Skip to content

By believing in moms (and giving them cash), Magnolia Mother’s Trust succeeds where anti-poverty programs have failed

Aisha Nyandoro
McNulty Prize
United States

The existing system of anti-poverty support in the United States operates from a place of deep suspicion of beneficiaries. This is particularly true for single Black mothers, who have historically been targets of anti-poor resentment, and depicted as “welfare queens.” Decades later, welfare is just as hard to obtain and as easy to lose. It often requires extensive, burdensome, and hard to navigate applications and processes.

What if anti-poverty programs were designed around trust, instead of making people prove they deserve assistance? This is the question that led Dr. Aisha Nyandoro to launch Magnolia Mother’s Trust.

When we invest in our most vulnerable, that is when society flourishes. Our program is providing critical narrative and data to move the conversation forward on universal income.

Aisha Nyandoro


Coming from a family legacy of public service and civil rights advocacy, Aisha Nyandoro grew up surrounded by change agents. “It was a loud house, full of love, and really thinking about: how do you use your blessings to be of service? How do you use your blessings to question the systems that allow inequities to perpetuate?” These guiding questions led Aisha to found Springboard to Opportunities, an organization based in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi that provides programs and services for families that live in federally subsidized housing. Over the years, however, Aisha became concerned—in spite of all these programs, families were not moving out of public housing at high enough rates. What Aisha kept hearing was simple: lack of money meant any crisis would wipe out families’ gains. Stability was arithmetically impossible at these income levels. Magnolia Mother’s Trust exists to prove that a simple cash subsidy is sufficient for families to get themselves into stability and aspire even further.

Graduated with a Ph.D. in Community Psychology from Michigan State University

Founding CEO of Springboard to Opportunities in 2013

A 2016 Ascend Fellow at the Aspen Institute

In 2018, Magnolia Mother's Trust launches

2022 McNulty Prize Winner

Dr. Nyandoro knew immediately that the program would work exclusively with Black mothers in public housing—intentionally picking this group to prove that they deserve trust, and the effectiveness of the model. Magnolia Mother’s Trust (MMT) provides these mothers with $1,000 a month for 12 months (plus a one-time $1,000 deposit into a college savings fund for their children) with no strings attached, trusting them to do what is best for themselves and their families. At the request of the mothers who helped design MMT, the program ends after one year, it consciously avoids the risk of dependency. It is a boost to escape the cycle of poverty.

The results are dramatic. Over 300 mothers have gone through the program as of Spring 2022, and they have reported their families’ lives to be improved in a number of ways. The percentage of mothers able to pay all bills on time increased from 27% to 83%. Mothers who felt like they had enough money for food rose from 64% to 81%. Families with emergency savings rose from 40% to 88%. Families with health insurance rose by 25%. Most importantly, the funds enabled these moms to improve their situations enough to leave federally subsidized housing. Instead of the 7-10 years average they were previously seeing, most families in MMT reach independence within the first six months of graduation.

US guaranteed income program, focusing on Black moms
of moms were finally able to pay all bills on time
similar programs inspired by MMT's model

The success of Magnolia Mother’s Trust has dramatically changed the policy landscape in just a few short years. At its inception in 2018, Magnolia Mother’s Trust was the only program of its kind in the United States. Since then, MMT has produced robust evidence for this new model, directly inspiring over 100 similar programs across the country. Its success has informed key national policy initiatives like the Child Income Tax Credit, which has proven to move more children out of poverty than any other program in modern history.

While there is still a long way to go before trust-based cash assistance policies become widespread, Aisha is in it for the long haul.

A mother from the Magnolia Mother's Trust program and her child

Because of Magnolia Mother's Trust, this mom is better able to do what is best for herself and her children

view all impact stories