The Long-Term Plan
Jesús Gerena, FII’s CEO, likes to distill the initiative into three words: cash, community, choice. When the COVID-19 outbreak hit, Gerena and his team already had the online platform UpTogether ready to disperse cash to families struggling through the pandemic.
“Our conversation was: Are we straying from cash, community, and choice?” Gerena said. “Well yes, because we’re only doing cash. But it’s only because we don’t yet have the technology and features to lead on community. And also if we’re going to give cash, it has to be 100% unrestricted, so people have choice.”
Later this year, FII and the Butt Foundation hope to launch longer-term, two-year partnerships with 1,000 San Antonio families. Over that period of time, the households receive $3,200, while FII monitors their progress within the support community they build for themselves.
Rogers felt this approach was a perfect fit for some of the new work the foundation is doing through its Community Engagement program—that of catalyst and collaborator, rather than creator.
This is “systems change” work, says Rogers, and “trust-based philanthropy. Trust the people that want their families to succeed just as much as you do.” The UpTogether platform is building a case over time that this approach can work, he says.
The data supports the thinking.
“We’re seeing that all of their research is showing that after two years most families are increasing their overall income by over 20% and when you include their social capital, it’s 30%,” Rosheger said. “Why wouldn’t we want to bring something like this to San Antonio and be part of their proof of concept?”
According to FII’s Census Bureau research, 75% of low-income families climb above the federal poverty line within four years, but half fall back under within five years.
Households like Geraldine’s are exactly the kind FII is geared toward helping—those on the margins who are fighting their own way toward a more financially prosperous life. She passed her classes, by the way, but has to retake her exit exam, which she continues to study for, in a few weeks.
“I feel like everybody and everything has been placed around me at the right time,” she said. “It’s still hard, but it makes it doable. It’s hard, but tomorrow’s a new day. It’s a motto, that I have to keep telling myself every day: ‘Tomorrow’s a good day, new blessings, new grace.’”