Our April 2016 newsletter includes:

  • The welcoming of Jobi Cates leading the Midwest Region.
  • A Strategy Spotlight, “Building Wealth Through Tax Reform: Opportunities for Grantmakers,” written by Asset Buildings Strategies founder, Heather McCulloch, shines a particular bright light on state tax reform efforts.
  • A study from Y & H Soda Foundation on Self-Help’s “Fresh Start,” a funding strategy demonstrating lots of promise.
  • The report “State of the States” which tracks 15 key indicators that address poverty and opportunity.
  • An op-ed on the under-recognized role that philanthropy has to play in building more equitable inclusive cities and metros.
  • A report from D5, “State of the Work,” which highlights voices of leaders in the field who share their stories of change and progress.
  • A brief from Assets Education & Inclusion (AEDI) “Identifying Short Term Outcome Metrics for Evaluating Whether Children’s Savings Accounts Programs Are on Track”
  • A report from the FIELD at The Aspen Institute, “U.S. Microenterprise Census Highlights,” which highlights a unique source of information on the national microenterprise industry.
  • A report from Grantmakers Income Security Taskforce, “Grantmakers In Health.” a supplement on innovations in health equity which promises strategies for building healthy communities.
  • An accompanying brief from AFN, “Women and Wealth: Insights for Grantmakers for investment,” which has recommendations and best practices to help reduce the women’s wealth gap.
  • and of course a letter from Joe Antolin, AFN Executive Director


APRIL 2016

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. Because the funds we entrust to the public
sector help create the circumstances and infrastructure for a strong society, we each have a stake to be an advocate for making our society stronger. Philanthropic investments can and should inform the policy choices reflected in the tax code.

The nature and width of the wealth gap (racial, ethnic, and gender) are well documented. The interest in closing the gaps is growing. Increasingly, AFN funders are recommitting to reinvigorate opportunity and the prospect of sustained prosperity by investing in strategies that help to narrow the gender and racial wealth gaps. For some, it is a matter of justice and equity; for others, it reflects sound economic principles to sustain future prosperity, mobility, and security.

What increasingly is being recognized is that opportunity and mobility depend not just on individual aspirations and behavior, but also on the systems affecting the individual over his or her lifespan. Funders invest in, and prove the effectiveness of, strategies that support change. That also informs public policy as a key lever of influence and change. Through philanthropy, ideas are tested and barriers are identified. Philanthropic investments are needed to restrict wealth stripping predatory schemes, make small-dollar loans available, prevent or reduce college debt, improve health outcomes through wealth building, and support the array of new products and consumer-informed approaches to support prosperity. While no single funder can fund on a statewide or nationwide scale, changes in public policy can make a sound product more readily available, remove a regulatory barrier, identify a needed regulation to protect against excess and abuse, and incentivize desired wealth-building behavior.

In that vein, this month AFN released a Strategy Spotlight for funders, Building Wealth through
Tax Reform, focusing on the effects of tax policy at the state and federal levels and the importance of supporting efforts to educate officials on the beneficial effect tax policy incentives
and preferences can have on wealth-building efforts by low- and middle-income households. It
is important to realize that the federal system is upside down when it comes to its wealth-
building incentives. But realizing federal tax policy change remains slow, funders play an
important role as agents of change by supporting efforts informing decision makers of what is
needed while also supporting efforts to increase opportunity and narrow the wealth gaps.
Philanthropic support to inform change in state tax systems will affect millions of people and
allow states to be leaders in testing and proving innovative replicable tax policy approaches to
support asset building.

To narrow the wealth gaps, philanthropy needs to not only support innovations affirming
aspiration and increasing capability, but also support efforts to move public policy back to
supporting low- and middle-income households’ efforts to build wealth and economic security.

Joseph A. Antolín
Executive Director
Asset Funders Network