San Francisco-based nonprofit EARN is a nationally recognized pioneer in the movement to empower the working poor with asset-building financial tools, giving its clients a real fighting chance to climb the economic ladder.
Maria Sanchez, a working mother from San Francisco's Mission District, dreamt of moving her family into a home of their own. "We saw our friends and family being displaced, and we didn't want that for our children," she says. "We wanted security and stability."
But like many of the nation's working poor, Maria and her husband didn't have enough for a down payment, and the monthly rent was keeping their family on an economic hamster wheel.
EARN offered her a way out. Maria explains, "I just created a goal that I knew would change the rest of my life. And EARN made it easy for me."
EARN offers financial management training, matched savings accounts, and connections to mainstream financial services and products to families like Maria's. The cornerstone of EARN's offering is the Individual Development Account, or IDA. IDAs are matched savings accounts, like 401ks, designed to help working poor families accumulate money to invest in high return assets such as home ownership, small businesses development, or post-secondary education.
In its three years of existence, EARN built one of the largest IDA initiatives in the nation, making a high value impact with a staff of only five full-time employees. For example, the first 30 families to complete EARN's savings program leveraged nearly $3 million in home mortgages, small business loans, and financial assistance for post secondary education, with an investment of just over $100,000.
EARN's work confronts some of nation's most disturbing economic realities -- 26% of white children, 52% of African-American children, and 54% of Hispanic children start life in households without any resources for investment, while the richest 1% of Americans now hold 47% of the nations financial wealth.
"More and more people are asking if America is still the land of opportunity," says EARN executive director Ben Mangan. "EARN is reviving the American dream and making it something to truly believe in again."
Warren Hellman, co-founder of Hellman & Friedman, a Director of NASDAQ Stock Market and an investor in EARN, explained his support for EARN's work: "When you provide working people the same opportunities others have to save and invest in assets you build stronger families and communities."
EARN also works with its financial partner Citibank to lead innovation in the nonprofit financial services arena. Core to EARN's mandate is using market principles to build a replicable model that will drive the large scale provision of asset-building products and services. EARN seeks to transform the IDA into a financial product as widely used by the working poor as the 401k or IRA are used by middle and upper-income people.
Innovating with market principles is only half the battle -- influencing public policy is the other critical ingredient to drive sustainable change in asset building for the poor. With funding from the Ford, Mott and Levi Straus Foundations, EARN successfully launched a statewide asset policy venture called the Asset Policy Initiative of California (APIC). APIC has begun driving asset building policy in California -- by bringing together leaders from all sectors to build a policy agenda, and to educate important stakeholders.
EARN is the only asset-building organization in the nation that is working simultaneously to serve the poor, innovate scalable solutions, and influence policy. With an organizational culture rooted in constant innovation and bold leadership, EARN is redefining the way America fights poverty.
EARN also offers a unique opportunity to donors, giving them a powerful way to invest in the future. As Larry Stupski, former Vice Chair of the Charles Schwab Corporation and an EARN investor explains, "EARN provides tools for long-term, multigenerational change."
Because EARN has such strong corporate and foundation support for its work, EARN is able to promise its donors that 100% of their donation will be used to match the savings of someone who works but remains poor, helping them permanently climb out of poverty.
Right now, because EARN has been given a million dollar challenge grant by the federal government every dollar donated to EARN will be matched twice, once by the federal government and once by an EARN Saver who is putting money aside to make their dreams come true.
That means when you invest in an EARN Saver now, your investment is guaranteed to triple -- and it will continue to pay dividends for generations to come.
The above information was provided by the profiled organization.