Building Better Programs

First Steps on the Road to Financial Well-Being: Final Report from the Evaluation of LISC’s Financial Opportunity Centers

Anne Roder’s report from the Economic Mobility Corporation (EMC) on how Local Initiatives Support Corporations (LISCs) provide financial and technical support to community organizations operating Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs).  FOCs support low-income individuals and families with programs focused on employment assistance, financial counseling, and public benefits access.  In this report, the EMC evaluates the effectiveness of the FOC model in five Chicago-area locations on participants two years after entry into FOC programs.  Though measurements of FOC success seem inconclusive, EMC notes that establishing sound financial foundations is a long-term process and financial counseling and employment services can play an important role in helping low-income individuals.  Here are some of the findings:

  • FOC participants face significant obstacles to financial security, including low educational attainment, high unemployment, poor credit histories, and few assets.
  • FOCs improved participant’s use of employment and financial services.
  • After two years, FOC participants did not have higher incomes that the comparison group.
  • FOC participants made strides towards building a healthy credit history, however there was no impact on prime credit scores after two years.
  • Improvements in employment and credit were highest among FOC participants who were highly engaged in financial and employment counseling.
  • Participant’s net worth was not significantly affected, however debt unrelated to asset accumulation was reduced.


First Steps on the Road to Financial Well-Being