BRINGING LENDING CIRCLES TO SAN DIEGO

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A community-based solution to living in the financial shadows

Whether it is getting a car, renting an apartment, or starting a business, having good credit is foundational for financial mobility in the United States. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, approximately 26 million Americans are credit invisible – lacking any credit history – and another 19 million lack sufficient credit history to warrant a score.
By leveraging people’s own strengths and innovations, San Francisco-based nonprofit Mission Asset Fund (MAF) helps people who are credit invisible step out of the financial shadows. MAF’s signature Lending Circles program formalizes the time-honored tradition of people coming together to lend and borrow money together. In Mexico, lending circles are known as tandas or cundinas. In Brazil, they are known as panderos. And in many parts of Asia, they are known as hui.
Lending Circles bring community members together to form zero-interest, rotating social loans. Paired with financial education and other tech-based tools, Lending Circles help people establish and build credit, save money, and pursue their financial goals. Lending Circles are formed between 6 to 12 people, and payments range from $50 to $200 a month. Each month, the money that people in the Lending Circle contribute is given to one member of the group, until each person in the group has received the money. MAF acts as the loan servicer – ensuring that everyone in the circle receives their loan – and reports the payment activity of each borrower to the three major credit bureaus.
The program works. Nearly 90% of participants who join a Lending Circle without a credit score establish one by the time they complete their loan. Across all borrowers, nearly 80% complete the program with prime or near-prime credit, with the average participant seeing their credit score increase by more than 120 points.
In 2019, with support from the Wells Fargo Foundation, MAF launched the Lending Circles Communities campaign in search of nonprofit organizations interested in collaborating to bring Lending Circles to their communities nationwide. Funding will also provide technology access to MAF’s Lending Circles platform (which disperses and tracks loans) and MyMAF App, as well as training and technical assistance.
“Building credit is essential for people who want to escape the cycle of poverty and this collaboration is an important step to ensuring more San Diegans become credit visible as they pursue their financial goals and dreams,” Antonio Barbosa, Vice President of Social Impact and Sustainability for Wells Fargo shared with GB Magazine.
San Diego-based Casa Familiar was recently selected as one of seven nonprofits nationwide to participate in MAF’s Lending Circles Network. A leading service and community development organization serving South San Diego and San Ysidro communities, Casa Familiar provides more than 30 bilingual programs, addressing critical economic and community development issues impacting the region. Casa Familiar plans to integrate Lending Circles into its Financial Opportunities Center programming.
“Casa is proud to collaborate with MAF and Wells Fargo in a way that celebrates culture, existing community networks and financial savings in the Latino community,” said Lisa Cuestas, CEO of Casa Familiar.
Wells Fargo is proud to support MAF and Casa Familiar in bringing Lending Circles to San Diego, increasing access to zero-interest social loans and education, and helping more people overcome financial barriers and build wealth. For more information visit www.missionassetfund.org/lending-circles

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Esteban Villanueva
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