Financial Opportunity

Financial Opportunity Center Network

The pathway out of poverty is a job that provides a living wage with benefits and a career path. The education, training and other supports provided through the Financial Opportunity Center help make that possible for hundreds of low-income adults each year.

What is it?

In 2013, United Way of Greater Kansas City partnered with LISC Greater Kansas City to launch the Financial Opportunity Center Network.  Rooted in a model developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the FOC Network offers low- and moderate-income families a range of services aimed at building financial stability by helping them grow their income, build credit and, save for the future.  This is accomplished through a set of “bundled services” rooted in employment opportunities that provide a living wage, individualized financial coaching, and accessing public benefits and other community resources that enable a family to make ends meet while progressing up the economic ladder.

In 2019:

  • 1,187 participants received services
  • 443 obtained better-paying jobs
  • 312 increased their net income
  • 296 improved their credit score
  • 241 increased their net worth

Income inequality disproportionately impacts people of color.  While African Americans represent 12% of the Kansas City region’s population, they comprise 24% of people living in poverty.  Latinx people comprise 9% of the population, United Way leaders have long recognized that the pathway out of poverty is a job that pays a living wage and provides benefits—and the education, training and other supports that make this possible.

What issues does it address?

Nearly half a million Kansas City area residents live in households considered low-income, struggling every day with financial insecurity. Four out of five of these households include children. It is a common misperception that low-income people do not work, but of the low-income families with children in the Kansas City area, more than 7 out of 10 had someone in the household who was employed. This means that many families have one or more adults in the workforce and still face financial hardship.

Low-wage workers struggle with irregular schedules, job insecurity and minimal benefits, making it difficult to progress on a career path or accumulate assets.  Many low-income families do not have emergency savings to fall back on. This is especially true for modest-income households. In our metropolitan area, more than one in three (35%) are considered “liquid asset poor,” meaning they do not have sufficient liquid resources to subsist at the poverty level for three months without income.

Crystal’s Story

Crystal is a single mother with five children who has, for some time, contended with the effects of poverty and domestic violence. She entered the program in “doubled-up” housing, but quickly became homeless. With the help of her case manager, Crystal was able to locate a landlord willing to rent her a house, despite her inconsistent rental history. Click here to read how the FOC worked with Crystal to establish a life of stability for herself and her kids.

What role does United Way play?

United Way and LISC pursue this work through a set of relationships with community-based organizations who host the FOC model.  United Way and LISC provide funding, training, technical assistance and a system for shared data tracking and reporting.  United Way and LISC convene representatives of the network partner organizations regularly for shared learning, joint problem-solving and collaborative approaches to service delivery.

While the services offered by each network partner organization are tailored to a unique target population, they have certain key attributes, including a focus on employment and individualized support from a financial coach certified in a nationally-recognized model offered by the Central New Mexico Community College. 

If you are interested in learning more about the work of United Way’s FOC Network partners, you can visit the links below:

Community Services League

Guadalupe Centers

Metro Lutheran Ministry

Prosperity Center at Rockhurst University