Archive | October, 2016

CEF Advocacy Choir – UNC Pit Performance

Vote YES for the Affordable Housing Bond! Thanks to UNC for letting us share the word!

Want to join the choir?   Call Yvette at 919-200-0233 or email us at


CEF Advocacy Choir – Strowd Roses 15th-Anniversary

Vote YES for the Affordable Housing Bond! Thanks to Strowd Roses for letting us share the word!

Want to join the choir?   Call Yvette at 919-200-0233 or email us at


Featured OC Hub Program: Document Services

darcia Darcia is not a typical Advocate. Once a week she volunteers her time through CEF’s Orange Community Hub to help Members establish or reestablish identification and documentation. This work of obtaining photos IDs, birth certificates, and social security cards can become very complex, and requires the time of someone like Darcia who can offer her dedication and deep understanding of all different factors at play!

What is the role of documentation?

Documentation is the bedrock or the foundation of life’s needs in our society. It is fundamental to securing housing and employment. It is not a barrier to—as much as it is essential.

How has this work affected your views on poverty?

I always thought of myself as someone who thinks about others, but this work makes me feel the weight and enormity of it all, how overwhelming it must be. We as individuals often live in our own space with our own worries, and then you have people with such different—more vital concerns

What have you learned about the systems that provide and sometimes complicate the process of securing identification?

I have found that people really do want to be helpful for the most part, but there are a lot of rules. Sometimes it can be very challenging when people are not moving forward with the process or it is simply taking forever. One birth certificate was weeks overdue. I called many times and they consistently told me they were processing it, but a week later there would be no progress. The Member stopped coming as a result, so I’m not sure what happened with that case.

How did you get involved?

I was previously involved with Love Chapel Hill, an action-orientated, church-based organization whose mission is to help the homeless within our community. And then I think I met Jon or Maggie(CEF’s Co-founders) at Starbucks and they told me about CEF.

Ultimately, I saw the need. I had friends who were already coming to me asking if I could help them procure documentation for others.  I approached Maggie or Jon and said “what if I came in for a few hours a week and helped members with this sort of thing,” and that is exactly what ended up happening!

What is the hardest case you have worked on?

Often times I am asked to establish ID for individuals who need to keep their whereabouts confidential. My concern has been that an individual trying to get an ID would end up on the public record, and risk them being found. Usually, I tell the individuals that this is a risk that cannot be taken in their situation and that the best course of action is to talk to the attorney general or someone in the state department.

What has been your most inspirational case?

I once had a member that was so persistent in asking me, ‘when am I gonna get it, when am I gonna get it’  because he urgently needed it for a job application. He was so persistent that when I saw him on Columbia Street, he came up to me to tell me he still had not received his ID. At that very moment, I put my stuff down and called up vital records right then and there. He got his ID not long after.



CEF at the 2016 Asset Learning Conference in DC

ALC Selfie
Highlights of our lessons learned, big ideas, and big takeaways!

CEF’s Program Coordinator and Operations Coordinator, Maggie West and Jon Young, rode the Megabus up to DC last month to attend the Assets Learning Conference, hosted by our friends and partners at CFED. Here’s a peek at what got us excited and where we’re taking those ideas next!

Ideas for Better Safe Safe Savings Accounts

  • The Five Friday Month: A simple but catalytic idea from JPMorgan & Chase Institute on Income Volatility! During a month with five Fridays, many households have more expendable income than they do in a typical month. How can we leverage that in CEF’s matched savings programs to encourage increased savings during that time in the calendar?
  • Gamifying Savings: Simple immediate incentives like congratulatory and animated texts can go a long way to reinforcing positive savings behaviors. Gamification of savings is a hot topic too, with exciting work by Commonwealth. Let’s implement these simple incentives!
  • Multi-Generational Saving: So many spaces lifted the importance of whole-family, multi-generational supports, and so many spaces talked about the promise of Children’s Savings Accounts, which got us thinking. What if we could collaborate with fellow providers locally to be able to connect members to Children’s Savings Accounts
  • Kickstarting Savings: We were inspired by CFPB and’s exploration of saving account structures that incentivize deposits in the initial opening months. What if we explored adding in savings account structures that encourage initial deposits towards a ‘starter’ or monthly goal. Habits of savings could be kickstarted by a goal CEF members can reach in a short amount of time (1-3 months).


Models for Collaboration that improve the financial well-being of lower-resource households:

Financial Empowerment through Municipalities

    • Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund emphasizes that financial empowerment services should be provided as a public service by municipalities. Financial counselors one-on-one supports available writ-large, and the city contracts with nonprofit organizations to implement the program. Evaluation results coming shortly, but all signs point to fantastic outcomes!
  • Credit Building through Rent Reporting:
    • AHC, Inc. of Greater Baltimore has integrated financial coaching, incentivized savings, incentivized automatic bill-pay, and rent reporting for their tenants
  • Partner with Public Utility companies to offer credit and cash-flow coaching!
    • In the LIFT-UP Model utility companies worked closely with financial empowerment centers to refer customers who were behind on their water bill specifically in order to avoid late fees, reconnect fees, or other fees. Evaluation showed a reduction in overall debt and an increase in on-time payments from participants.


From Crisis to Financial Stability

CEF’s Maggie West presented on a panel for “From Crisis to Financial Stability” at the conference!

Financial apps are “in,” and CEF has some cool tools to add to the mix!

  • Lots of apps (#fintech) are being rolled out to make financial coaching and saving more accessible to providers and consumers alike. In the context of the larger, nationally scaled world of apps, CEF’s ability to create technological solutions that are hyper-relevant to our local community (like is rare and valuable.

Invaluable research and analysis about :

  • According to a Federal Reserve Survey, about 46 percent of Americans said they did not have enough money to cover a $400 emergency expense. Our Safe Savings Accounts and Renter’s Savings Accounts have even more relevance than we could have guessed! Almost half of households in the country could benefit from this targeted and structured opportunity to save towards both short-term and longer-term goals.
  • 60% of US households receive their income not on a monthly schedule (e.g. weekly or bi-weekly) while 60% of household expenses are billed on a monthly basis. This fundamental mismatch exacerbates household financial insecurity. This mismatch leads to opportunity in our financial coaching in terms of how we support members in cash-flow budgeting. For example, if members receive their income bi-monthly, bi-monthly payments of bills might make more sense for their cash flow.
  • The Ever-Growing Gap details the need for transformative policy change in order to truly end the racial wealth divide, showing that if we continue at similar rates to date, “Black families would not reach wealth parity with White households until the year 2241.” 228 years! Read the report to learn more about CFED’s policy recommendations.

So many ideas, sessions, and conversations inspired us to deeper reflection and thoughtful action…. far too many to name here! Moreover, the opportunity to connect with groups from all over the country who share our commitment to improving financial well-being through creative and responsive strategies was reinvigorating and exciting!

CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

Chapel Hill: 919-200-0233 Durham: 919-797-9233