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Empowering Women to Lift Themselves Out of Poverty

Empowering Women to Lift Themselves Out of Poverty

For more than 162 years, FNBO has envisioned a future where all the communities we call home are strong and successful. Achieving that vision comes with the understanding that every individual must have access to the tools, resources and opportunities to reach their goals and improve their financial well-being. As a strong community bank serving Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, Illinois and Texas, FNBO is uniquely positioned to impact our communities at every level. 

“Whether it’s by providing financial advice and guidance, giving loans, investing in community partners, supporting our employees and locally-owned companies, or by taking measures to improve the environment, FNBO has remained steadfast in our focus and commitment to strengthening individuals and communities,” said Alec Gorynski, Vice President, Community Development & Corporate Social Responsibility.  

“We also recognize many individuals from historically underserved populations face unique obstacles to financial success. At FNBO, we embrace our responsibility as an employer, bank, and community partner to advance the spirit of belonging, inclusion, diversity and equity. Therefore, we are committed to intentionally and proactively creating pathways to success for historically underrepresented populations including women and/or women of color.”

Empowering women has been a focus of FNBO more many years. Since 2016 alone, we’ve invested more than $3 million with community organizations like Grameen American and Project Self Sufficiency who are successfully empowering females with the strength, confidence and the skills needed lift themselves out of poverty.

Grameen America (Omaha, Nebraska)
In Omaha, 15% of the population is living in poverty. Women in the community are disproportionately affected with 17% of women and 38% of female-headed households with children under 18 living in poverty. Many women dream of owning their own business in order to adequately provide for their families, but barriers to traditional bank financing often prevent them from starting and/or growing their business.

Grameen America is an organization working to make a difference in the lives of low-income entrepreneurial women.  Over 98% of their clients are women of color and they all live at-or-below the federal poverty line.  Through their branch in Omaha, they offer microloans, financial education and credit-building services to transform communities and fight poverty in the United States. Since June 2009, Grameen served more than 8,000 women in Omaha and invested more than $115 million in their small businesses.

“Excluded from the mainstream financial system with no financial identity and often independently supporting their families, opportunities for business expansion are difficult to access, if not impossible. Fortunately, that’s where we can step in and help women like Nelly,” said Andrea Jung, President & CEO of Grameen America.

Nelly owns and runs a tax service company, located in Omaha. She offers accounting services, payroll tax returns, notarizations and translations. Married with two children, Nelly initially started her own business to earn a higher income and spend more time with her children. Before becoming a Grameen America member, Nelly tried to obtain a loan from a bank but couldn’t meet the stringent collateral requirements. Then, her friend referred her to Grameen America. At the time, Nelly struggled to afford rent for her office and pay the bills for utilities.

“It was very difficult for me to invest in the different updates that I needed to perform my job properly. Initially, I only worked tax season but with the loans from Grameen, I am able to maintain my expenses to operate the office all year round.”

Her daughter is also a partner and employee of Nelly’s business, where she manages payroll and acts as the office notary. Nelly has an additional employee who covers audits and prepares translations.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Nelly’s business revenue decreased by 30 percent compared to previous years. Nelly’s most recent loan from Grameen America helped her build an additional office at home to continue operating the business virtually. Upon returning to the office, she has had to make several changes to the layout to continue providing services to her clients in person.

Nelly is now able to regularly save in case something unexpected arises. Her credit score has significantly increased over the nine years she has engaged with Grameen America. The impact of COVID-19 and the Grameen America program has taught Nelly to remain organized, thrifty and that anything you dream is possible.

“Everything in life can be done when you want to get ahead. Grameen America supports us financially, and then we must make decisions and be enterprising. We must take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way.”

Project Self Sufficiency (Fort Collins, Colorado)
Project Self-Sufficiency believes when families can support themselves, our entire community is stronger. Barriers like access to housing, mental health services, affordable, quality childcare and reliable transportation can hinder a single parent’s ability to access and complete the education and training needed to obtain living wage employment.  Since 1985, Project Self-Sufficiency helped more than 1,000 low-income, single parents living in Larimer County, Colorado become self-sufficient through career planning, access to education and career development.

The organization serves an average of 147 families and 263 children per year, approximately 96% of which are headed by women. The program targets families who earn below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level and have children aged fifteen or younger living in the home more than fifty percent of the time.

“Families that engage in our program bring an enormous amount of selfpower – the grit and determination they need to move through barriers and create a completely different life for  themselves and their children,” said Tracy Mead, Executive Director, Project Self-Sufficiency of Loveland-Fort Collins “They do all the work; we simply walk alongside and share guidance and resources.”

The Selfpower model engages families by providing intensive, personalized intervention through a one-on-one relationship with highly skilled Advisors. Throughout the program, participants are supported in efforts to stabilize their family’s situation including securing and maintaining housing, food, healthcare, childcare, transportation and other immediate needs.

Advisors support parents in completing a comprehensive career planning curriculum, calculating a wage which will support their families without public assistance, matching the participant’s career profile with suitable career options and identifying and obtaining any necessary education or training to accomplish their career goals.

Advisors then help to develop resumes and cover letters, research potential employers, secure internships and volunteer experiences, and network within their chosen career field. After participants secure their first job in their career field, they are provided with tools to monitor their new budget, engage with their employer, and transition to greater self-sufficiency. Graduates like Mary (name changed to protect their identity) use the skills, resources, and Selfpower gained while in the program to maintain employment and family stability to lead successful lives for generations to come.

As part of overcoming trauma caused by domestic violence, Mary enrolled in the Selfpower program in order to create a brighter future for her and her young son. While earning her bachelor’s degree in accounting, Mary was able to secure and internship with a local manufacturer. Realizing her talent, the company hired her full-time as an analytical accountant after she graduated. As a result, Mary was able to increase her annual income from $24,960 to $54,000 with the potential to increase her pay to $80,000 in the future. She now has healthcare coverage, matching retirement benefits, PTO and enormous earning potential to help her sufficiently support herself and while also laying the groundwork for her son to go to college and begin a successful career of his own.