Utilizing a model developed by Cities for Financial Empowerment we created Financial Empowerment to improve the financial lives of families.

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  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States


  • Woman

Where are you making a difference?

San Antonio, Texas and surrounding communities

Focus Areas (required)

  • Development & Prosperity

Date Started


Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)


  • $1m - $5m

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

Twitter URL

Facebook URL

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.

Our work is about listening to the people we serve and building trust. We are not the experts in their lives - they are the experts. They have the answers to the problems and issues they are facing and our job is to help them uncover the answers and help them move to financial stability and sustainability. People do not care how much we know until we show them how much we care!

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Poverty has been around for many many years and we do not spend time teaching our children how to deal with finances. We also do not teach people how to get ahead in this world in which we live. Education and building assets is the way out of poverty and we help people figure out these things and make them real.

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

Integrating Financial Empowerment services into myriad anti-poverty service streams has the potential to improve individuals and families financial lives. A stable financial foundation is a fundamental step in fighting poverty, allowing individuals and families to more fully benefit from programs designed to help with workforce development and other social service needs. Ultimate impact is to move families from poverty to long term economic security. This is accomplished via a holistic approach that connects financial counseling/coaching with increased educational & occupational skills training and stabilizing income supports. The complexity of the consumer financial marketplace, the continued presence of predatory financial products and services, and the role that financial instability can play in reversing other social service gains are all critical issues when working with low to moderate income families. But, while cities know that financially stable residents are critical to their success, only in recent years have they begun to embrace financial capability and asset-building strategies. We have begun to see real behavioral change that will move the needle in this arena.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

Financial Empowerment improves the economic status of our lower income working families by teaching them how to build, save, and protect financial assets. We do this in a holistic manner that connects our one-on-one financial counseling with increased educational and occupational skills and stabilizing income support such as transportation, rent, utility assistance etc. Financial Empowerment was established as an impact organization and is located in one of the poorest communities in the nation. We have scaled this high-impact model through integration within Family Service and through continued collaboration with current partners: Alamo Colleges, SAHA, UW's Dual Gen program, Methodist Healthcare Ministries and Goodwill Industries. We ensure vulnerable, low-income families have access to essential financial education and asset accumulation services.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

We focus on an mostly minority (Latino and African American) and female population that is under-educated and under-employed. Each year we serve approximately 2,000 low-to moderate income individuals and families.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • geography
  • immigration status
  • work status
  • language
  • race/ethnicity
  • socio-economic class

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

Currently, we are the only organization in the area focusing on Financial Capability. There are other local organizations that provide financial education but this does not historically have the impact that our Financial Empowerment work has been able to measure.

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

In a 3 year evaluation of our program Focus Group discussions revealed that working with us made significant contributions to participants' financial health in ways not measured by the outcomes data. Broadly they reported that working with a counselor reduced financial stress & improved emotional health; they had more confidence & self-efficacy & developed financial decision making skills. Many described their experience with us as a transformative stress reducing experience that gave them tools to take control of their finances and helped them learn to speak to their spouse and children about finances. Over the course of 5 years we helped our participants reduce $2.2 million in debt; save$1 Million. In 2017 we served 1,990 provided 3,489 counseling sessions. Additionally, we achieved these outcomes: Pre-homeownership counseling-160;159 increased credit score; 316 reduced debt-10%.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

We have scaled this high-impact model through integration within Family Service and through continued collaboration with current partners: Alamo Colleges, SAHA, UW's Dual Gen program, Methodist Healthcare Ministries and Goodwill Industries. We have established integration through a pilot in our Head Start program. We have begun integration into four departments within our existing agency. We have worked closely with our partners to integrate within their organizations which provide education, housing services and health services.

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Organizational Growth
  • Large Scale Partnerships

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

As we move further toward sustainability we are grappling with scalability for the project. Over the next year we will consider some strategies for scaling which will include a Training and revenue generation components. With the changing political climate we must be prepared for changes in federal funding streams and prepare beyond these sources. With both a Training and revenue generation component we will be better able to handle reduction in governmental funding streams.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

The team is led by a manager with over 20 years community development and program development experience. We have 8 financial counselors with diverse backgrounds working full time on the project and 2 Intake staff that assist with intake, data entry and file creation. We partner with the Public Ally program to provide us with 2 Outreach/Recruitment staff and this has proven to be a cost effective measure for us.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)
  • Hispanic, Latino/a, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)
  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc)
  • Native American or Alaska Native (for example: Navajo Nation, Blackfeet Tribe, Mayan, Aztec, Native Village of Barrow Inupial Traditional Government, Nome Eskimo Community)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges

1 comment

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Photo of Lynn

you are doing great work in a community that needs it.