FROM THE DIRECTOR
At AFN, exploring the promise of innovative asset building to advance lasting equity and economic justice defines our purpose.
Asset building, or equitable wealth building, is essential to address economic insecurity, advance health wealth across generations, foster realizable post-secondary aspirations, and expand the availability of community based wealth building tools.
These efforts depend on honest research shining a light on the systemic barriers, policy decisions, and historic practices that led this nation to where we find ourselves. Today’s economic forces are too often creating broad and inequitable asset poverty, imposing crushing medical and student-loan debt, enabling governmental wealth stripping through fees and fines, and preserving racial/gender wealth gaps. The philanthropic counterweight to these forces informs innovation and impartial assessments, allowing peers to think about and test solutions in partnership with communities. In this way, AFN and its members are advancing economic opportunity and prosperity for low and moderate income people in ways that also effectively promote economic justice and equity.
Looking back, 2019 was a banner year for AFN. Our Board guided AFN to become an independent 501c3 organization, a key milestone. The Board and staff also developed a new three year strategic plan providing a clear direction forward that includes growing our regional chapters and developing content in each of the seven issue domains relevant to asset building.
The 2019 national grantmakers conference in San Antonio was again a sold-out event. Funders and financial institutions drew inspiration from their peers, networked with colleagues, and engaged in sessions that fostered critical thinking about key systemic issues. We have excitedly begun to plan for the 2021 Conference in Oakland, CA. Consider joining AFN and its planning committee or to attend and not miss the Spring 2021conference! Watch for the Save-the-Date announcement coming soon.
All through the year, AFN was strengthened with membership growth. Our members include community foundations, traditional foundations, health and women’s funders, CDFIs, credit unions, and financial institutions of varying sizes seeking to inform, learn, and build asset building approaches with their peers. Each of their voices add a new energy and urgency to our work.
Finally, the second half of 2019 programming was our most productive. Our briefs included:
- Investing in the Future of our Community: CSA 2019
- Pioneering Health and Wealth Integration for Children 2019
- When a Job is Not Enough 2019 (exploring asset building through employers)
- Tackling Debt: Addressing the Racial Wealth Gap in the South
- Insights Aspirations and Action: San Antonio (a review of strengths and actions to eliminate gaps in asset building efforts)
- CSA Survey of Private and Public Funding 2019
- 2019 Financial Coaching Census
- Unlocking Assets: Building Women’s Wealth Through Business Ownership
As we look forward, AFN regional chapters and the partners in the Southern Partnership to Reduce Debt will continue to identify and raise up efforts that intentionally increase equity and close racial and gender wealth gaps. Together, our efforts will build on the input from our members.
In 2020, AFN will be exploring new regional chapters of funders even as we learn from existing regions and new members. And, in response to feedback from members, we are convening a peer-learning exchange for regional members and place-based funders on June 11-12 in Chicago. Look for more information coming soon. Our Board remains a dynamic source of leadership, adding several new voices this year. We hope you join the table and help build upon the effort to a more equitable and stable future regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or geography.