Impact NOW (New Opportunities for Workforce)
Financial security is critical to the success of jobseekers moving through workforce development programs. The Financial Clinic provides support to everyone from customers to practitioners to organizational leadership — we know that by empowering staff to address financial security (for both themselves and those they serve), we create stronger programs and a stronger workforce.
On March 16, 2018, the Clinic was thrilled to present Impact NOW, a free professional development opportunity for financial security and workforce development practitioners, program managers, employers, and stakeholders. We had a jam-packed agenda, covering topics ranging from personal finance, program implementation, systems change, and the future of work and wealth. Take a look!
“When we’re talking about helping you implement financial security into your programs, we do not mean you need to be expert financial coaches, we don’t mean you need to dedicate an hour of your time with every customer to this piece, and we don’t mean you need to be experts in finding funding for this…We have six outcome areas that we work on – goals, banking, assets, credit, debt, and taxes – those are huge topics. What we want to help you do is figure out where the red flags are for your customers.” – Alyssa Keil, The Financial Clinic
We began the day on page one of personal finance with celebrated authors Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack, interviewed by the Clinic’s Assistant Director of Services, Alyssa Keil. They described their own unlikely paths into the world of finance – Harold admitted to being both carefree and careless about his personal finances until a family emergency led nearly to a financial crises, while Helaine explained knowing little about finances until being offered a unique opportunity to write for the finance column of the Los Angeles Times and scouring the local bookstores to prepare. These paths led them to collaborate on The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to be Complicated, breaking down personal finance into basics that are easy for anyone to incorporate into their daily habits.
“What are the things that really get you excited? If you can focus on that, that is something someone is much more likely to execute. I’ll give you an example: One thing that people often ask me is should I save for my kid’s college or should I save for my retirement? The mathematical, official answer is really retirement…There’s one problem with that, which is if you’re a single mother and you have your seven year old daughter there, saving for your child’s college is something that people actually feel really great about. And that’s powerful. The best method of saving is the thing that will give you a sense of reward and accomplishment. Finding those things is often much more powerful than explaining to the person mathematically what’s the most optimal thing you should be doing.”
– Harold Pollack
There was something for everyone in our three concurrent breakout workshops:
1. Integration Options that Work for You. The Clinic’s Zoe Goodman and Alyssa Keil joined WPTI’s Bruce Carmel and Jenny Pierre to demonstrate successful strategies for integrating financial security building into workforce development programs and ways to overcome barriers like staff bandwidth and participant engagement.
2. Leveraging Approaches for Systems Change. The Clinic’s Haidee Cabusora and Darren Liddell joined NYATEP’s Melinda Mack and Seedco’s Alex Breen to discuss strategies for pursuing systems-level change and collaborating with fellow practitioners to maximize impact for those you serve.
3. Leading Your Team to the Next Level. The Clinic’s Jared Marling and Kate Reeves joined Support Center’s Lakimja Mattocks and Keith Timko to examine change management strategies to overcome barriers to financial security implementation, including gaining team buy-in and improving results.
“I work with a reentry population, and for our guys, not knowing this information could be the difference between staying home and going back to prison.” – Workshop participant
The day ended with a thought-proving panel discussion on the opportunities and advantages for employers to invest in a financially secure workforce, moderated by Ken Adams, Dean of Workforce & Economic Development at Bronx Community College. We’ll let our panelists speak for themselves:
Workforce development perspective – Tara Colton, Executive Director of Seedco
“The elements related to economic empowerment, self sufficiency, financial coaching has always been somewhere between mission central and mission adjacent. We’re founded to build communities and develop economic opportunities, but for so many reasons financial security for both businesses and the employees who we place in those businesses has become more crucial. It’s a critical asset to what we do.”
Employer perspective – Agatha Kulaga, Founder & COO, Ovenly
“Our retention rates have grown tremendously from the partnerships that we have with organizations like Seedco. We closed out a funding round last year, and it was the first time that we attracted a different type of investor. It was success in the sense that we developed relationships with investors that were value aligned with our company. Those are the relationships that really matter and will help us scale our business in a way that will set an example for other businesses.”
Business field perspective – Alexandra Visher, Managing Director for Strategy and Development, JUST Capital
“What we’re hearing from the American public is that workers are top of mind and the three things that consistently come up are workers, customers, and products, and all of these things are core to a business strategy which represents a compelling opportunity for companies to think about how they can do better.”
Philanthropy’s perspective – Leah Mayor, East Coast Program Officer, Asset Funders Network
“Making the business case but also the moral case that this is happening and it’s critical, and it’s the way businesses operate. My own thinking around this is how are we driving change, what are the drivers of change that we want to promote as consumers and as employees and as employers? There’s actually a lot of power there.”
Missed the event but want to learn more? We are pleased to invite you to our complimentary virtual trainings, specialized for workforce development practitioners! Learn how integrating financial security building strategies into your work can boost outcomes: visit the events page for more information on upcoming trainings.
Newsletter Issue: June 2017
- Discover how data can be integrated to heighten your organization’s impact: Join us on Wednesdays in July, starting 7/5, for a three-part virtual training series.
- Congratulations to our friends at CFED who have rebranded to Prosperity Now! Learn about our exciting new partnership and how you can become more involved with the financial coaching community!
When Having Health Insurance Means Having a Home
Washington University released a new study, performed at the Center for Social Development at the Brown School of Social Work and the Olin Business School, that shows for the first time the positive impact of the Affordable Care Act Marketplace on family finances. Researchers found that low-income households who gained health insurance through the Marketplace are much more likely to make their rent and mortgage payments — in fact, 41 percentage points less likely to become delinquent on home payments.
Financial Coaching: Where We Are Now
It’s so exciting to see the growth and development of the financial coaching field – the 2016 Financial Coaching Census from the Center for Financial Security and Asset Funders Network depicts the strength of our community of practitioners, managers, and funders. Perhaps more importantly, it highlights where we still have room to make improvements!
Read how the Clinic strives to support the field as it influences individuals and families across the nation.
Social Spotlight: 20,000 Customers
Change Machine has surpassed a huge new milestone – it has empowered clients to serve over 20,000 customers through more than 35,000 meetings! Thank you to all the financial coaches and social service practitioners who use Change Machine to help transform their customers’ financial lives.
The Clinic Across the Country
Speaking Engagements, Presentations, and Features
The Clinic staff have been busy, offering their expertise at various conferences and presentations. A selection of recent appearances include:
- On June 7, Director of Services, Stefan Hench, and Financial Coach, Amy Cao, joined EARN to present on their Partner Engagement Webinar.
- Stefan next joined IDEO.org in Austin, TX for a meeting of their Advisory Council.
- Haidee Cabusora, Chief Program Officer, joined Asset Building Strategies and their Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap network for a conference in San Francisco, CA, June 22-23. Watch their new video!
- Partnership Associate, Laura Malecky, travelled to Washington, DC to bring Change Machine to CBA‘s 2017 Credit Building Symposium from June 26 – 27.
The Financial Clinic’s capacity building team is dedicated to a long-standing partnership with New York City domestic violence providers.
Inspiring stories of people who have achieved financial success through the Clinic’s tax preparation program. And taking a closer look at how they did it!
A Holistic Model for Scale and Impact
“Ecosystems are dynamic and co-evolving communities of diverse actors who create new value through increasingly productive and sophisticated models of both collaboration and competition.”
Eamonn Kelly. Business Ecosystems Come of Age, April 2015. Deloitte University Press.
A Fully Developed Financial Security Ecosystem
After creating and evaluating three very different service-delivery models over the last 10 years, the Clinic has honed in on a “best practice” model that we are calling a “financial security ecosystem (ecosystem).” Through a decade of building financial security, the Clinic has found that everyone experiences some level of financial insecurity, but different resources are appropriate for different issues and outcomes. With this in mind, the Clinic designed the ecosystem around the mantra, “everyone experiences financial insecurity … but not everyone needs a financial coach.”
This driving mantra manifests itself in the Clinic’s new ecosystem: the bundling together of the Clinic’s best practices and services in collaboration with a partner organization to maximize its ability to build financial security for the working poor and the partner’s ability to achieve its mission.
“Diverse Actors” Innovate
Alongside our new social service partners, we will create a dynamic community that achieves both scale and impact. Our collective strengths, like diversity of perspective and shared passion for mission, are the foundation for our new ability to learn collaboratively, ensuring sustained success.
“Sophisticated Model of Collaboration” Builds Scale
First we will “bake in” financial security strategies into our partners’ programming to build financial security at scale. For example, thousands of job developers, domestic violence advocates, re-entry specialists, and career coaches have already opened bank accounts or prioritized debt for their customers, as these are roadblocks that risked the practitioners’ ability to achieve mission. By building capacity and innovating systemic solutions, the Clinic and its partners are able to build financial security at scale.
Impact and “Increasing Productivity”
Because thousands of practitioners are building financial security, hundreds of thousands of working poor people are simultaneously screened for issues that are better addressed by a financial coach or personal finance attorney. In an ecosystem, the practitioner addresses the issues best correlated to their mission, and those that require additional financial or legal expertise receive heightened scrutiny by a financial coach or personal finance attorney.
This improves the efficiency of all employees and therefore the organization. Financial coaching has demonstrated impact on the debt, credit and savings levels of working poor Americans, those earning on average $23,000 a year, or just above the poverty level for a family of three.
Providing Financial Security-Building Services
This impact, in turn, deepens the value of the partners’ mission. For example, in a partnership with the New York City Department of Small Business Services, the Clinic trained career coaches to provide financial security-building services as part of their workforce development with customers. The study found that customers achieved significantly higher retention and advancement outcomes–27 percent additional income earned and 67 percent additional hours worked–when they also achieved financial security milestones with their career coach.
Whether it’s a practitioner’s increased productivity, or a “faster, better, cheaper” model for ending violence or recidivism, the financial security ecosystem builds financial security at scale, and accelerated outcomes for its partners.
Funding a Financial Security Ecosystem
To learn more, read about the investment from JPMorgan Chase & Co. to fund a financial security ecosystem in New York City, which is part of a $1 million multi-faceted project that will build financial security for working poor Americans nationwide.
The art and science of quantifying how The Financial Clinic measures its mission has been a prominent feature of our history. From our inception 10 years ago, when it was critical that we cut through a lot of rhetoric about what it meant to build financial security for our customers, we developed six discrete and measurable outcomes that together, defined our mission.
The advantages were that our six outcomes were organically developed from our own successes and failures, and with minor exceptions, they’ve largely withstood the test of time. Quantifying success served to enlist new stakeholders as well. The drawbacks to the Clinic’s outcomes framework is that after 10 years, we’re feeling that one of the best indicators of success — savings, because it gauges our customers’ future orientation — gets lost in the mix. Another example is credit scores, and how hard it is to attach your mission to what is, basically, a Coca-Cola formula.
It was relatively easy to put aside the inputs and outputs of financial education: the Clinic is much more concerned with being measured by what our customers accomplished with the information. Likewise, we originally rejected purely qualitative measures like customers’ self-reported feelings or attitudes around money. While these were prevalent measures at the time, they can be manipulated by a favorite coach and can’t be standardized. The Clinic also developed a monetary quantification of our mission that we call the cash value of our work, which is helpful in an ROI analysis, but it isn’t a full picture of how we improve our customers’ financial mobility.
Recently I was able to share some of this history with hundreds of practitioners and funders when the Asset Funders Network (AFN) — a membership organization of grant makers focused on promoting economic opportunity — graciously invited the Clinic to be on a panel to discuss a new metric: The Financial Capability Scale (FCS).
Developed by J. Michael Collins from the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin with the leadership and support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the FCS seeks to standardize how we gauge the success of the maturing field of financial coaching.
In 2013, the Clinic enthusiastically and readily jumped right into a pilot to test the FCS. In pursuit of the right measurement for our mission, we’ve been involved in other studies, including NeighborWorks’ Success Measures and CFED/CFPB’s Consumer Financial Well Being Metrics Project. In the end, despite avoiding self-reported qualitative outcomes early on, the FCS demonstrated to us that it strikes the right balance of how the Clinic defines success because it has elements of our outcomes framework combined with self-reported financial well being and other qualitative information.
The Clinic’s primary conclusion from the pilot was that the FCS is complementary to our mission. First we examined the follow up surveys (6 and 12 months after the original survey), which revealed a 1.4 point average increase after working on customers’ financial security for at least 6 months. Next we observed that the scale confirmed much of what we knew anecdotally to be true of our customers:
- Greater financial insecurity manifested itself in a low score in almost every area of the scale;
- Women are more adept at budgeting and savings, but their lower income also meant a lower score; and
- Average scores increase across demographic areas such as ethnicity, race and education level confirming the Clinic’s belief that our mission is broadly applicable to people in crisis.
Most critical for the Clinic was documenting a correlation between FCS score changes and outcomes achievement:
- As the chart shows, changes in the score were positively correlated with the Clinic’s six financial security outcomes, illustrating that as our customers improve their credit scores and lower their debt, it will be reflected in the follow-up FCS survey; and
- On average, customers improved in all the areas reflected by the question, indicating that the FCS is capturing the breadth of financial security and the coaching process.
These observations have allowed us to conclude that the FCS rounds out the Clinic’s own quantifiable financial metrics, but not in a way that relies solely on qualitative assessments. As with all the measurement projects the Clinic has participated in over the years, we are pleased to be contributing to the discussion about what works.
Just as the Clinic was driven to develop our own outcomes framework a decade ago, I believe it’s important for our growing field to coalesce around common outcomes: united voice holds tremendous promise for conveying to the rest of the world how powerful and impactful this work can be for the communities we serve.
|Type of Clinic Metric||Example||Where to Find More Info|
|Financial Security Action and Strategies||Importance of Emergency Savings||Change Machine|
|Financial Security Outcomes||A Customer Who Makes Three Successive Deposits Into a Savings Account||A History of the Clinic Through How It Defines Its Mission|
|Faster, Better, Cheaper Outcomes||Workforce Development Customers Who Worked with Career Coaches to Download and Work on Credit Scores Secured 12 Additional Hours of Work Per Week||Scaling Financial Development|
|Cash Value||Savings Increases Trigger Cash Value, So Going from $100 to $200 in an Account, For Example, Results in a Cash Value of $100||Cash Value Report|
Remarks by Mae Watson Grote, founder and Executive Director of The Financial Clinic at the 10th Anniversary Celebration Honoring Bill Eggers, author of The Social Revolution
Many thanks to the Clinic’s Board of Directors for their leadership, bringing this organization into its second decade, and thanks to everyone attending tonight for joining us to celebrate this momentous occasion…
…which I know many of you think is a celebration of the Clinic’s 10-year anniversary, but in fact, exactly 10 years ago—May 2005—I received my very last rejection for a fellowship to launch the Clinic.
I had this idea that working poor people’s financial security was worthy of support. This was radical if you consider it was my fourth or fifth rejection. Or, it was a premonition if you consider that there are now thousands of financial coaches across the county, an entire sector of nonprofits focusing on financial capability, and a new federal agency—the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau—with an entire team and agenda devoted to our emerging sector.
While I’ll take the lion share of the credit for that initial idea, the more remarkable thing is what the Clinic’s incredible team has accomplished in just 10 years. As Margarita [Brose, the Clinic’s Chair] noted, we’ve put $30 million in the pockets of 15,000 working poor people. We are most definitively accomplishing our mission.
I have the privilege of working with colleagues and directors who have also made our vision—systemically building the financial security of the 20 percent of Americans who struggle to make ends meet—a reality.
I’d like to illustrate how this dedicated and driven team is taking concrete steps to vision with three brief examples.
But before I do so, let me note that one of the reasons I’m most proud of this team is our collective commitment to innovation. Instead of following any commonly accepted limitations to anti-poverty work, the Clinic’s team always looks beyond. “Scrappy start-up” might have captured that mindset for our first five years, but not as cute as we approach the mid-life cycle!
After absorbing Bill Eggers’s esteemed work, I think I found it: We’re Wavemakers! Our goal is to solve problems, rather than simply expand a successful program. I’m now convinced that to have progress on vision you must be a Wavemaker.
One, the Clinic is a Wavemaker, evidenced by the fact that Urban Institute chose it for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s inaugural rigorous evaluation of our field, so that our innovations and fresh approach to old issues will become the “gold standard” for how thousands of financial coaches will implement high-performing services.
Two, the Clinic’s team is comprised of Wavemakers because in seeking to disrupt old operating models for alleviating poverty, we’ve changed city policies to create systemic solutions: So that tens of thousands of New Yorkers achieve greater financial security, whether they walk through the Clinic’s doors or not.
Third, we are Wavemakers because we are erasing public-private sector boundaries by creating a social enterprise, Change Machine, which will not only scale our mission, but create faster, better, cheaper outcomes for our partners as well.
May I ask my colleagues and the directors to make themselves known by raising their hand, or maybe doing a happy dance, so that we may applaud you for making the Clinic’s vision a reality in only 10 short years.
And so it is a great honor to have Bill Eggers, the man who gave us a fantastic new description—Wavemakers!—that perfectly captures how the Clinic thinks about solving the problem of financial insecurity, here tonight to help us celebrate our accomplishments. It is my pleasure to confer the Clinic’s Directors Award to Bill for his expansive work to redefine the way the public and private sectors can solve society’s toughest problems, like financial insecurity. Thank you Bill!
The last few weeks of 2014 abound in top trends: Best books, most Google hits, favorite movies.
I have a few “best of the year” observations, but a singular article stands heads and shoulders among all my reading for the year, “Transformative Scale: The Future of Growing What Works” by Jeffrey Bradach and Abe Grindle, published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Not only does it confirm the validity of the $900,000 investment The Financial Clinic has made to scale its mission and accomplishments, but affirms our investor’s expectations, like The Prudential Foundation’s recent $500,000 grant to promote financial security outcomes for neighborhoods across the country.
The subject of these investments is the Clinic’s Change Machine, cloud-based platform that enables nonprofit organizations and public agencies to incorporate powerful financial coaching strategies into their programs.
Bradach and Grindle put forth “nine strategies for transformative scale” that are so illustrative of what we’ve set out to accomplish with Change Machine that it’s worth reviewing each point, grouped into internal and external themes:
“Organizational pathways: Building on and expanding what individual organizations can do”
Change Machine combines the Clinic’s financial coaching blue print, outcomes framework, content guides, customer engagement tools, specialized content for at-risk populations, and active community forum under one roof and makes them accessible to programs working with individuals and families on their finances. All of these resources advance an organization’s capacity to embed financial development services into its program and consistently measure its performance, reaping enormous benefits from its investment.
1. “Distribute though existing platforms”: Bradach and Grindle observe that successfully scaled solutions “hitch a ride” to existing systems. The Clinic’s theory of change is premised on the hard reality that all the communities social service providers seek to support experience underlying financially insecurity. Whether its job seekers stymied by credit checks or formerly incarcerated individuals overwhelmed by debt, the Clinic has yet to encounter a system that can’t benefit from greater financial security.
2. “Recruit (and train) others to deliver the solution”: Since 2006, the Clinic has been training case managers and social workers on the front lines of anti-poverty efforts. After building the capacity of over 1,600 practitioners in 260 organizations across 19 states, we’ve honed a set of strategies and tools that enables practitioners across diverse sectors to build their own participants’ financial security. This early success inspired us to cast Change Machine’s goal as reaching all 1.8 million practitioners
in the country to work to alleviate poverty.
3. “Unbundle and scale up the parts that have the greatest impact”: While the Clinic defines its mission as a combination of its six outcomes around assets, banking, credit, debt, taxes and financial goals, a critical turning point in our evolution was decoupling these activities to focus on the specific participants’ barriers. Unlocking identity theft for domestic violence survivors or building credit histories for individuals seeking to own homes allows us to zero in on the most relevant and impactful aspects of financial security.
4. “Use technology to reach a large audience”: The Clinic didn’t need to spend untold hours printing ToolKits or spend outrageous sums on shipping to appreciate how powerful a cloud-based platform could be. Instead, we honed in on how technology facilitates access to new audiences. Scores of programs and practitioners have sought the Clinic’s training and technical assistance, but don’t have the same resources as many larger organizations and networks. Enabling technology can radically reduce costs, thus Change Machine allows us to better meet the market demand and unlock interest among vast new audiences.
“Field-building Pathways: Pushing the field and its constellation of actors towards a shared target”: Bradach and Grindle argue that to be truly transformative, strategies must also bring together disparate actors to advance the field in concert. This reflects the Clinic’s distinction between its mission and vision. While our day-to-day is all about building financial security one milestone and outcome at a time, our vision is to transform those on-the-ground lessons into large-scale, system-level solutions and social innovations that will have an impact on working poor people nationwide.
5. “Don’t just build organizations and programs, strengthen a field”: Throughout its history, the Clinic has consistently applied a systemic-change lens to its programs and services. It’s why we were eager to participate in the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s randomized control trial assessing the impact of financial education and coaching. The evidence base created though the study will be key to establishing new “best practice” standards to lead the field, build the case for additional resources and investments, and expanding financial security for working poor Americans. Change Machine is a dissemination tool well-positioned to take the lessons we are learning and share them with the field. For example, during the study we have learned more about customer outreach and retention, and those observations were immediately translated into practitioner tools now featured in Change Machine.
6. “Change public systems”: Systemic change can also be reflected in new strategies for public systems. Bradach and Grindle put forth “a simple truth: the path to transformative scale in sprawling public systems requires changing the systems themselves.” The Clinic illustrated this in a partnership with New York City’s Human Resources Administration Emergency Intervention Services in identifying financial obstacles among domestic violence survivors seeking support, and then knitting solutions into the fabric of existing services. As a result, HRA-EIS’s contracts with service providers prominently feature financial security activities
as a core component of the services delivered at community-based domestic violence programs.
7. “Embrace the need for policy change”: A driving impetus for building Change Machine has been the promise to drive policy change. Already Change Machine is generating “big data” –an unprecedented body of information about working poor people’s financial security and the steps required to achieve their financial goals. We are eager to engage researchers and policy makers to analyze the data for policy and advocacy efforts.
8. “Don’t ignore for-profit models for scale”: Change Machine must be a viable business in order to be sustainable. The Clinic will learn a lot over the next year as Change Machine comes to market, and it is likely that we will modify the business model as a result, but like all widgets, its long-term success will depend on practitioners finding and paying for its value.
9. “Alter people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors”: Here, Bradach and Grindle point to the very essence of financial coaching. At the core of coaching is to emphasize people’s strengths and hold them accountable to their goals, which is what makes this intervention so powerful. So powerful, in fact, that in training, practitioners typically apply their new skills and tools to themselves and their families first. In doing so, they become advocates for the very capacity we are looking to build and the systems we are seeking to change.
As if the preceding themes weren’t enough, the Clinic knows Change Machine will achieve transformative scale because it was built by practitioners, for practitioners. The platform is fundamentally a solution created locally to resolve the financial insecurity among the communities we care so deeply about. As such, Change Machine will transform the lessons the Clinic has learned on the ground into large-scale, system-level solutions.