WES Mariam Assefa Fund Grantee Partners

Mission Asset Fund

Category: Skills and Supports

Amount: USD$200,000

Term: October 2020 – August 2022

Focus: Mission Asset Fund leverages the power of community, social trust, and cultural assets to help immigrants formalize and strengthen their financial lives, and become visible, active, and successful in the U.S. financial marketplace.

About Mission Asset Fund

Mission Asset Fund (MAF) believes that the best solutions are found in the strengths of historically marginalized communities. Since 2007, MAF has revolutionized the asset building field by trailblazing responsible financial programs that help immigrant communities. MAF’s programs and services meet the complex needs of low-income communities through a three-pronged approach: recognizing the resilience and wisdom in communities, building programs that transform everyday financial practices into savings and credit building opportunities, and scaling programs nationwide by leveraging user-centered design principles and technology.

What type of work will the grant enable?

This grant supports MAF’s Lending Circles, which bring people together to form zero-interest, small dollar loans. MAF acts as a loan servicer—ensuring that everyone in the circle receives a loan—and reports each borrower’s payments to the three major U.S. credit bureaus. MAF clients’ credit scores have increased by more than 120 points on average—with nearly 80 percent of clients completing the program with prime or near-prime credit. As people establish and raise their credit scores, the door to more affordable credit, other financial services, and a pathway to economic mobility is unlocked. With funding from this grant, MAF is working to scale and replicate its Lending Circles model, providing training and technical assistance to 70+ non-profit partners interested in launching local lending circles across 18 U.S. states and Washington, D.C.

Why is this work important?

For millions of immigrant families in the U.S., the tools needed to achieve financial security are out of reach. People who lack basic bank accounts and a credit score are locked out of mainstream services and often rely on expensive check cashers and payday lenders; they can be denied housing and even be turned away from jobs that require a credit check. These challenges have been magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn, which has devastated the economic well-being of many immigrant and refugee families. MAF helps communities meet immediate financial assistance needs and provides training to secure the financial future of individuals within the community.

Highlighting the inherent strengths of immigrant community members demonstrates the value of social capital and human relationships. Alan, a client who has been an avid Lending Circles participant for more than 10 years, shared at a Lending Circles formation: “For me, at some point, it stopped being about credit. These people just met each other an hour ago, and now we’re helping each other with our financial goals. It builds community.”