To empower people to become self-sufficient by building and sustaining human and financial assets.
The curse of poverty is the cause of many of our country’s worst problems – from crime to illness to hopelessness and despair. From the outside, we are the wealthiest nation in the world, often referred to as the land of opportunity. But there are deep pockets of poverty, tucked away in patches of our nation - especially in Memphis. Memphis has more than its share of people living in poverty – 26.2 percent, compared with 14.3 percent nationwide. Ours is the highest poverty rate for an urban community our size in the country. Our city is also awash with predatory lenders (payday lenders, check cashing stores, and title loan operations) taking advantage of the unfortunate and uninformed, and trapping the working poor in a cycle of debt. In Memphis today, the reality is that more people are sliding backward than are advancing. The effects of poverty are not just felt in “poor” neighborhoods.
RISE has a bold vision for Memphis – RISE will transform the financial well-being of low income working people, thereby improving the community. And we have proven programs that turn this vision into a reality. This vision for Memphis is not out of reach. People in Memphis can have financial independence and hope. RISE is ready. RISE teaches low income working people to make better financial decisions that will improve their lives – and the community. Our programs are among the most innovative and successful in the country.
“We pay for what we don’t know.”
Donations accepted from individual and institutions, Government and Foundation grants; Employees can designated RISE as beneficiary for United Way donations; Tennessee Employees Charitable Campaign; Online donations accepted via Global Giving.
I worked for 32 years helping families to move from governmental dependency to employment that will allow them to support their families. Having the opportunity to work at RISE has allowed me to see how families can not "just get by" on low wages but actually securing asset goals for their families. It's amazing how families with low income can do far more than they thought was possible by just learning and putting into action financial skills and techniques that RISE provides in their facilitated classes.
Just like the moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides,
Just like the hopes springing high,
Still I rise.
‘Still I Rise’
The RISE Foundation, whose name was inspired by this poem, was established in 1999 as the brainchild of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, Memphis Housing Authority and United Way of the Mid-South. RISE was born to raise expectations above poverty, bankruptcy and foreclosure; above unemployment, crime and self-destruction; and above depression, anger and apathy. RISE was initially designed to help Memphis public housing residents achieve financial self-sufficiency, thereby making the city a healthier place. Through community support, we’ve expanded tremendously over the years to serve a broader demographic. Through strategies that have been pioneered and continuously refined, RISE has developed unique expertise in helping entry-level wage earners to budget, save and accumulate assets. Our work has led to a deep understanding of the larger community issues working against families in Memphis and Shelby County.
A partnership between the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, the Memphis Housing Authority and the United Way of the Mid-South led to the creation of RISE in October 1999. With its original mission to help public housing residents achieve financial independence, and on a first year budget of only $22,000, RISE served 48 families and helped them create assets of $83,000. Since that time, we’ve provided over 702 families with financial information that has assisted them with purchasing their first large assets, helping to reduce poverty. We’ve encouraged over 800 youth/annually to excel in school. We’ve improved the money management skills of over 2,000 area employees. And we’ve come together with a network of organizations through Transition to Success (TTS) willing to work with families in our community to treat the condition of poverty with direct services, collaboration and advocacy.
Our vision for a new Memphis is a bold one. But together, with your commitment, we can make this new Memphis a reality. There is not another organization like RISE that is able to facilitate financial literacy and asset development. The recent financial crisis shone a harsh spotlight on our vulnerabilities in Memphis, and the number of people facing foreclosure and financial ruin has increased dramatically. Action is now required to build on our important work and improve conditions in Memphis and our surrounding area. Throughout the years, while we have increased the number of families served, our budget just has not kept pace. Your investment in RISE now will pay a handsome social return by eliminating poverty for many thousands of your fellow Memphians and thereby enriching us all! RISE seeks a total of $10 million in donor commitments over the next five years. This philanthropic investment will allow us to serve more working families, provide additional training, prepare more students and more effectively advocate for change.
Expansion of programs for youth that will motivate positive behavior and inform their future financial decisions - $ 2,737,409
Despite an improvement in overall economic trends, low-income earners still often find themselves left behind without the means to elevate their circumstances. How do we build a better Memphis for all of our citizens? Through Responsibility, Initiative, Solutions, Empowerment—that’s RISE.
We invite you to learn more about the life-changing work of this organization and the people we serve—hard-working and committed individuals who work to better themselves and their families’ lives through our programs.
Terri S. Browne,Chairman,
RISE Board of Directors
RISE empowers the residents throughout Memphis and Shelby County to build and sustain financial assets. More than 700+ students participate in RISE’s innovative Goal Card program in five different sites as of April, 2015. The majority of the students live in the 38126 zip code/community and have far exceeded the expectations of their peers, as well as some of their parents.
RISE currently has a diverse Board of Directors that includes two Save Up participants (one position on the RISE Executive Committee is designated for a program participant) to guide the organization in fundraising, program development/outcomes as well as fiduciary responsibilities. Outcomes are important to the organization, and continuous program evaluation and measurements of outcomes is something that is constantly review by the Board and included in the RISE Annual report. RISE also contracts for an annual financial audit in order to be accountable for the use of funds that have been entrusted to the organization from government, corporate, foundations and individual donors.
The staff at RISE is extremely small and accounting services are provided on a contractual basis rather than in-house. This allows the organization to focus staff energies on direct services to the community.
Linda L. Williams, MSSW, is president and CEO of the RISE Foundation (Responsibility, Initiative, Solutions and Empowerment). The mission of RISE is to empower low income families to become self-sufficient by building and sustaining human and financial assets. Previously Linda devoted thirty-two years of her career to working with the Tennessee Department of Human Services, in positions ranging from a Welfare Specialist to the Administrative Director of Shelby County which is the largest urban county in the State. Linda received her undergraduate degree in social work from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and her Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a concentration in administration and planning. She also co-authored Business Behaving Well: Social Responsibility, from Learning to Doing, edited by Ron Elson. The portion of the book written by Linda, shares her work with Tennessee’s Welfare Reform efforts, while preparing clients to work at FedEx in Memphis. Her work created a national model that was highlighted by Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. and initiated the creation of similar models in other states.
RISE is a lean organization with only ten employees but a host of volunteers who provide services to individuals and families in the community. The President/CEO has responsibility of youth programs (Goal Card) based on her extensive background in Child Welfare Services. She is also responsible for the senior program (Silver Neighbors) in addition to all fundraising efforts (grants and private donations). The COO has responsibility of Adult programs (Save Up and Common Cents) due to her experience and background in the development of the Save Up Program. She is also responsible for Human Resources and financial services which include payroll.
Goal Card, Save Up, Common Cents staff are all responsible for direct services to program participants and manage volunteers that are crucial to the RISE Service Delivery system. The Silver Neighbors program is managed by a part-time contractor. The individual manages the volunteer ambassadors that work with seniors in “Learning Groups” around the city of Memphis.
Moving forward, RISE seeks increased funding to provide direct services to Memphis residents. We currently serve over 2,500 participants annually. We will significantly increase the number of participants, thus having a greater impact on the community. We will accomplish this by partnering with community social service organizations and through the increased use of technology. This will increase our effectiveness, and strengthen the relationships we have with our partners.
Our vision for a new Memphis is a bold one. There is not another organization like RISE that is able to take on important policy issues while still facilitating financial literacy and asset development.
Expanding the Save Up program to the hardest hit areas in Memphis through collaboration and partnerships and increase service from 100 to 200 participants annually.
Increasing the number of Common Cents participants by providing train-the-trainer workshops for our nonprofit partners.
Increasing the number of Goal Card students from 700+ to 900 at six sites.
Serving as an incubator for new community initiatives that can be developed by RISE, then adopted by our partners.
The Silver Neighbors program is an initiative of RISE, serving older adults in Shelby County. The program aims to improve economic security for older adults by providing financial literacy education through community settings frequented by seniors. Silver Neighbors utilizes trained senior volunteers to deliver these lessons to seniors through topic toolkits developed by RISE. These volunteers lead groups at community centers, senior housing, churches, and other groups which serve older adults.
In the first year of Silver Neighbors, more than 700 seniors were served at over 30 sites in the community. These seniors participated in workshops led by older adult volunteers on topics including avoiding scams, accessing benefits, and understanding life insurance products. The program also features a service provider training series, connecting staff at partner sites with experts on issues affecting senior economic security, and community educational seminars focused on topics selected by older adults in the program.
As we move forward with the Silver Neighbors program, we will undertake the following activities over the course of the next year:
Older adults expressed concern about understanding and accessing available benefits including Medicare supplement plans, confusion regarding memorial products and their value, questions regarding scams and fraud, interest in the Go Direct transition and the effects on beneficiaries, and a lack of clarity regarding life insurance products that they may already own or be interested in purchasing. As a result of RISE's Silver Neighbors progras, we expect to see an increase in participants with bank accounts and older adults receiving more available benefits
As Memphis continues to have a high poverty rate rather, the programs of RISE are needed now more than ever. As we continue to work with low wage earners on how to improve their financial choices, the services are needed now more than ever. As we work on improving the skills of our workforce, it would be wise for employers to support programs such as Save Up and Common Cents to help their employees to make better financial choices with the resources they have as opposed to drowning in debt or creating bills when unexpected events/needs arise ( car repairs, hospital stay, etc.). Families who have successfully completed RISE programs demonstrate that even with low incomes, they can not only make “ends meet” but also can make them over-lap with emergency savings.
The RISE Goal Card program is similar because if we can give students the skills and techniques they need to make sound financial choices, our children will be prepared to use them when selecting their next steps after graduation from high school. They will also know that additional education will allow them to earn more for their families, and help not only themselves, but the entire community. In addition, more citizens will be able to pay taxes and be involved in the economic growth of Memphis.
Sound financial choices of seniors is even more important due to their limited ability to increase their revenue. However, one poor decision can create a financial crisis that will almost be impossible to recover from (financial exploitation). Therefore, financial literacy is something that is needed at every stage of life, but must be presented in a different manner (Silver Neighbor Learning Circles) in order for those involved to embrace and understand.
Every program that RISE has seeks to “empower people to become self-sufficient by building and sustaining both human and financial assets. If the Shelby County Human Services delivery system could only embrace this concept, Memphis could move from being a Metropolitan community with one of the highest rates of poverty to one with a much lower rate of poverty. RISE programs have demonstrated that this is possible.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
RISE is strong in the area of Financial Accountability. Accounting services are contracted out to a firm that specializes in nonprofit accounting. The monthly financials are reviewed by the President/CEO, COO and the RISE Board Finance Committee. The financials are reconciled with monthly deposits and reviewed by staff/Board Finance Committee based on operational needs of the organization. Financial Accountability is a strong area for RISE.
When RISE looked at ways to develop earned income to support the work of the organization, the “Common Cents” product was developed. It was the hope of RISE that nonprofit and for profit organizations would be willing to pay for the services based on the financial needs of entry level employees that seemed to dominate the Shelby County workforce. However, the services were requested, but few were willing to pay for the service even when offered an introductory classes that produced exceptional evaluations. RISE, since that time, has been able to secure several national grants to provide Common Cents to employees in the Memphis community but so far has not been able to market the “Common Cents” product in a way to generate additional earned income for the organization.
Economy & Jobs
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