The Fountain Fund and CBA Fund: Enabling Life-Changing Opportunities Through Small Dollar Loans

BACKGROUND

Anthony Hingle was ready for a new beginning.

Sentenced for a felony in 1988, he spent 32 years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary (commonly known as Angola). After a vacated conviction and amended charge, he was released in April, 2021 on time already served.  

 Embracing his second chance, Mr. Hingle found employment at VOTE (Voice of the Experienced), an organization dedicated to advocating and organizing for criminal justice reform. A short commute from his home, the job offered him the promise of reacclimating to society while earning a living wage for his family. 

Keyonna White b&w

CHALLENGE

Mr. Hingle and his wife owned two vehicles, but when a minor accident left them without the means to repair his car, they had to make do the best they could with only one. 

Commuting to his job became much more difficult, a situation that impacted his entire family.

"We had to share one vehicle, but my wife and I worked on opposite sides of the city," he explained. "With a car, it would take me 20 minutes to get to work, but on a bus, it took me an hour and a half and it wasn't always reliable. Once I had to have a coworker pick me up because the bus was late. And I couldn't drop off my granddaughter at school like I could if I was driving."   

 Thinking back on that time, "it was a real strain on the family, being forced to share one car," Mr. Hingle recalled.   

"We had to share one vehicle, but my wife and I worked on opposite sides of the city. With a car, it would take me 20 minutes to get to work, but on a bus, it took me an hour and a half and it wasn't always reliable. Once I had to have a coworker pick me up because the bus was late. And I couldn't drop off my granddaughter at school like I could if I was driving."

Anthony Hingle

"Many people tell us that it's the first time someone has believed in them, the first time someone trusted them. You can see the change in their confidence."

Paul Yates
Director of Economic Empowerment at the Fountain Fund

SOLUTION

The Fountain Fund and CBA Fund: Enabling Life-Changing Opportunities Through Small Dollar Loans

 Mr. Hingle had heard about the Fountain Fund from another formerly incarcerated individual, who said the organization may be of help by providing money for a car repair loan. 

 The Fountain Fund program model provides low-interest loans and financial coaching to formerly incarcerated people, helping them build credit and achieve their self-determined goals. 

 "It almost sounded too good to be true and I had a lot of questions," said Mr. Hingle. 

Paul Yates, Director of Economic Empowerment at the Fountain Fund is used to that type of skepticism. "Our clients are used to hearing 'no' every time they try to better their situation through things like loans," he explained. "We don't tell them 'no', we advise them on the specific steps they need to take. Many people tell us that it's the first time someone has believed in them, the first time someone trusted them. You can see the change in their confidence. They're so used to people saying no. We try to figure out how to get them to yes."  

After meeting with the Fountain Fund, Mr. Hingle was told he would be able to get a loan to repair his car. They offered him 24-month repayment terms with 3% interest, much lower than the typical 17-18% interest a bank would offer, if he could even qualify for a loan.  

 "After a 32-year sentence, most places say you need at least two years of credit building and I couldn't qualify," said Mr. Hingle. "It was the Fountain Fund or nothing." 

Beyond the specific dollar amount of a loan, the Fountain Fund helps loan recipients by reporting their loan payments to the major credit bureaus, helping them build credit. They also offer financial education and, when clients are ready, assistance on setting up saving accounts and opening credit cards.   

 

Originally founded to serve Virginia residents, with assistance from CBA Fund, the Fountain Fund was able to expand their coverage to include new areas such as New Orleans, where Meagan Jordan, the lead Economic Opportunity Facilitator for Fountain Fund's programs in the city, first met Mr. Hingle.  

 "Some of our clients have never learned how to do personal finance the right way," said Ms. Jordan. "Many have maxed out credit cards. Or wrote a bad check. Or were a juvenile when they were incarcerated and now don't know how to build credit." 

 She continued, "Because we're non-profit, we're focused on loan repayment to keep the program going and to pay it forward to help more individuals." 

 To date, the Fountain Fund has dispersed more than $1.5 million in small dollar amount loans, with more than $750,000 paid back and supporting additional recipients.  

 CBA Fund was able to provide grant and loan capital to the Fountain Fund and other non-profit lenders through a grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation. The Wells Fargo Foundation grant supported low-cost consumer loans in low-to-moderate income communities and communities of color. This funding ultimately helped consumers like Mr. Hingle access safe and affordable credit to meet their short-term cash needs while helping establish or improve their credit scores. 

 "CBA Fund allowed us to enlarge our mission and serve new markets," said Ms. Jordan. "We appreciate the support; without it these critical programs wouldn't exist." 

"CBA Fund allowed us to enlarge our mission and serve new markets…without it these critical programs wouldn't exist."

Meagan Jordan
Economic Opportunity Facilitator, New Orleans
the Fountain Fund

"After a 32-year sentence…It was the Fountain Fund or nothing"

Anthony Hingle

"[The loan] meant a lot…The Fountain Fund put me back in a situation where I can live my life more freely without having to worry about transportation."

Anthony Hingle

OUTCOME

For Mr. Hingle, the Fountain Fund helped set up his loan, ensured he had the ability to repay it, and made it seamless to make payments.  

 "The loan is easy to pay back because it's automatically withdrawn from my account using ACH," said Mr. Hingle.  

With the loan secured, he was able to repair his car, easing his family's daily stress over their commute and giving precious time back for them to be together.  

 "[The loan] meant a lot," he explained. "It took away unnecessary strain and worry around whose turn it would be to be late or how we would get our granddaughter to school. Today, I'm able to start off my day well, knowing I can get to work on time. The Fountain Fund put me back in a situation where I can live my life more freely without having to worry about transportation."  

INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE?

For more information about CBA Fund and how it empowers life-changing organizations like the Fountain Fund, visit: https://www.creditbuildersalliance.org/cba-services/cba-fund/ 

 For more information about the critical mission of the Fountain Fund, visit: https://www.fountainfund.org/ 

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