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United Way Partners with Tucson IDA in Support of Cultural Inclusion

Thanks to the United Way grant, the Tucson IDA is rebuilding outreach efforts to be more inclusive and diverse for our community.

The Tucson Industrial Development Authority (Tucson IDA) and the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona have partnered to invest in transforming generational wealth through robust, trauma-informed financial education, empowerment, and community building as part of the AVANZA Empowerment Fund. United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona has committed $20,000 to supporting culturally enriched financial education to the program.

The AVANZA Empowerment Fund is a relationship-based micro lending approach created specifically for under-represented small business owners in Tucson, AZ. The City of Tucson has committed $1,500,000 towards capitalizing the Fund, matched by an additional $1,500,000 by the Tucson IDA. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is also a key partner for the program.

The fund provides a unique approach to capital for traditionally underserved communities by integrating free mentoring, coaching, and technical assistance, as well as eliminating requirements for credit scores and collateral. Loan sizes range from $5,000 - $250,000. The partnership with the United Way deepens the financial education and support of the program, including trauma-informed financial education.

We understand the status quo of financial education can actually exacerbate financial trauma for those who are oppressed by current structures within our financial systems. Through the support of United Way, we are able to amplify the high-touch, culturally informed educational support of our loan fund. Economically vulnerable populations need educational, communal, and fiscal support to thrive. This holistic approach has been garnering significant traction nationally and statewide as a new model of access to capital.” – Dre Thompson, CEO Tucson IDA.

Governor Katie Hobbs recently visited the Tucson IDA to discuss the early findings of the AVANZA Empowerment Fund, after announcing a $5,000,000 commitment to building a similar program statewide. SBA Administrator Isabel Guzman kicked off the Latino Prosperity Tour in Tucson, in part because of this City of Tucson supported program stating the SBA was watching this program closely as a model for minority-loan funding.

While the fund does accept women, veteran, and minority-owned businesses, a specific need has emerged in the data to support Hispanic and Spanish-speaking businesses. For example, a recent study in Arizona found that Latino small businesses are 49% less likely to have a business banking account than non-hispanic business owners.

Through the support of United Way, AVANZA will invest in a Financial Inclusion Advisor to ensure their program, policies, and staff are aligned with the organizations’ mutual mission to transform the capital process to be culturally and equity aligned. The ultimate goal of the partnership with United Way is to create a replicable model of culturally responsive financial education. This is in line with United Way’s mission to create financial wellness and financial stability in Tucson and Southern Arizona.

This project has the potential to reverberate beyond Southern Arizona, with insights that can benefit similar efforts across the country. These equity and accessibility issues are not unique to our community, but we think we are one of the first groups to try and tackle it this way,” responded Lisa Floran, Senior Director of Financial Wellness for the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona.

The Tucson IDA, a leading nonprofit enabling economic and community development and the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, a respected public service organization promoting equity and long-lasting systemic change, discovered Tucson had a lower number of Latino-owned businesses than the national average. Although the business density in Tucson is marked 79th in the country for Latino-business growth and being a top 10% Latino-density MSA, barriers to capital access and financial technical assistance have limited Latino small businesses’ engagement with traditional capital.

With an overwhelming number of applicants upon the release of AVANZA’s soft-launch, the Tucson IDA and their Financial Inclusion Advisor, Stéphanie Bermúdez, anticipate the amount of applicants will grow tremendously following strategized outreach for AVANZA’s “hard-to-reach” target populations.

“Through grassroots canvassing and carefully crafted marketing personas who deeply resonate with previously uncharted communities, AVANZA forges a groundbreaking strategy which far exceeds the impact of traditional marketing campaigns, enabling us to reach and uplift those often deemed 'hard-to-reach.',” commented Stéphanie Bermúdez, Financial Inclusion Advisor for Startup Unidos. “AVANZA's unwavering commitment to radical inclusion and its pursuit of cross-cultural business opportunities exemplify a path towards transformative change that transcends boundaries, fostering authentic collaboration and prosperity across diverse communities.”

Empowering impact in equity, sustainability, and innovation, both the Tucson IDA and the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona are thrilled to be working together to support small business owners for long-term success.

Learn more about the ¡AVANZA! Empowerment Fund at or email


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