Quantifying Mission: The “Cash Value” of the Clinic’s Work

Among many accomplishments in the Clinic’s nearly 10-year history, we are particularly proud to have put over $28 million back in the pockets of our customers. Early on, the Clinic set out to establish a taxonomy of how we were accomplishing our mission. Once we had an outcome framework established, we turned to quantifying the value of delivering that mission. We started to think of this as the “cash value” of our mission. In other words, how do we gauge the total debt alleviated, predatory bank fees avoided, and new savings established?

The free tax preparation field had forged a whole set of parameters to quantify the impact of its work on working poor tax filers. Led by organizations such as the Center for Economic Progress, the field is able to communicate the value of its volunteer hours, the predatory products avoided, and the refunds secured. Meanwhile, philanthropic organizations such as Robin Hood Foundation were drilling down on “return on investments” by asking nonprofit providers to help assess the value of the poverty alleviation services they were delivering.

Against this backdrop, the Clinic set out to define the “cash value” of its financial education, coaching, and counseling services. It arrived at the following assumptions and definitions:

• Assets: Any savings—whether related to alleviating household budget stress through work supports or actual formal savings—attributable to our Financial Coaches’ work with customers.
• Banking: The value of any reduction in banking service or product cost that a Financial Coach garners for customers.
• Credit: The aggregate difference in a year’s worth of payments at an assumed debt amount, with credit scores tied to a range of interest rates.
• Debt: The face value of debt changed when a Financial Coach negotiates a lower interest rate, or when a Coach negotiates a lower interest rate.
• Taxes: The credits and refunds a customer receives due to the help or advocacy of a Clinic Attorney or Financial Coach.

George and Tiffany are an illustration of how the Clinic’s “cash value” grows. George and Tiffany are married and have been working with a Clinic Financial Coach for a few months. Once they established a financial goal of securing a nicer apartment, they focused primarily on household budgeting to pay off George’s federal student loan by the beginning of 2015. They also worked to improve George’s credit, while establishing Tiffany’s new credit history. With the Financial Coach’s support and tools, they negotiated and paid down their debt quicker than they anticipated, allowing their savings to accumulate faster, too. This summer, they met their goal of building $10,000 in emergency savings, and have now decided to focus their efforts on purchasing a home rather than renting another apartment.

George and Tiffany’s new savings caps a year when the cash value of the Clinic’s mission surpassed the $25 million mark: Which is now $28,843,492.87. Closing in on our 10-year anniversary, the Clinic is pleased to have reached such a significant milestone. We are certainly looking forward to an exponential goal for our 20th anniversary!