WHO WE ARE

Why We Exist

The Need

There are five million formerly incarcerated people living in the United States. People who have been incarcerated at some point in their lives face often-permanent barriers to securing transportation, housing, employment, and capital for building their own business. When individuals are released from jail or prison, they are further burdened by court-ordered debt. Most are ineligible for traditional bank loans and lines of credit or are subject to prohibitively high interest rates. These combined hurdles limit the economic opportunity of formerly incarcerated people and prevent them from reaching their potential. As a result, some return to criminal behavior, increasing the likelihood of reincarceration and damaging the stability of their families and communities.

Our Solution

The Fountain Fund program model provides low-interest loans and financial coaching to formerly incarcerated people, helping them build credit and achieve their self-determined goals. The Fountain Fund also advocates for public policy that increases economic opportunities and reduces obstacles for formerly incarcerated people.

Paul Yates and Erika Viccellio

Director of Economic Empowerment Paul Yates and Executive Director Erika Viccellio

Martize Tolbert and Jim Ryan

Director of Client and Community Engagement Martize Tolbert and University of Virginia President Jim Ryan

Results

Since its inception in 2017, the Fountain Fund has extended more than 250 low-interest microloans, totaling more than $1 million, to 200 formerly incarcerated people in Central Virginia. Today, 85% of Fountain Fund loans are in good standing and $500,000 in loan capital has been recycled. 86% of Client Partners have established or improved their credit scores, and 88% of Client Partners reported an improved understanding of credit. 

92% of Client Partners have reported at least one significant improvement in their lives facilitated by the Fountain Fund with 43% reporting more than one significant improvement. Of survey respondents, 38% secured transportation, 33% got their driver’s license reinstated, 31% paid court debt, 29% secured employment, 20% secured housing, 18% started or expanded a business, 18% increased their wages, and 16% got off probation.

100% of Client Partners report achieving their self-determined goals, and 77% of Client Partners reported they are better able to support and connect with their families. Of survey respondents, 53% reported decreased involvement with the justice system as measured by keeping out of jail/prison and/or getting off probation. 

The Fountain Fund also helped inspire, inform and shape HB 1895 that passed in the 2020 Virginia General Assembly session. The bill eliminates fees for payment plans and interest accrual after an individual is charged with a crime and during incarceration.  

Man with keys to new car
Woman poses with her new car

Growth

There are five million formerly incarcerated people living in the United States. The Fountain Fund envisions that they and their families have hope and opportunity.

There are numerous agencies across the country providing reentry services for formerly incarcerated people. However, no other organization tailors personal and business lending to support the self-determined goals of formerly incarcerated people, customizing financial coaching to their challenges in accessing capital and establishing credit.

The Fountain Fund is expanding the reach of its low-interest lending into new geographic regions in partnership with regional and national organizations providing complementary reentry services. We leverage existing resources and expertise in serving formerly incarcerated people with a financial need and eagerness to create new opportunities for themselves and their families.

In 2022, the Fountain Fund is launching a pilot expansion of our partnership model with the First 72+ in New Orleans, La., and expanding the reach of our Central Virginia lending into Richmond, Virginia.

We believe that scaling and operating in partnership is the most sustainable way to lend hope and opportunity to formerly incarcerated people and their families across the United States.