AFN Newsletter Archive
At Asset Funders Network (AFN), it is very exciting for all of us to have philanthropy step up its regional leadership. As they do so, they and AFN can work to align efforts to move the needle together in their region and community. Last month, in San Antonio, Texas and in Santa Fe/Albuquerque, New Mexico, convenings of regional funders met and decided to establish formal regional AFNs, joining our growing network. By joining AFN, each regional adopted the mission of increasing opportunity and prosperity for low and moderate income household through philanthropy.
At the national, regional and local levels, AFN members and partners are committing to the real work necessary to change the course and create opportunity for low and middle income households. We are doing so even while national political leaders disconcertingly seek to cut taxes on the wealthiest (adhering to the unfounded belief that such tax policy invigorates the economy - even through recent events in Kansas reflect yet another state where this approach has failed), reduce the support for affordable or publicly funded health insurance, reduce support for food programs supplementing the wages of workers and feeding children and otherwise make economic instability greater.
As I reflect on the biennial AFN Grantmakers Conference in Indianapolis, Accelerating Ideas Into Action, I appreciate the useful, informative, engaging conversations among funders that created an exhilarating event. Calls to action, along with concrete steps philanthropy can take, were woven throughout. The speakers challenged, and funders challenged their peers in discussions to think about the inflection point we are at - to strongly consider funding not only the transactional but also the transformational.
Over the life course, health outcomes are achieved in the United States in ways that reflect a person's and household's financial security, disposable income and wealth. AFN's most recent brief, " The Health and Wealth Connection: Opportunities for Investment Across the Life Course", explores this concept. Make sure to catch one of AFN's local convenings across the country to discuss alignment and the integration of efforts moving across sectors in partnership. In the end, AFN believes this approach, to support low and moderate-income households and strengthen communities to build wealth and health, holds real promise.
Like many of you, the members of AFN and the AFN Steering Committee - national and regional - are alertly monitoring, reacting to and anticipating change caused by the Federal government. The foundation for all of our deliberations remains the same bedrock principles that have guided philanthropy throughout the development of asset building strategies - inclusion, security, opportunity, equity and prosperity. Reflecting our principal of meaningful universality -- everyone, every child and every adult, regardless of skin color, religion, ethnicity, primary language, gender, sexual orientation, or inherited wealth is in this together - we all depend on each other and face intertwined challenges. For example, the senior needs a vibrant and well-paid workforce to help sustain the retirement they counted on with Social Security, Medicare, and a safe thriving community. Similarly, every child requires support and challenges to develop into their best, just as every immigrant should experience acceptance for their talents, entrepreneurial drive and potential contributions.
"We are challenged to work passionately and unrelentingly to get rid of racial injustice in all its dimensions. Racial injustice is ... America's shame." Dr. Martin Luther King (1965) Fifty years after Dr. King spoke of the need to remain awake during the great revolution to rid America of racial injustice we still have much work to do. While the contours of the challenges to rid our communities and the nation of racial injustice have evolved, the dimensions -- particularly as related to education, health, and wealth -- continue to require passionate and unrelenting commitment to catalyze long-term change and opportunity.
As 2016 draws to a close, we know that the future will continue to bring change. While not all of it will be welcome, with renewed energy and focus on our goals, philanthropy will be the key catalyst in advancing increased economic opportunity and prosperity for low and middle-income households. AFN members will remain committed to creating economic opportunities for low and moderate-income households struggling to build savings, buy a house, pay their student loans, avoid predatory lenders, or save for retirement. What happens in Washington D.C. will undoubtedly have an effect, but will unlikely derail the long-term outcomes or the importance of local solutions invested in by financial institutions, community philanthropy, private employers, asset building non-profits, and local government.
October 2016 - Philanthropy's Role in Creating a Pathway Regardless of Presidential Election Results
Every four years, our nation asks the populace eligible to vote to become informed and democratically choose a President who represents a pathway as well as the face of the nation going forward. For just the third time in our history, the electorate can choose a person who is not a White man. This new diversity in Presidential Candidates is both a reflection of the nation's growing diversity and an embrace, if halting, of inclusiveness. Indeed, diversity and inclusiveness are great strengths we all value.
AFN and it's members are committed to expanding opportunity and prosperity for everyone. Our shared economic prosperity depends on an expanding and inclusive economy which allows workers to earn a living that provides disposable income for investment in assets. Given our changing demographics, expanding opportunity means affirmatively reversing the legal and systemic bias of the past with investments that intentionally close the racial and ethnic wealth gaps and help those with the desire, talent and will to succeed by connecting them to the necessary tools and products. This effort requires parallel avenues to be holistic, patience to see the results over time, and creativity to reverse systemic bias and barriers-after all that is a key role for our philanthropic sector.
Each of us cares about the future of our country and understands that the advancement of economic justice and racial equity is necessary to increase opportunity and prosperity and eliminate the systemic barriers that sustain our current racial, ethnic and gender wealth gaps. All of us are impacted, as well, by the recent violence in our country, the unjustified shootings in the past month of police officers, the high profile string of shootings of black men over the past two years by law enforcement, and the increasingly violent rhetoric against communities of color. Solutions require us to listen to one another, appreciate the impact of our Nation's history, and acknowledge the underlying truths raised by the advocacy of Black Lives Matter. The role of philanthropy has and continues to lead the way.
AFN's purpose to advance economic opportunity and prosperity for low and moderate income people is advanced with each funder's investment designed to alleviate poverty. Whether a funder prefers the framework of financial health, financial inclusion, the hierarchy of needs, or increasing opportunity, the investments build on the strengths of the individual by engaging, guiding, and reinforcing their actions to build financial security and wealth. These investments increase the potential for a family to be visible to, and more active with, the right products offered by financial institutions and public-private opportunities. As complex as that is, the sector has a comfort level with helping individuals better navigate existing systems.
Is this enough?
AFN recently updated its mission to more clearly direct and define the focus on realizing economic opportunity and prosperity for low and moderate income people through philanthropy. We did so to clarify our purpose, recognizing that 6 out of 10 people deemed the American Dream "impossible" to achieve (as noted in a 2014 CNN Money Poll).
Like many of you, I was hitting "send" on my tax return this month, leading me to think about the act of faith it represents. In essence, I am agreeing to support the government with a portion of my earnings because it will be used (more or less) for the common good.
"The opposite of poverty is not wealth ... the opposite of poverty is justice." Bryan Stevenson AFN members are a strategic vanguard for expanding justice and opportunity in America. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that for the first time the proportion of annual family income in college debt for those earning $30,000 or less exceeded 50%.
"January has always offered a time to assess where we have been and where we are going. For those of us seeking to increase economic security, it is an especially inspiring month as we consider the legacy to all of us left by Dr. Martin Luther King. When you look past the known speeches, Dr. King increasingly described a moral revolution requiring all of us to act and rid our economic and social institutions of racial injustice...."
November 2015 - Education: the Foundation of a Better Life
September 2015 - Funders Finding Strength through Shared Strategies
July 2015 - Can Philanthropy Close the Racial and Ethnic Wealth Gaps?
June 2015 - Innovation Standing Alone Does Not Achieve Change
May 2015 - Philanthropy, A Catalyst for Change
April 2015 - Strategies that Move the Needle
February 2015 - Meeting the Mission
November 2014 - Integrating Across Sectors
September 2014 - Asset Building Gaining Traction Nationally
July 2014 - Children's Savings Accounts: Reinvigorate the American Dream
May 2014 - Financial Coaching: Growing Strategy to Increase Financial Security
April 2014 - The Power of Credit: A Needed Intervention
February 2014 - Strengthening the Economy through Microbusiness
December 2013 - Philanthropy, Asset Building, and the American Ideal
July 2013 - "Income from work gets you by, but building assets gets you ahead!"