Expanding Financial Empowerment Resources through MyMAF’s Digital Tools

The MyMAF app is a pocket-size financial coach, giving America’s working poor families digital tools to build financial security.

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Eligibility

  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

José Quiñonez, Mission Asset Fund (MAF) CEO

Initiative's representative date of birth

February 27

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Man

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • USA

Where are you making a difference?

SAME (USA, California, San Francisco) and USA, California, San Jose

Website or social media url(s)

Website: www.missionassetfund.org Twitter: @mafpajarito Facebook: @missionassetfund.org Instagram: @missionassetfund LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/mission-asset-fund/

When was your organisation founded?

03/2007 MAF designs programs and services aligned with our values: meet people where they are—not where others think they should be—respect their journeys and strengths, and build on what is good and working in their lives. Our community-centered approach guides all of our work, including MAF’s native MyMAF app, which offers mobile-based digital financial tools and education to complement our acclaimed zero interest lending programs and help people reach their financial potential.

Focus areas

  • Financial skills and capability
  • Creating digital tools

Project Stage

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $250k - $500k

Organisation Type

  • Non-profit / NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

Hardworking people are always on the go, and they need financial tools to match their busy lifestyles. When MAF began exploring how to leverage mobile technology to complement our credit-building programs, we set out to build a financial app specifically for low income communities that aligned with their realities and addressed the barriers they face. We envisioned a tool that could help people set goals, build credit, and access financial education, giving them financial resources and education whenever and wherever they needed it. The new MyMAF app puts a financial coach in users’ pockets, giving them on-demand access to timely, actionable, and culturally-relevant financial resources to help them work toward their goals.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

For working poor families, people of color, and immigrants alike, there is a growing need for mobile-based financial resources – but very few exist that are designed specifically to meet their needs and realities. Low income communities – where more than 45% of consumers lack a credit score – need affordable, safe, and actionable financial resources that help them to step out of the financial shadows.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

MAF designed the MyMAF app specifically to meet the pressing but unmet financial needs of low income communities. The bilingual mobile app offers access to all of MAF’s programs and services, a library of financial education, unprecedented features including access to personal credit scores via our unique partnership with OpenFICO®, and tools to help clients set and stay on track for their financial goals. The app puts users in charge, encouraging them to select from the 30 financial education modules (including modules on credit, savings, preparing for financial emergencies, and resources for being self-employed) that are most relevant to their lives. MyMAF is a pocket-size financial coach that offers financial education and resources to everyone, regardless of wealth or socioeconomic status. Reaching people on the go is becoming more and more crucial; 45% of low income individuals rely on their smartphone for internet access. The MyMAF app reflects MAF’s adaptation to this evolving need, giving people access to financial tools whenever and wherever they need them.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

MyMAF’s unique culturally-relevant design, actionable financial tools, and user-driven financial education support users along every stage of their financial journeys. Rosa, a financial coaching client, downloaded MyMAF at her first session. She worked through content at her own pace, including modules on credit building, business management, and other resources to fortify her family’s finances. She could access content around self-employment and emergency financial planning, modules designed specifically in response to client needs and feedback. MyMAF was designed to set people like Rosa up for success, offering elegant financial resources that fit complex realities and address unmet financial needs.

6. Financial capability: how is your organization or project creating innovative solutions that arm people with ability to optimize their current and future financial health

MAF believes that the best way to help people build financial resilience is to combine financial education and skills-building with hands-on practice. The MyMAF app provides actionable resources for low income households to achieve these goals; the app offers bilingual financial education, access to personal credit scores via our partnership with OpenFICO®, and tips for improving credit and meeting financial goals. Content is updated regularly to respond to emerging community needs, such as new modules on self-employment for people exploring alternative pathways to income. These digital tools build on the real-world practice clients gain from MAF’s zero interest credit-building loans. Leveraging the power of technology alongside our community-centered approach, MyMAF represents the next critical step in universalizing access to financial empowerment tools and resources.

6a. Please describe what aspect of financial capability your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress.

MAF helps people become visible, active, and successful in the financial mainstream. Success means not only establishing a credit score, but strengthening credit and being able to progress toward financial goals - no matter what they are. We collect a wealth of information to assess client progress toward these objectives, including changes in credit score, debt and savings levels, and financial confidence. We solicit client feedback and conduct internal analysis of user trends to understand what is working, what isn’t, and how we can adapt our offerings to meet our clients’ evolving needs.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

MyMAF stands alone in its purposeful design, offering the best in class technology and functionality for low income users to set personal financial goals such as building savings or paying down debt. MyMAF reflects MAF’s deep interest and investment in leveraging technology for good, and was designed specifically to address the pressing but unmet financial needs in the communities MAF serves. Our community-centered approach relies on low income households—the true experts—to lead us to the innovations and opportunities that will create a meaningful impact in their financial lives.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

As shared in Rosa’s story above, MyMAF is already having a meaningful impact on people’s financial well-being. Despite limited marketing, nearly 1,600 people across more than 30 states downloaded and registered an account in MyMAF within the first year. Roughly 40% of MAF’s loan clients are downloading the app at in-house loan formations, so they can take financial education home with them and access it whenever they need it. In turn, we’re seeing people use these tools: users have viewed 662 financial education modules in the app and 417 people have viewed their FICO score. MyMAF’s user and engagement rates are well above industry benchmarks, underscoring our belief that there is an unmet need and tremendous opportunity for success when people have access to actionable and culturally-relevant financial resources.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

MAF is fortunate to receive support from a strong community of private, corporate, and government funders who each support various aspects of our work. At any given time, we receive support from nearly 30 funders, many of whom have supported MAF on an ongoing basis. This includes a core set of funders who support MAF’s R&D work and are invested in helping MAF universalize tech-based tools for financial empowerment. MyMAF, like all of MAF’s work, is done with an eye toward sustainability. Our growth in recent years has focused on developing in-house expertise and infrastructure that enables us to do this work for many years to come. The MAF Lab, our R&D team, is a prime example of our investment in the long-term success of this project.

10. Team

MAF reflects the people we serve: nearly 90% of staff are people of color, a majority are women, and several are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Likewise, more than half of MAF’s board are people of color and women. Staff bring a wide variety of backgrounds, skills and expertise that enables the organization to grow and evolve with our clients, and while delivering financial programs and services with an extremely high level of quality, empathy, and humility.

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • Nationality
  • Status as a migrant

If you selected “yes” to any of the categories above, please explain how being a member of this group has impacted you and your work?

I was 20 years old when I realized my mother had died because we were poor. She passed away when I was 9, too young to understand the complex and dangerous nature of life in poverty. I see it now as the source of the deep empathy I have for people who suffer and struggle in the world. That is why I’ve dedicated my life to working against poverty, and it is how I became the founding CEO of MAF, a nonprofit organization that strives to create a fair financial marketplace for hardworking families.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Email

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

MyMAF users enter a whole new financial world centered around supporting their financial journeys. For MAF’s loan clients, the journey starts even before they receive the loan: applicants can access nearly 30 financial education videos directly in the app. After receiving the loan, clients can track payments, loan details, and FICO scores at the touch of a button. The app offers tools to support clients outside of the program, including financial education cards and financial action plans that let clients design and work towards personalized goals. Learning with MyMAF happens both ways. Our R&D team, the MAF Lab, is constantly refining the MyMAF app to respond to users’ day-to-day realities. Staff solicit feedback directly from users and pair these insights with user data analysis to adjust, design, and develop new content that responds to clients’ needs.

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Research

13. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

individual donations or gifts _1_%

foundation or NGO grants _56_%

bequests ___%

corporate contributions _32_%

grants or contracts _6_%

earned income (product or services sales, licensing, franchising, consulting, financing, etc.) _5_%

other ___%

14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

From day one, MAF’s funders have stepped forward to support a vision of leveraging technology for good. Our tech-based tools, like MyMAF, are funded by foundations who come back year after year to see how MAF is adapting, revolutionizing, and advancing financial technology. Several funders provide funding for the research, design, and development of user-driven financial education. Others are invested in scaling MyMAF’s reach, providing funding to expand MyMAF presentations and information across national networks. MAF’s nonprofit partnership network (70+ partners across 18 states and Washington DC) also distribute and support the expansion of MyMAF, each paying a modest fee to cover MAF’s technology licensing requirements.

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

MAF uses two distribution strategies to scale MyMAF’s impact to a national level. First, we offer the app to clients served by our network of nonprofit partners who are replicating MAF’s programs in communities nationwide. Second, the app is made available to individuals seeking services from Mexican Consulates across the nation. By focusing on these two channels, MAF ensures that MyMAF reaches the communities for whom the app was specifically designed: low income, immigrant individuals not being served by mainstream financial resources.

16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

MAF’s mission is focused on empowerment: as people become visible, active, and successful in the financial mainstream, they gain control over their financial life and are able to reach their full financial potential. Looking to the future, MAF upholds a vision where people on the margins - the true experts - will lead the financial field toward the programs and solutions that fit their lives. In doing so, MAF is working to uplift our clients as changemakers who can revolutionize the financial field.

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

Launched in 2018, MyMAF has garnered wide client praise but has not yet received awards or recognitions. Under the leadership of Ashoka Fellow and MacArthur Genius Jose Quinonez, MAF’s continued progress in developing financial technology to meet the needs of low income and immigrant communities puts us in a strong position to draw recognition for the app.

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

Partnerships are at the heart of all of our work, and the same holds true of the MyMAF app. MAF’s two primary channels to scale, as noted above, are to distribute the MyMAF app through our national nonprofit partnership network and the system of Mexican Consulates across the U.S. Both represent known and trusted channels for extending our reach to more low income and immigrant communities across the country.

Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

While we appreciate the opportunity to submit a video, staff is focused on providing emergency relief during the COVID-19 crisis. Please consider a prior video about our motivation for this work.

Evaluation results

2 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation:

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 100%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

5. Is this entry ACTIVATING CHANGEMAKING?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

6. FEEDBACK: Highlights

IMPACT POTENTIAL: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) – and you have a concrete plan for future impact. You have specific tools for measuring impact. - 100%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful solutions - 100%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work operationally and financially in the present and future; your plan is specific and you value sustainability. - 0%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You have a good plan on how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 50%

Other option - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: Areas for Improvement

IMPACT POTENTIAL: make sure to provide specific instances of your social impact (or how you plan to measure impact) – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, the main activities/products, and provide evidence of (or plan for) impact evaluation - 0%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: make sure to describe how your solution is unique and innovative – it is helpful to include the research you have done on past solutions and how your solution is different from (and/or builds upon) these. - 0%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 100%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: make sure you describe your plan for how to empower others to become changemakers through your programming, service, or product - 0%

WRITING STYLE. Try to be concise, descriptive, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

Other option - 0%

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