Meet our members! AFN’s greatest asset is our members—a diverse network of national, regional, and community-based foundations, financial institutions, and grantmakers—investing in advancing equitable wealth building and economic mobility. Check back each month and meet your peers!
1: What is the mission of your organization and how is advancing equitable wealth building and economic mobility incorporated into the work?
We are focused on driving inclusive economic mobility for underserved and underrepresented communities around the world. To achieve this, we focus our work on three core portfolios: Economic Inclusion, Financial Health, and Resilient Communities.
These three core portfolios cover everything from upskilling and reskilling talent to being competitive in a new economy, enabling financial resiliency through budget management, and expanding access to physical and mental well-being resources and support for environmental causes. The breadth of our grantmaking allows us to tackle the issue along with its root causes. By addressing the issue through strategic philanthropy, innovation funding, and field-building efforts, we can focus on addressing acute needs and system-level solutions while also investing in the research and the next generation of leaders that are critical for future solutions.
2: How does your organization currently or plan to explicitly and intentionally include and empower people of color in the design of your policies and strategies to close the racial wealth gap?
On June 19th, we launched our Accelerating Commitment to Equity Innovation Fund (or ACE Innovation Fund) which will deploy $10 million in funding to leaders and non-profit organizations who are proximate to the issue and who have visionary, bold ideas to address income and wealth inequality in the U.S.
At MetLife Foundation, we recognize that the growing income and wealth gap is more than the accumulation of income or assets that an individual has or has access to. It’s the totality of access to resources, services, opportunities, and goods that an individual must rightfully have to live, thrive and reach their full potential.
This led us to select focus areas for our ACE Innovation Fund including Financial Security and Longevity; Small Business Growth and Job Creation; Narrative Change; Homeownership, Affordable Housing and Community Revitalization; Climate and Environmental Justice; and Good Jobs.
3: Where are we lacking investments as a sector that will result in greater economic equity, and how can we address the gap?
A few years ago, Echoing Green and Bridgespan collaborated on research looking at racial disparity in the funding environment. What they found was the success of philanthropy was being hindered by the lack of consideration for lived experiences or proximity to the issues when it came to identifying leaders and solutions for their funding. Their findings confirmed what should have been more widely known and practiced – those who personally understand the experience of a community and the issues they face, are those best suited to solve the problem.
The findings and this statement still ring true and are why we must support those proximate to the issues we are focused on solving, which are most often Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) leaders.
One way we do this is by seeking out and funding organizations and leaders who have authentic relationships with the communities they focus on. Once we’ve established these connections, we focus on empowering the individuals to give them resources that they may not have had access to before. This includes general operating support and flexible funding to ensure leaders have agency to decide where they allocate their funding.
4: Share a question you would like to raise to your funder colleagues.
How are you navigating this unprecedented moment in time while ensuring self-care for you and your staff?
5: What have been some of the biggest benefits of being part of the Asset Funders Network?
The network. We learn and engage with you and our collective action is something we are proud to be a part of. We cannot do this work alone or in a silo. To have colleagues to lean on and learn from is important to the work we do everyday at the Foundation.
6: What books are you reading and what do you like about it?
I typically read 2-3 books at one time. Most recently I read, “Poverty, by America” by Matthew Desmond and “Know your Price” by Andre M. Perry. These books are deep. Both highlight the experiences of BIPOC people, the systemic challenges that our communities continue to face, and ideas/solutions on how to break down these barriers to ensure that all people can live with dignity and to their full potential.
About Tia Hodges, President and CEO of MetLife Foundation and Head of Corporate Giving and Employee Volunteerism at MetLife.
Tia Hodges has dedicated nearly 20 years to creating and implementing strategies that drive systemic change at the intersection of philanthropy, non-profit, and social impact sectors to improve social and economic progress in communities across the U.S. She joined the MetLife Foundation in July 2021 to lead the strategic evolution and grantmaking efforts of the Foundation serving individuals and communities in more than 37 countries around the world. Tia serves on the board of Living Cities, MetLife Foundation Korea, and MetLife Foundation Mexico. She serves as an Adjunct Professor at NYU.