Many people feel overwhelmed by their financial situations, and they may not know where to go for help. For many low-income Americans, frontline staff of nonprofit and public social services programs are in a unique position to provide that help.
Their clients already know and trust them, and in many cases, they’re already sharing financial information with them. Social workers and case managers know, however, that the financial stresses clients face may interfere with their progress toward other goals, like finding and keeping secure housing, staying in school, or even landing a job. As they make progress toward those goals, financial missteps can often erase their hard-fought gains.
That’s why social services programs across the country are taking steps to integrate financial empowerment into the work they do each day with their clients. To support their efforts, we’ve developed and field-tested a toolkit for financial services programs called Your Money, Your Goals.
The toolkit helps frontline staff understand when and how to introduce clients to financial empowerment concepts. It equips them to help consumers when it comes to:
- Making spending decisions that help them reach their goals
- Avoiding tricks and traps as they choose financial products
- Ordering and fixing credit reports
- Making decisions about repaying debts and taking on new debt
- Keeping track of their income and bills
- Deciding if they need a checking account and understanding what they need to open one
As part of a Your Money, Your Goals pilot, since last fall, 26 organizations led educational workshops in 21 states and the District of Columbia that introduced 1,400 case managers and other frontline staff to the toolkit. Workshop participants came from organizations that provide homeless services, veterans’ programs, mental health and emergency services, case management for Head Start, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as well from as housing authorities, health clinics, and faith-based organizations.
Most of the case managers who attended are using the information and tools with their clients, and they’ve told us that the training and tools have made them more confident talking about these financial topics. As a result, their clients are feeling empowered to take on challenges like paying down debt and building a spending plan to have more control of their financial lives.
Beginning today, you can download Your Money, Your Goals. Along with the English and Spanish toolkits, you’ll find an implementation guide, PowerPoint slides with trainer notes, and a train-the-trainer video . You can also sign up for news on upcoming training events and updates to the toolkit.
Several national and local organizations are joining us in training social services staff to use the toolkit. Each organization has set a goal of training at least 500 frontline staff. Catholic Charities USA and the Community Action Partnership will offer training to staff of their member agencies and affiliates. The Los Angeles County’s Department of Consumer Affairs will begin training county and area non-profit case managers this fall. The National Association of Community Health Centers Community HealthCorps program is equipping the AmeriCorps members it places in community health centers across the country to use the toolkit. Financial educators at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension located in counties throughout the country will deliver the training for social services agencies in their communities.
The many staff that will be trained through these nonprofits and government entities will, in turn, share new information and tools with thousands of low-income consumers. We hope this make a difference in their financial lives.
Check out Your Money, Your Goals and see how you can put it to work in your organization and in your community.