How One Prominent Community Foundation Approaches Financial Inclusion

Banks and insurance companies aren't the only ones jumping on the financial inclusion funding bandwagon these days; community foundations are throwing their hats into the ring now, too. One of the largest and most influential community foundations in California, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, just committed $865,000 to boost financial education in the region, to be spread across 28 local organizations.

SVCF’s financial inclusion grantmaking is part of its economic security program, which has two goals:

  1. Financial education and asset building programs and services, to increase the availability of sound financial information and savings programs for low- and moderate-income families and individuals
  2. Anti-payday-lending policy advocacy, promoting advocacy, policy and awareness-raising activities that curb predatory payday lending practices and support the development of cost-effective alternatives

“As the cost of living in Silicon Valley has increased, our grants to deliver financial education and asset building programs for low-income people have grown even more important,” Manuel Santamaría, vice president of strategic initiatives and grantmaking for SVCF, said in a press release. “Likewise, SVCF’s grants to improve residents’ access to affordable housing and public transit help address very timely needs across the Silicon Valley community.”

Financial inclusion saw the largest show of support in SVCF’s recent $1.6 million grant commitment, marginally beating out its “building strong communities” initiative, which funds causes related to affordable housing, regional planning, transit, and access to green spaces.

In the most recent grant cycle, these are the three qualities that SVCF has sought in new financial education and asset-building grantee programs:

  • Expand effective existing programs that demonstrate a combined financial education and asset-building approach and can be scaled to impact larger numbers of individuals
  • Introduce pilot interventions that show the potential for breaking new ground in the financial education and asset development area
  • Demonstrate innovation in the way programs are conceived, structured or delivered in order to increase efficiency and scale

As with almost all of SVCF’s funding, its support for financial education and asset-building assistance is focused on low- and middle-income families living in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. Recent grantees include Samaritan House ($40,000 for a bilingual, progressive, in-house financial coaching program) and the AnewAmerica Community Corporation ($15,000 for tax preparation assistance, financial literacy education and one-on-one counseling).

All of these types of grants have been between $10,000 and $80,000 lately. And these are some trends that we’re seeing among recent grantees:

  • Single mothers
  • Low-income immigrants
  • Homeless families
  • Agricultural working families
  • Reducing debt/repairing credit
  • Tax preparation services

Although SVCF has been focusing some recent efforts on making adults self-sufficient in their two key counties, there's definitely a youth component to the community funder's grantmaking lately too. SVCF has supported several grantees working on youth financial education, including the following: Family Supportive Housing ($25,000), which provides financial education and coaching to adults and youth in transitional housing; Juma Ventures ($25,000); MyPath in partnership with YearUp San Jose ($35,000); San Jose State University’s CommUniverCity Money Matters Program for adults and youth ($30,000); Puente de la Costa Sur ($15,000); and support for SparkPoint Centers at Cañada College, Skyline College, and Redwood City Public Schools ($40,000 in the current round).

You can view a full list of recent financial education grantees on the SVCF website.