of tax time to discuss tax times past and future.
What's your role at the tax site and how long have you been doing this?
Camille McDaniel (CM): I am the Program Manager at CASH Oregon. I am in charge of volunteer recruitment, managing the administrative staff, outreach, and general front office activities. I came to work at CASH because I love working with volunteers. Since being here, I have grown to appreciate the direct and significant financial impact that the program has for low income folks. I have been here for the past 5 tax seasons and we generally have about 400 volunteers a season.
Maggie Starr (MS): I am in charge of training and wrangling tax site support. I was first drawn to work as a volunteer. I wanted to do something useful, and this seemed more engaging than other volunteer opportunities, I knew nothing about taxes when started, but most volunteers come here with no prior tax knowledge. In the training you learn everything you need to know to get started and during the season and, you are always learning through experience. I really value that I am constantly learning at my job. I have been here for 5 tax seasons- we both just got awarded our five year pin from the AARP!
CM: She is the resident tax expert!
Most of the volunteers come through AARP. What is the relationship between CASH OR and AARP?
CM: AARP Tax Aide has been doing free tax preparation since 1968. They are the largest volunteer organization in the nation and have the goal of serving low to moderate income tax payers with a focus on seniors. CASH Oregon came about because of a concern that low to moderate income families weren't taking advantage of the tax credits available to them. CASH Oregon was formed to do outreach around EITC and support free tax preparation in the local area. Now we've grown into a statewide partnership with AARP Tax Aide and we provide support to sites throughout the state.
The state Earned Income Tax Credit is about to sunset in December 2013. Why is it important that we renew this credit?
MS: EITC is important financially in that it puts the money in the pockets of those who need it most. It's a well designed tax credit that takes income and family size into account to see who could use a hand. People need this money to make ends meet.
CM: I think EITC is one of the most straight-forward and non controversial ways of re-apportioning income back to low income families. What I like about it is when you look at the financial support that's given to low income families, this seems more achievable and has a broader base of support.
What works with us co-locating?
MS: I am excited about the collaborations we've had using our volunteers to share knowledge and info about taxes to the public. You guys are all about demystifying financial things and empowering people through info and action. I'm glad we can add our volunteers' tax expertise to those programs.
CM: There is a huge overlap in the populations we serve. We have over 4000 people coming in here that could take advantage of your services.
MS: We had someone in the other day to ask a question. While she was in the waiting room picked up flier for workshops, and was excited to find out about them. She just came in to ask a question about her taxes, and now has the goal of improving her credit as well.
CM: For our volunteers that are motivated by helping low-income families change their situation, having that more in depth opportunity to work with families on an ongoing basis through IC$ is a nice compliment to the work they do with us.
What's coming up for CASH now that the tax season is over?
MS: Off season taxes! Off season taxes are an exciting opportunity to have people come in and file for prior years. People who maybe haven't filed for several years are able to walk out the door with $5,000-$8,000. People are often scared to be filing, but leave with a significant sum of money that enables them to pay down a debt, move into a new place or buy a car. Whatever the outcome is, it's great to help people get back on track.
CM: For those owing money, we have good resources to refer them to, like the low income tax payer clinic, so they don't have to face refunds alone. When people have creditors calling them, they just freeze up, but once you do your taxes, there are resources out here to help you.
MS: Also, this is a great time of year to do all the planning to make next season the best one yet. Every season is always the best one yet!
Off-season taxes start this weekend. To see the off-season tax schedule click here.
Keep reading about CASH and our other partner on our website
Help Reform Debt Collection Practices in Oregon!
Innovative Changes is working with a group of consumer advocates to make long overdue changes to Oregon's debt collection laws and we need your help. Wrongful debt collection lawsuits and consumer complaints about debt collectors have risen astronomically over the past ten years. The debt buying industry takes advantage of lax rules and regulations to run roughshod over consumer rights. Last year the largest debt buyers sued more than 32,000 Oregonians. As reported in a Willamette Week cover story, one firm out of Eugene averaged a new lawsuit every 15 minutes court was open in 2010. The sheer volume of lawsuits combined with the scant evidence and questionable quality of the data has led many to call this robo-signing 2.0.
House Bill 2826 would address these issues by requiring the debt buyer to include basic proof about who owes, how much is owed and the age of the debt. We support this legislation because it is time to bring facts and fairness back to the debt collection process. We work with clients every day who are harassed mercilessly by debt collectors. We are joining Economic Fairness Oregon in asking you to call your Oregon state legislator today to voice support for HB 2826. If you have any questions email Adriel Hsu-Flanders, Economic Fairness Oregon, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Financial Empowerment Clinic: A Success!
Rich conversation on debt, credit and long term planning filled our office in the Lloyd Center on Saturday, April 20th as people converged for our 2nd annual Spring Financial Empowerment Clinic. With around 39 attendees accessing workshops, one on one meetings with financial planners, credit report review stations, mobile library books on money management and other community resources, our 15+ volunteers were kept busy!
One participant remarked, "The event was very informative. I learned a lot about budgeting and credit and it helped me a lot to plan my future!" Another participant said that because of the clinic, "I am going to start tackling my debt and complete and stick to a budget."
The event was a great success thanks to all our collaborating organizations, volunteers, and Key Bank for providing food! Stay tuned for more information about our next financial empowerment clinic coming up in October on long-term planning and goal setting. To stay in the loop, sign up here.
How Loans Can Leverage Opportunity
Joanna is a single mother of two earning less than $22,000 a year. A $300 car repair bill prevented her from getting her children to daycare and herself to work on time. This quickly resulted in lost wages. When she took out a payday loan to fix the car and pay bills that were late, she was pushed into an unsustainable cycle of debt, creating overwhelming stress.
Have you or your clients experienced a similar situation? What do you do when unexpected expenses threaten your economic stability?
Our Opportunity Loan is designed to address the needs of people like Joanna. Unexpected expenses or a sudden loss of income can result in crisis and overwhelming stress, often made worse by the use of high-cost payday loans or credit cards to meet basic household needs. The opportunity loan addresses people's needs for short term, small dollar consumer loans to manage emergencies and take advantage of strategic opportunities.
Housing related expenses is the number one use of our loans, followed by paying off high cost debt such as payday loans. Health care costs, paying bills, car repairs and children's education expenses round out the uses. Our in-touch method of using every client interaction as a teaching moment allows us to work with borrowers like Joanna on additional aspects of financial capability, including how to make ends meet and how to plan ahead for a rainy day.
We are able to serve those who have been excluded from the mainstream financial services sector because our loan does not require a strong credit score, a bank account or a social security number. In order to qualify for an Opportunity Loan, your first step is to be referred by one of our trained referring partners.
Interested in becoming a referring partner? Or if you simply have more questions about the loan, you may contact Emmy Callero at email@example.com. See below for more information on our next referring partner orientation webinar.
|Financial Education Galore:
Upcoming Financial Household Resiliency (FHR) Workshops:
July Financial Household Resiliency Series
Tuesday, July 2nd, 5:30-7:30 pm: Making Ends Meet
Tuesday, July 9th, 5:30-7:30 pm: Budgeting and Saving
Tuesday, July 16th 5:30-7:30 pm: Hands-On Banking
Tuesday, July 23rd 5:30-7:30 pm: Building, Repairing and Protecting Credit
These classes will be held at our Lloyd Center office on the 3rd floor of the Lloyd Center Mall (between Nordstroms and the food court), 2010 Lloyd Center.The classes can be taken individually or as a series. They are $5 each and $15 for all four classes. Fee waivers are available for those who qualify. Register here or call or email Misha at (503)-249-5205/ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Budgeting for the Things You Want
Wednesday, May 15th, 6:30-7:30pm at the St John's Library
Sunday, May 19th, 2-3pm at the Gregory Heights Library
Sunday, June 2nd, 3-4pm at the Capitol Hill Library
Teaching Kids About Money
Sunday, June 9th, 2-3pm at the Northwest Library
Sunday, July 14th, 3-4pm at the Capitol Hill Library
Tackling Student Loan Debt
Monday, July 15th, 6:30-7:30pm at the Holgate Library
These seminars are free and no registration is required.Visit our website for a description of our seminars.
We're Enrolling for our IDA Program Again!
We are thrilled to announce that we are opening enrollment for our Individual Development Account (IDA) program this June. The IC$ IDA program offers a 3:1 match for those saving to attend an institution of higher education. Savers must put at least $25 into an account every month, complete financial education requirements and plan to go back to school or already be attending school. Savers can save for themselves or a loved one.
If you are interested in the IDA program, or know someone who may be interested,come to our next orientation which will be:
- Friday, May 31st, 10-11am, MHAB Room 215 at the Portland Community College Cascade Campus
- Thursday, June 6th, 5:30-6:30pm at our office in Suite 2010 of the Lloyd Center.
- Wednesday, June 12th, 12-1pm at our office in Suite 2010 of the Lloyd Center.
Register for an orientation here or call Misha at (503)-249-5205. For more information about the IDA program visit our website .
Referring Partner Orientation
Would you like to become a partner of Innovative Changes? Interested in refering clients for our loans, financial education and individual coaching sessions? Want to learn more about our programs? Attend our Referring Partner Orientation webinar.
The webinar orientation will take place on Wednesday, May 29th or July 10th from 10:30 am -11:30am. If you or your coworkers are interested in participating please register here.
This orientation is required for anyone who would like to refer clients for Innovative Changes (IC$) loans and a great way to get to know more about IC$. During the webinar we will go through IC$ programs and services, walk you through the process of referring a client and discuss what happens after you make a referral.
You Can Help!
You care about helping people achieve and maintain household stability. Now you can join our efforts at Innovative Changes as we expand our reach to serve more clients. Your generous donation will be put to good use!
Whatever amount you can afford, you can set it up for monthly automatic payments to ease your cash flow. If you have bill pay service with your bank you can set up Innovative Changes to receive regular monthly payments. If you prefer, we can process a monthly ACH transaction on your behalf. Contact us at email@example.com to set up your monthly giving program.
Thank you for your support!
As of 5/9/13
503, averaging $455.86 for a total of $229,432.20
Revolved amount: $179,991.22
Repaid loans: 272
Financial education clients: