Our May 2017 newsletter includes:

  • A report from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation “Medical Expenses Widen Gender Wealth Gap”
  • Ida Rademacher’s opening remarks from her address: “The Assets Movement at a Moment of Reckoning” from our May 2017 grantmaker conference
  • The “The Health and Wealth Connection” Brief
  • A letter from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
  • A report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s (CEP), “Shifting
    Winds: Foundations Respond to a New Political Context”
  • A report from the Aspen FIELD institute, “The Promise of Shared Platforms for the Microenterprise Industry,”
  • A letter from the Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ) sponsored by the National Council of Nonprofits on the Johnson Amendment
  • Resources introduced by the Tax Alliance for Economic Mobility
  • A new report from the Brown School at Washington University St. Louis, “Behavioral Interventions to Increase Tax-Time Saving: Evidence from a National Randomized Trial,” about the Refund to Savings Initiative
  • Multiple studies addressing different aspects of the Wealth Gap, including Gender and Race
  • An interview, from PolicyLink President Michael McAfee with Thomas Shapiro, author of “Toxic Inequality: How America’s Wealth Gap Destroys Mobility, Deepens the Racial Divide, and Threatens Our Future”
  • and of course a letter from Joe Antolin, AFN Executive Director.


MAY 2017

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. Ida Rademacher, Executive Director, Financial Security Program at The Aspen Institute, kicked off the conference with provocative and insightful remarks that framed our agenda and provided the thought process for the path upon which we need to move forward.

Her analogy continues to resonate that our efforts are like having to address the effects both of weather and of climate for how philanthropy and non-profits need to work with low and middle income households in addressing short term financial instability and long term wealth building.

We need to acknowledge and intentionally address both the short term while working on creating opportunities that create long term assets and much needed systemic change.

Rev. Starsky Wilson, President and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation, delivered an equally provocative call to action in his keynote. Rev. Wilson started his talk by declaring he was a children and youth funder, not an asset funder. As he described the foundation’s goals and the realities confronting his community of children and youth, he described their realization that community wealth mattered. His message was clear:

  • We have to increase affordable housing, home ownership, and business ownership as vehicles for creativity and drive;
  • We have to plan for increasing intergenerational transfers of wealth to reduce risk for future children;
  • We need good jobs if that post-secondary training is to have impact, yet those jobs exist only where the market supports those jobs;
  • We need the presence of credit unions and banks instead of check cashiers and predatory lenders; and
  • We need to have a tax base to support local government services instead of the atrocity of levying fines and imprisonment to support local government.

Rev. Wilson demonstrated how the interrelated list of forces and systems needing to be changed with an equity lens for the children and youth make it a values-based imperative that he and anyone committed to children and youth are indeed an asset funder.

Throughout the week we shared, discussed, learned, and reflected on the latest research and effective asset-building strategies. It is these long and short term strategies that make for promising investments from helping narrow the racial wealth gap, framing the business case for employee wealth building opportunities, and integrating immigrants into their full wealth building capacity in their communities to growing the field of financial coaching, developing micro and small business ownership opportunities, and bridging the connection between wealth and health.

Indeed, one of the a-ha moments was that philanthropy is leading the way in understanding that poverty is not merely about income and the relationship to the federal poverty line as most Federal government programs reflect. Instead, philanthropy is demonstrating that it is more useful to think about and address the household balance sheet to define who benefits from philanthropic investments. Today’s reality is that achieving “0” on the household balance sheet is a win for far too many struggling households. Our work is focused on the many in this country who are working and self-identify as middle class, yet who are really asset poor. Thus, the work before us is as daunting and pervasive as any challenge we have faced.

The conference confirmed the critically important value of active philanthropic engagement and investment in asset building. If philanthropy leads, the results will reflect the needed solutions for future public and private investments.

Join AFN; invest in asset building in your portfolio, increase future orientation of our children and youth, increase the potential intergenerational transfer of wealth in low and moderate income households, and use an equity lens so that everyone contributes and achieves their fullest potential.

Joseph A. Antolín
Executive Director
Asset Funders Network