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Mission Asset Fund: Unique Financial Services for Low-Income Individuals

July 3, 2012
Personal Finance
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The Mission Asset Fund has a spot close to our nerdy personal finance heart. Locally based in San Francisco, the MAF takes a unique approach to providing personal finance help to low-income families. Many low-income families, especially immigrant families, get mired in financial hardship because they often have no credit, can’t get a loan, might not even be able to maintain bank accounts, and so often live from paycheck to paycheck with no end to poverty in sight. These families and individuals on their own have almost no hope of overcoming such financial challenges. The MAF seeks to help these people by providing a number of personal finance services.

What they do

First and foremost, MAF helps by organizing what it calls Lending Circles in low-income communities. They will bring families and individuals together and have them determine and contribute to a communal fund which can then be loaned to a particular individual of the Lending Circle. This loan will be for a set purpose, say to make an upcoming payment on-time. The individual then works to pay back the loan while the fund can also be accessed by the next person in the Lending Circle who needs it. This allows families and individuals to build healthy credit and sometimes even just take care of necessities like rent payments.

The key to it all is MAF’s organizing the communities and terms, and also guaranteeing the loans that the Lending Circles make. Without this organization and mitigation of risk, the process would crumble. The MAF also provides financial education classes (sometimes requiring participants to take them before getting access to additional services), one-on-one counseling, and access to small business and micro loans. In 2011, the MAF saw that its users experienced an average credit increase in 30 points, and in the last 4 years have had a 0% default rate on their Lending Circles loans. The MAF also helps to create Citizen Circles, a similar organization to the Lending Circles but focused on financially educating immigrants and helping to provide the filing fees for citizenship.


The MAF is always looking to partner with other nonprofit organizations and expand its programs into other areas. They currently work with the Ford Foundation and the Tipping Point Community, and have already recently moved into Nevada, Boston, and Los Angeles. The MAF is always in need of more funding to cover its loans and staff its education programs. These guys get major props from us for using their personal finance smarts to help out the disadvantaged.

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