Foundation Gives $1.8M to Seattle to Launch First Financial Empowerment Center Program on West Coast


Foundation Gives $1.8M to Seattle to Launch First Financial Empowerment Center Program on West Coast


Six new centers to be based on promising concept proven to alleviate poverty, build up residents’ financial stability and create options

SEATTLE – NOVEMBER 13, 2013 – A new $1.8 million grant from The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation will help launch an innovative Financial Empowerment Center program in Seattle, the first of its kind on the West Coast, to alleviate poverty in the region by helping vulnerable Seattleites gain fundamental financial skills. The unique public-private partnership will be a collaboration between The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, City of Seattle, and the Seattle-based nonprofit Neighborhood House, the partners announced today.

The concept for the program is based off of the successful Financial Empowerment Center pilot launched in New York City in 2008 that went on to help 19,000 families reduce their debt by more than $9 million. The Foundation has customized this promising approach to address Seattle’s unique challenges and meet the community’s specific needs.

The program will kick off by opening six Financial Empowerment Centers in 2014, including a full-time central hub in Rainier Vista and five satellite locations throughout the city. At these centers, clients will get free one-on-one financial coaching and lessons in financial know-how, such as paying down debt, increasing savings and improving credit. 

“This is an important investment we are making in the future of our city,” said Jody Allen, President and Co-Founder of The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. “Using this new and innovative approach to asset building, these centers will encourage entrepreneurship in our community, and give residents the tools they need to create financial mobility and open doors.”

The $1.8 million Paul G. Allen Family Foundation grant is made directly to the City of Seattle, and pays for the centers to open and operate for the first three years. The City of Seattle will contribute $130,000 per year and Neighborhood House will provide $120,000 per year in in-kind services to support staff salaries, technical assistance, marketing, outreach and training.

“I’m excited that The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation decided to bring this idea to Seattle to help residents here,” said City of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. “These centers will help members of our community get access to important knowledge and skills about their finances.”

The economic recession left hundreds of thousands of Americans with problems that many are still unable to navigate, including heavy debt, bad credit, or unemployment. The centers provide a missing and much-needed resource to the area’s most vulnerable populations – including communities of color, Native Americans, and refugees and immigrants – which are most heavily effected by predatory lending and lack of access to resources.

“As we emerge from the recession, so many people are struggling and trying to figure out how they will get out from under piles of debt and build a steady financial foundation. The need in this area is enormous, but there is a huge gap in resources to address the problem,” said Neighborhood House Executive Director Mark Okazaki.

Following the success of the New York model, Financial Empowerment Centers have been adopted in five other US cities – Denver, Colorado; Lansing, Michigan; Nashville, Tennessee; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and San Antonio, Texas. Seattle will be the first city on the West Coast to introduce the Financial Empowerment Center concept.

Over the past five years, philanthropists Paul G. Allen and Jody Allen have made financial empowerment and community development priorities for The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation’s grant-making, giving nearly $8.9 million to fund asset building programs in the Pacific Northwest. Their funding has helped nearly 15,000 low-income families in Washington and neighboring states by providing financial education, microenterprise development support, savings and banking programs and more.

The five satellite locations will be at New Holly Public Housing Community (Southeast Seattle), Jim Wiley Community Center (Greenbridge); YWCA Opportunity Place (downtown Seattle); Solid Ground Sand Point (North Seattle); Opportunity Center at North Seattle Community College (North Seattle).
The first Financial Empowerment Center is scheduled to open to the public in early 2014.

About The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation
Launched by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen and Jody Allen in 1988, the Allen family’s philanthropy is dedicated to transforming lives and strengthening communities by fostering innovation, creating knowledge and promoting social progress. Since inception, the Foundation has awarded over $475 million to more than 1,400 nonprofit groups to support and advance their critical charitable endeavors in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The Foundation’s funding programs nurture the arts, engage children in learning, address the needs of vulnerable populations, advance scientific and technological discoveries, and provide economic relief amid the downturn. For more information, go to