Financial Empowerment

  • Overview

    Let us help you on a pathway to prosperity.

    Our Financial Empowerment work helps people transform their overall finances, so they can rise beyond subsistence-living and reach for their dreams.  In particular, this program focuses on the money part of thriving.

    We accomplish our work through one-on-one coaching with a minimum commitment of six months, giving members full chance to take advantage of our expert staff, abundant tools and strong network of partners.  We can help you:

    • Create and stick to a budget
    • Get free help with taxes
    • Reduce your debt
    • Improve your credit score
    • Start or expand a small business
    • Save for college or home ownership and more.

    Financial Empowerment, By the Numbers

    The median household income in the City of San Rafael, with a higher Latinx population, is $15,861 lower than that of overall Marin County.
    This tax season, our team processed over 100 returns
    Total refunds of $125,000 to community, with an average refund of $1,150

    “I feel like I have been empowered by the program by not being scared to look at my finances and really getting help.”

    Jose (SparkPoint Member)

    Success Story

    Martha's Journey

    One of Martha’s goals is to someday buy a forever home for her and her children.   Through coaching sessions, she learned that in order to reach her goal she would need to decrease her expenses and begin to put money into savings on a regular basis. She also needed to pay off her credit debt. Martha and her financial coach set up a realistic budget and she has been able to stick to her plan.  As a result, she has been able to purchase her own car and has paid off all of her credit card debt.

    Martha is elated that in less than one year she has been able to bring up her credit score by over 80 points.  She continues to save up for the home of her dreams. ​She says that the most compelling information she got from Community Action Marin’s SparkPoint coaching program was all the free community resources available to her that she never would have known about.  In addition, she appreciates, “the encouraging staff who were always excited to help her.”  She said they consistently made her believe in herself and the fact that her goals were “totally doable.” ​ Martha continues to see her financial coach to work toward her home ownership goal and remain accountable.

  • Program Details

    Our Financial Empowerment work is grounded in the United Way Bay Area’s SparkPoint model.  Members commit to participate in our program for at least six months, working with a coach to identify personal goals, create an action plan, and meet regularly to check in on progress and problem-solve around barriers.  We encourage work towards a goal of financial prosperity.  

    What Is Financial Prosperity?

    We definite it as:

    • a self-sufficient income
      (based on the Insight Center’s self-sufficiency standard tool); 
    • three months of savings; 
    • a credit score of 700 or above; and 
    • no revolving debt. 

    Beyond finances, we also offer a stable of services that enhance members’ lives in other ways by helping them access career counseling, housing navigation, health insurance and public benefits.  See our Support To Thrive page for details.

    Financial Coaching

    Coaches help members establish and follow a household budget, and find ways to improve their income such as through employment, job training and/or public benefits.  We work with members to create step-by-step plans addressing their unique needs and goals, and check in regularly to help problem-solve.  Over time, members learn to take control of their finances and design the lives they want.  From opening a savings account, to finding money left after each paycheck, to planning to pay for college or buy a home, we help people create a foundation from which they can reach for their dreams.

    • Build your career
    • Get free tax help
    • Improve your credit
    • Start or expand a small business

    Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

    Maximizing a tax refund can put vital money back in peoples' pockets.  We offer free tax preparation services where caring, trained volunteers guide Marin residents through matters such as reporting on public benefits and claiming the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), so they can claim tax benefits for which they're eligible and understand their choices for the next year.

    Credit Coaching

    No matter your financial situation, we can help you make a step-by-step plan to rebuild your credit score, manage debt, create a household budget, and more. Credit can be a powerful tool or an enormous burden.  Through credit coaching, we help community members decrease their debt and increase their credit score so they have better access to resources and opportunities.  Specifically, our credit coach helps members pull credit reports, examine each item, check for errors, assist with letters of dispute and take strategic actions that improve their credit score.

    Small Business Development Advising

    Small business are the lifeblood of Marin, and for many people, the only way to create a livelihood that works for their circumstances, but it's not always easy to make a small business succeed. Marin residents who have an existing business they'd like to strengthen or expand, or a hobby they want to grow into a business, or are just curious about working for themselves, are encouraged to visit our Small Business Advisor during drop-in hours.  In partnership with Marin Small Business Development Center, we offer free business advising for future and current small business owners on the 4th Thursday of each month from 2:00pm – 5:00pm. This is a drop-in service and does not require one to schedule an appointment in advance. Come on in!

  • FAQ

    Can I meet with a coach right away?

    First you’ll need to attend a New Member Orientation where you’ll learn about all of our services, fill out a simple form to give us your basic information, and set an Intake Appointment.  You’ll leave with a questionnaire to complete at home and bring that to your Intake Appointment.  At your Intake Appointment, you’ll discuss your goals and Baseline Assessment with one of our coaches and begin to create your individual plan.  After the Intake Appointment, you’ll be free to meet with the coach of your choice, specialized in an area that suits your goals. Call one of our Client Intake Specialists to register for the next New Member Orientation at (415) 526-7500.

    Do you accept walk-ins for SparkPoint coaching?

    All coaching sessions require an appointment, with the exception of business advising which we offer on a drop-in basis.  Call one of our Client Intake Specialists to schedule all other coaching appointments at (415) 526-7500. 

    Who is eligible to have their taxes prepared at the VITA site?

    Any household with an income of $55,000 or below and a social security number of ITIN is eligible to have their taxes prepared for free at our VITA site. Tax clinics operate on a walk-in basis during tax season only (early February to mid-April).   Check back and join our email list here to get notified about tax clinics.

    What if I need tax assistance outside tax season?

    The best resource for free tax assistance outside tax season is through Tax Aid, which provides year-round free tax services throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. You may call Tax Aid at (415) 229-9240 or email them at [email protected]. Their website is 

    I need housing assistance right away. Can Community Action Marin help?

    We do not provide housing placement.  We do offer small one-time cash grants to support emergency rental, mortgage, or security deposit assistance through our Emergency Family Needs Program.  We also provide longer-term help finding affordable housing through our coaching program.

    To apply for a one-time small cash grant through the Emergency Family Needs Program, contact the agency from the list below:

    Novato Area Applicants:
    North Marin Community Services (Formerly Novato Human Needs Center)
    415.897.4147 ext. 18

    Central Marin Applicants:
    Ritter Center

    Southern Marin Applicants:
    Women Helping All People

    West Marin Applicants: West
    Marin Community Resource Center

    Canal Area Applicants:
    Canal Alliance M-F 9AM-5PM

    To begin the longer-term process of finding affordable housing through our coaching program, call our Front Desk to register for a New Member Orientation at (415) 526-7500. 

    As part of our ongoing coaching program, clients can meet with a Volunteer Housing Navigator who can assist with…

    • Information on shared housing, Section 8 housing & senior subsidized housing options
    • Plan your housing search (where and how to look)
    • Learn how to present yourself to a landlord
    • Discuss how to be a good tenant
    • Create tools: housing resume and letters of reference
    • Referrals to outside resources


    Heather Bettini
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