Feb 07, 2018

Integrating Financial Security Services: What Difference Does It Make?

Posted by Nicole Dewey

Part 4- Is the Impact Worth It?

Written by Marty Miles, Consulting Associate| Corporation for a Skilled Workforce

“Our best job retention comes from those who have engaged in our financial coaching services. They have a financial goal fresh in mind and someone to hold them accountable.” Ben Rogers, Financial Coach — CitySquare, Dallas, TX

If you talk to anyone providing workforce development services, you quickly hear their strong desire to make a difference. They are passionately focused on better results for the individuals they serve — skills, credentials, job readiness, long-term employment in quality jobs, family-sustaining wages.

With the many issues and challenges faced by job seekers or those in low-paying jobs, providing workforce services is hard work! Integrating financial coaching and related services into existing programs — and the time and learning curve associated with that — can appear daunting. Naturally, and understandably, it begs the question: Is it worth it? Does it really make a difference?

The data show that it is and it does! Corporation for a Skilled Workforce’s (CSW) most recent national Workforce Benchmarking Survey indicates that community-based workforce programs offering financial services to their participants had better workforce outcomes that those not offering those services[i]:

· 7% higher job placement for program completers

· 18% more placements in full-time jobs

· 25% more placements in jobs with health benefits

· 12% higher job retention at six months

Equally important, workforce practitioners emphatically say that it makes a difference! Issue Brief #4: Is the impact Worth It?, by CSW and The Financial Clinic, highlights results experienced by organizations that are part of the Clinic’s WorkBOOST NYC ecosystem in New York City. Workforce practitioners in the Dallas-Ft. Worth region are participating in a similar initiative to integrate services sponsored by the Communities Foundation of Texas — the Working Families Success Network of North Texas[ii]. They echo the positive WorkBOOST NYC experience, with such first-year results as a 76% higher average starting wage for those receiving the most intensive integrated or bundled financial services.

But HOW does the integration of financial security and workforce services lead to better workforce outcomes, while building participants’ financial security? Since many of the Working Families Success Network organizations are also part of CSW’s Workforce Benchmarking Network, we asked two of them! Here are the reflections of Celena Fannin from The Women’s Center in Ft. Worth and Ben Rogers from CitySquare in Dallas:

 “When we’re able to approach our relationship with participants from the perspective of their financial goals, it’s the best of motivators when they get bogged down in their job search. It really grounds them in the WHY they want or need to work.”

 “Finances are the great equalizer. Everyone can relate to having financial concerns and can celebrate making progress toward financial goals. It helps to build a spirit of camaraderie and support among both participants and staff that is empowering when faced with job challenges.”

 “The deeper relationship that financial coaching allows you to build — and the value add of ongoing financial services after employment — allows us to get much better follow-up response to our participant outreach for job search and job retention.”

 “Our own staff are experiencing the benefit of using the financial coaching tools. They are improving their own credit scores and even buying new homes! This helps their own motivation to stay engaged and work harder for their clients.”

As Celena pointed out, integrating financial coaching into their workforce services has changed her organization’s whole view of “are we making a difference?” It’s not enough to know that someone has obtained or stayed in a job. They’re also now focused on what it will take to help that participant gain the tools for a lifetime of financial security.

“Change is always hard when you’ve been doing workforce services for 30 years. We’re still learning and working to become more confident with financial coaching tools. But it is the right thing to do — and definitely worth it!” Celena Fannin, Assistant Director of Workforce Services — The Women’s Center, Ft. Worth, TX

To learn more about this topic, see Issue Brief #4: Is the Impact Worth It?

To read the full series, see Full Series Issue Briefs

Join the discussion on twitter, @skilledwork_org, @financialclinic #morenotextra #finsec4change #integrate

*This blog is the fourth in a five-part series co-written by Corporation for a Skilled Workforce and The Financial Clinic. Stay tuned for subsequent blogs in this series. www.skilledwork.org www.thefinancialclinic.org

[i] The survey collected aggregate data on demographics, services and outcomes from 259 programs. See http://skilledwork.org/publications/apples-to-apples-2016/

[ii] Established in 2014, the WFSN includes the Communities Foundation of Texas and nine community-based organizations from the Dallas-Ft. Worth region who are committed to aligning services and programming so that families can achieve lasting economic outcomes. See http://wfsnorthtexas.org/

Jan 30, 2018

Integration Has its Challenges, But It Can Be Done!

Posted by Nicole Dewey

Part 3 - What about roadblocks? 

Written by Kysha Frazier, Senior Policy Associate | Corporation for a Skilled Workforce

The author, Dr. Seuss once said, “How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”  Seuss’ melodic rhyme expresses how many workforce professionals feel about the bandwidth they have for completing their everyday workload. This tension brings images of the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland running around frantically because he never felt he had enough— time.  

Integrating financial security services into workforce development programs can pose some challenges, of which time is one. Other barriers like inadequate client support tools, inconsistent data collection to accurately monitor progress, and processes and procedures that help sustain integration. But these challenges can be met, and in many cases without significant extra costs and extra, precious— time!

When resources and staff capacity are tight, adopting strategies that promote efficiencies while resulting in effective outcomes is critical.  The most impactful outcomes will serve a dual purpose: improving financial security while also boosting career mobility.  Integration of workforce and financial security activities should be thought of in its ability to be applied to a wide scope of new and pre-existing programs, as well as the ease of implementation and documentation.

According to a 2017 CSW special survey of Workforce Benchmarking Network and The Financial Clinic’s WorkBOOST NYC sites, programs that provide both workforce and financial security services to over 75% of their participants found important shared outcomes for the people they serve such as addressing wage garnishments, reviewing credit profile, and establishing a bank account for paycheck deposits.

Overcoming integration challenges can produce life changing outcomes for clients.  Imagine a job seeker with a disability. Workforce staff will better serve them if they understand how the Social Security Administration allows beneficiaries access to jobs without risking eligibility.  Think about the young person seeking their first job. Providing upfront information on check cashing fees, along with the type and amount of taxes taken out of their pay, can help them make more well-informed choices and build realistic expectations. Consider a divorced father who has been laid off and is struggling to make child support payments while searching for a new job.  Staff knowledgeable on the wage garnishment process and individuals’ rights can provide that client with key information for decision-making.

The way in which new integration activities and strategies are presented is key to garnering staff buy-in. Embedding efforts into current service delivery models and staff development can make the integration of financial activities feel more like a part of the natural workflow, instead of an additional task for staff. This approach works the same way for job seekers as well. For example, by learning to perform online follow-ups on credit reporting inquiries, clients can strengthen financial security skills while building transferable workforce skills like basic computer navigation and research skills for job searching.

Integration has its challenges, but it can be done. Having leadership support and a point person (or people) with responsibilities dedicated to the integration process, can help make these changes and improvements more seamless. And ultimately save much needed —  time!

To learn more about this topic, see Issue Brief #3: What About Roadblocks?

To read the full series, see Full Series Issue Briefs

Join the discussion on twitter, @skilledwork_org, @financialclinic #morenotextra #finsec4change #integrate

*This blog is the third in a five-part series co-written by Corporation for a Skilled Workforce and The Financial Clinic. Stay tuned for subsequent blogs in this series. www.skilledwork.org www.thefinancialclinic.org

Jan 23, 2018

There’s more than one way to effectively integrate!

Posted by Nicole Dewey

Part 2 - How to Integrate. 

Written by Jared Marling, Assistant Director of Capacity Building |The Financial Clinic.  The following blog is the second of a five-part series co-written by Corporation for a Skilled Workforce and The Financial Clinic.


The concept of integrating financial security strategies into a workforce development program sounds like a great idea, right? There are benefits that staff and participants alike can seize, and this is clear even at a quick glance. But when the rubber meets the road and it comes time to integrate these strategies, the theory may appear less attractive and more like a hassle.

Lots of questions may surface at this point: When can we find the time for this work? How can our team build the needed expertise? What can we say to participants to help them see the value of taking on these strategies? These questions often spiral into seemingly insurmountable barriers that hinder successful integration after it has already begun.

While these are valid questions and concerns, they all stem from one myth that is often assumed to be true: there is only one right way to effectively integrate financial security services into workforce development programs.  

There is actually a wide spectrum of approaches that organizations or programs can take to integrate financial security services into their workforce development programs. There are seed planting strategies, where staff members or coaches open the conversation about finances, introduce tools, or simply set expectations for future (often external) financial coaching conversations that participants will have. There are then the light-touch strategies, where staff members or coaches cultivate these seeds and encourage participants to take the first practical steps towards building their financial security. Finally, there are high-touch strategies. These are the most in-depth coaching conversations, which support participants in taking on the biggest obstacles to their financial security. While some organizations pursue strategies in just one of these categories, many pull elements from a few or all of the categories to make a plan that works for their team and their participants.

While we won’t dive into all the elements of these strategies here (check out Issue Brief #2: How Can You Do It? for more specifics), let’s highlight some examples from one organization that The Financial Clinic partnered with in 2017 and 2018, Grant Associates. Grant Associates is one of the nation’s leading workforce development organizations and the Clinic supported 16 of their programs in integrating financial security services. The approaches across the programs were very, very different. Let’s take a look!

Seed planting strategies… One Grant Associates program that serves four NYC boroughs completed a financial capability assessment with nearly 4,000 participants and set the expectations for more in-depth financial coaching conversations. Nearly 700 of these participants also set financial goals at this time -- a proven driver in future financial success. While these strategies alone go a long way to empower participants to start taking action and build their financial security, they also set the stage for fruitful conversations with other coaches that participants encountered later in the program. In fact, a large percentage of these participants have now taken advantage of the support of career and retention coaches for more in-depth services, such as pulling and reviewing credit reports or developing spending and savings plans.

A few of the other programs also incorporated these types of seed planting strategies into the very early steps of their programming by distributing interactive financial worksheets and tipsheets to participants and promoting exciting programs and products that participants could pursue. This established a solid foundation for next steps in many cases - a great strategic example of making the most of low-hanging fruit that any program could easily adopt.

Light-touch strategies… Many of the Grant Associates programs found their sweet spot in this category, and it spelled out big impacts for their participants. Here are a few specific examples and success stories to show what these strategies look like in action:

A program in Brooklyn has been doing fantastic work in integrating these strategies into their workforce development supports. Here is how one coach recounts a recent participant’s experience: “A client came to me feeling as though he would never be able to make a positive financial change. When we originally sat down, we came up with an attainable goal. We were able to break down the steps so that the overall goal was achieved with small milestones along the way. He has since checked his credit report from all three Credit Bureaus, disputed some charges and even made payments on his school loan. My client is pleased with his progress and feels as though financial security is closer than he imagined.”

As another example, a program in Maryland shared the tremendously compelling story of a young man living in a shelter after being kicked out of his home. This young man secured part-time employment through the program and is now well on his way to a full-time position. Throughout this process he participated in several light-touch financial security strategies: he reviewed and improved his credit report and score, he opened a savings account, and he has been consistently building his savings by depositing paychecks in the bank each week. He is committed to building a better life for himself and is currently in the process of finding an apartment of his own. These financial security strategies have been crucial to his success.

High-touch strategies… While it is not possible for every organization or program to take on high-touch strategies, these approaches can be a great fit for programs that have the bandwidth for more in-depth, one-on-one service. For example, a different Brooklyn-based Grant Associates program shared the story of a participant they placed on the fast track for employment. She found career success early on in the program and built on that by achieving a promotion. However, some of the biggest benefits of the program came to her through the high-touch financial coaching services. These services empowered her to reach a number or huge milestones towards financial security:

  • She successfully disputed fraudulent debt and reduced her overall debt by 66%
  • She increased her credit score by 86 points
  • She received the Earned Income Tax Credit
  • She pursued and obtained employer incentives
  • She transitioned from changing rent payment assessments

She is on her way to being debt free by early 2018 and this stems from the in-depth supports that she experienced as a part of the comprehensive workforce development program in Brooklyn!

The possibilities for how a workforce development program integrates financial security strategies are endless. The key is to understand your participants’ needs and your team’s bandwidth, and to land on the right mix of strategies. There is not just one right answer!

To learn more about this topic, see Issue Brief #2: How Can You Do It?
To read the full series, see Full Series Issue Briefs

Join the discussion on twitter, @skilledwork_org, @financialclinic #morenotextra #finsec4change #integrate

*This blog is the second in a five-part series co-written by Corporation for a Skilled Workforce and The Financial Clinic. Stay tuned for subsequent blogs in this series. www.skilledwork.org www.thefinancialclinic.org

Jan 19, 2018

Please Allow Me to Introduce: Change Machine's New Director!

Posted by Kristen McGuire

"Oh Captain, My Captain" - Meet Change Machine's New Director, Peter Olivier

Peter Olivier joined The Financial Clinic in December 2017 as the Director of Product Management. In this role, Peter leads the design and development of the Change Machine platform. 

Prior to joining the Clinic, Peter spent two years in working in microfinance before joining Endeavor, a New York-based nonprofit that works to support entrepreneurs building and scaling companies in emerging markets. There, he evaluated companies from 20 countries and managed the organization's selection process before moving into a product management role and designing and launching an online platform for the network's entrepreneurs and mentors. He then joined Agora for Good as Chief Product Officer and oversaw the launch of a platform for effective philanthropy. Most recently, Peter had the pleasure of being a stay-at-home dad. 

Peter holds BAs in International Relations and Spanish from Tufts University. He lives in the Hudson Valley, and spends his time cooking and eating with his wife, dreaming up startups with his friends, and carrying his son around on his shoulders.

Jan 16, 2018

Financial Insecurity: A Barrier to a Jobseekers Success.

Posted by Nicole Dewey

Part 1 - Why to Integrate 

A young woman is enrolled part-time in community college and looking for a job to help pay for her student expenses.  Given her family's financial situation, she's unsure of how a job might affect her mother's eligibility for food and housing assistance or her family's tax refund when they file.  She knows that her job will help with expenses and saving for college, yet she also wants to know whether she's harming her family's net financial situation in the process.  These are difficult issues for anyone to navigate, made more challenging when you don't have access to financial coaching.  

This is just one example of how the financial instability of many unemployed and working poor people can be a barrier to success, even as they are attempting to better their situations.  Workforce development program participants often face financial challenges ranging from having poor credit ratings, being credit “invisible” or “unscorable” with insufficient credit history, debt, and no savings.   Financial emergencies such as a car breaking down, a high utility bill, or a surprise medical issue can keep them from participating in education and training programs and staying employed.

Financial insecurity can hinder an individual’s ability to complete education and training programs, obtain employment, and keep their job.  When jobs go unfilled in concurrence with so many people confronting employment challenges, this creates a barrier to economic mobility that’s important to understand and address for families and communities across the country.  Leading workforce development organizations nationally have a strong history of providing financial security services to their program participants.  The Corporation for a Skilled Workforce/The Financial Clinic Issue Brief series, When is More Not Extra? further explores how integrating these services into workforce development programs can achieve greater impact and accelerate outcomes. 

Our research from both the national Workforce Benchmarking Network survey and a survey of The Financial Clinic’s WorkBOOST NYC partners validates that programs who integrated financial security strategies into their core services showed higher rates of achieving workforce outcomes than programs that did not offer financial services.  This includes improvement in both employment and financial outcomes for participants who received a combination of services to help them gain skills to find employment and the financial knowledge to retain jobs long term.  

We hope this research is useful to organizations and communities currently rethinking their approach to workforce development services and financial literacy education.  We see great opportunity in 2018 for learning and experimentation with others who want to help individuals achieve better employment outcomes and improve financial behaviors in service of real economic progress.

To learn more about this topic, see Issue Brief #1: Why Should We Integrate?

To read the full series, see Full Series Issue Briefs

Join the discussion on twitter,  @skilledwork_org, @financialclinic #morenotextra #finsec4change #integrate

*This blog is the first in a five-part series co-written by Corporation for a Skilled Workforce and The Financial Clinic. Stay tuned for subsequent blogs in this series. www.skilledwork.org www.thefinancialclinic.org

Dec 18, 2017

When is More Not Extra? Effective Strategies for Financial Security.

Posted by Nicole Dewey

Getting a job is more than just matching resumes and position descriptions. For workforce programs, helping jobseekers gain the skills they need to find and grow in good jobs is hard enough: Participants' financial insecurity can make it even harder. Poor credit profiles, little savings, lack of a bank account, and wage garnishments pose real and significant challenges for jobseekers and those moving up the career path. 

What are effective and simple ways to address this challenge? More focus on financial security may not mean a ton of extra work. The Financial Clinic and the Workforce Benchmarking Network of Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW) are releasing a set of issue briefs to examine how basic financial security activities for workforce programs connect with better workforce outcomes. The briefs discuss simple ways of integrating those practices into existing services, using results from the Clinic’s recent financial security ecosystem, WorkBOOST NYC, as a holistic model for future replication. 

Download the full set of issue briefs here

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Nov 03, 2017

Bridging the Gap

Posted by Nicole Dewey

Change Machine: Empowering Financial Coaching Programs and Practitioners

It all started with scribbled notes on the back of a napkin. As a financial coaching organization led by experienced frontline practitioners, we were all too aware of the gaps programs face that can take precious time away from serving customers, such as finding access to the resources and answers that customers need to succeed, or effectively tracking data to discover patterns and improve services. Then the ‘aha’ moment: We could leverage the innovation of financial technology to boost nonprofit missions and outcomes! Thus, Change Machine was born. A dynamic, web-based financial coaching platform, Change Machine contains all the tools and resources practitioners need to address their customers’ underlying financial insecurity. It bridges the gap for financial coaching services in three crucial ways:

  1. Meeting Coaches Where They Are

Change Machine provides a one-stop-shop for practitioners, whether they are brand new to financial coaching or a seasoned professional looking to refresh and expand their skills. The LEARN portal features self-paced lessons and quizzes that start with the basics and build out into a ‘choose your own adventure’ course of specializations. Plus, we hold monthly virtual trainings to dig further into specialty skills and specific sectors. When meeting with a customer, coaches can instantly access over 150 tipsheets and worksheets through the Toolbox to guide customers through their unique financial insecurities -- from identity theft to student loans to filing taxes and more. It’s as easy as typing in the issue area and sending it to the printer! (P.S. Download a selection of free tools here)

2.  The “D” Word

Data management can be intimidating, time consuming, and yet necessary for fundraising. It is also an important element when trying to improve service delivery and programming. It doesn’t matter how big or small your organization is, Change Machine makes data management easy and painless. Data is collected organically in coaching meetings through COACH’s intake process and customer management portal. Outcomes are clearly tracked in six areas: assets, banking, credit, debt, taxes, and (most importantly) goals. Then, MANAGE gives supervisors special access to slice and dice customer and staff data with both out of the box and custom reporting capabilities. As one client explains, “Our staff recognizes that for us to be sustainable as an organization, we need to demonstrate the value of our services. Change Machine provided us with a platform to really track what the financial impact on our participants’ personal finances is - and that was hugely valuable. Without that, you’re just making the qualitative argument as to the quality of the service you’re providing.” (Alex Breen, Senior Associate, Seedco)

3. Connecting Coaches, Near and Far

I get by with a little help from my friends.” Or a lot. Financial coaches are amazingly versatile in their ability to support customers in any area where they find a financial barrier. Yet, there was no way to broadly apply that knowledge to the field. Until now! Change Machine’s SHARE is an online community of over 1,000 practitioners nationwide. Financial coaches can get their toughest questions answered, share best practices and pertinent news, and celebrate success stories.

Financial coaches deserve the same level of support that they provide to their customers every day. Change Machine seamlessly bridges skills training with data collection with service delivery with a strong community of practice. We give coaches and programs the freedom to concentrate on what really matters -- building financial security for themselves and their communities.

Feb 17, 2017

Change Machine: The Perfect Fit

Posted by Kristen McGuire

What's Your Change Machine?

We want to help you find the ideal balance of Change Machine's available platforms that fits in with your program design. Our varied subscription levels ensure you have the resources you need to complete your unique vision of social service. Read below to learn how Wesley Mission Center, LIFT-DC, and University Neighborhood Housing Program (UNHP) are making the most of their Change Machine subscriptions - you may be inspired by a new idea for using the platform, we know we were!

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Nov 04, 2016

Introducing the all-new Help Center

Posted by Clement Chan

We've splashed a fresh coat of paint on the Help Center, a self-service resource for users of Change Machine!

Not only is it speedier, it's now easier than ever to get an immediate answer to something you need help with. Use the search bar at the top of the Help Center, type in a search term, and watch as the relevant articles get pulled up.

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Oct 14, 2016

Happy National Financial Goal Day!

Posted by Kristen McGuire

Why National Financial Goal Day?

Did you know that customers who achieve their financial goal are 4.5 times more likely to achieve a financial security outcome?! 

Last year on National Financial Goal Day, we launched Change Machine - this year we celebrate the goals it has helped create: nearly 400 Clinic customers have achieved their financial goals, with a 15% improvement in cash-value returned!  

Click below to hear a special National Financial Goal Day message from Clinic Founder and CEO, Mae Watson Grote: 

                      Screen_Shot_2016_10_13_at_2.59.41_PM.png

Comment below and join us through the day on SHAREFacebook, and Twitter for a virtual party! Don't forget to register your goal - the contest ends today! 

                  

Sep 23, 2016

Change Machine 3.5

Posted by Clement Chan

Fall is officially here, and with it, brings us one step closer to tax time.

We're excited to announce the launch of the Tax Refund Analyzer (in beta), which can be found in the Taxes tab in COACH!

The analyzer helps to identify customers who may be phased out of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC).

By entering your customers' past tax return information into the analyzer, your customer will then know when they may be disqualified for the EITC and CTC, and better plan for their future.

This new release also includes general bug fixes to improve your Change Machine experience, and will be rolled out automatically to all users on Monday, Sep 26, 2016.

Sep 14, 2016

10,000 Users on Change Machine!

Posted by Nicole Dewey

In anticipation of our upcoming one year anniversary of launching Change Machine, we just wanted to give a heartfelt thank you to all of you who have joined us on this journey so far.  Because of you, we've reached our original goal of reaching 10,000 users on Change Machine!  This is a huge milestone for us, and we couldn't have done it without you.  

Please join us as we get ready for our next annual #MyFinancialGoal campaign by registering with the link below and sharing your goals on Facebook, Twitter and Share.  (Fun fact: You'll also be entered to win $100 and $50 Amazon Gift Cards, tote bags and more!)

Everyone has a financial goal.  What's yours?

https://change-machine.org/eve...

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Aug 22, 2016

Change Machine 3.4 - Maintenance and Bug Fixes

Posted by Clement Chan

It's summertime, and it's time to keep bugs at bay!

The Change Machine team is committed to continually improve the platform. Your feedback to us has been invaluable, many of which have been included in this latest maintenance release.

With a tech support median response time of 5 minutes in the last 3 months, rest assured that we read each feedback closely. So don't hesitate to reach out to us via the tech support conversation bubble (or email us at [email protected]) if you run into any issues!

This new release includes bug fixes and enhancements to improve your experience on Change Machine, and will be rolled out automatically to all users on Monday, August 22, 2016.

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Jul 26, 2016

Change Machine 3.3

Posted by Clement Chan

By popular demand from our users, Change Machine Release 3.3 makes the COACH platform area more accessible to Spanish-speaking customers.

This new release will be available to all users on Monday, July 25, 2016.

Change Machine 3.3 Highlights

  • Language Preference: You are now able to set a language preference between English or Spanish for each customer in COACH.
  • Spanish Action Plan: The Action Plan you know and love in COACH is now also available in Spanish! 
  • Spanish Dynamic Worksheet Printouts: Information that you enter into the COACH dynamic worksheets in the Goals, Assets, Banking, Credit, Debt, and Taxes tabs can now also be printed in Spanish! You may print these as a summary for your customer on what you've worked on together with them during a session.
  • Simplified Income Worksheet: On the Income dynamic worksheet, income sources are now reorganized into two major categories: Income and Income Supports. Similar to the existing Expenses dynamic worksheet, these sections are collapsible to focus on the income types you are working on. 
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Jun 13, 2016

Change Machine 3.2

Posted by Clement Chan

It's time for Change Machine release 3.2!

This release focuses on improving COACH and how you work with customers on Change Machine. These enhancements are available on Monday, June 13, 2016!

Change Machine 3.2 Highlights

  • Intake Enhancements: We've improved the intake interface when adding new customers to COACH, integrated demographics fields into the process, and made demographics fields customizable for your program! You can also now re-open the intake tabs from the Customer Details tab. Contact us to customize demographics for your program or opt out of demographics tracking. 
  • Action Plan Enhancements: From the Action Plan, you can now easily access relevant tipsheets and worksheets directly to support a specific coaching action. You can also conveniently jump to a dynamic worksheet tab from a relevant action tile (i.e. from Identify Goals on the Action Plan to the Goals worksheet to enter a new goal.)
  • Meetings Tab Enhancements: The Meetings tab is a record of all interactions with your customer. With the new release, you'll never forget to add a new meeting or activate an old meeting again! Helpful alerts have been implemented to guide you through the process.
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Jun 10, 2016

4 FinTech Startups Helping Customers Achieve Financial Security

Posted by Clement Chan

This month, we're focusing on all things related to fintech!

A portmanteau of financial technology, fintech is often described as being disruptive to the traditional financial services industry. As technology continues to improve our lives, the same cannot be said with the gargantuan maze that is the traditional bank's backend systems.

Change Machine is an example of a fintech platform, whose focus is making financial coaching easier for practitioners. As social service agencies continue to embed financial coaching into their services (for instance, for groups advocating for domestic violence survivors, formerly incarcerated people, job-seekers, the undocumented, and more), the more working poor individuals can be positively impacted and in turn, achieve financial security.

We're not the only ones using fintech to improve other people's lives. Here are some of our compatriots:

Acorns

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May 26, 2016

2016 User Feedback Results

Posted by Clement Chan

Our users have spoken.

In our 2nd annual survey, financial coaches and managers alike generously shared their feedback about Change Machine. Practitioners mentioned that our content in LEARN helped them to prepare for financial coaching, how COACH eased their coaching sessions, yet others love how they can ask coaching questions to an entire community of professionals on SHARE.

Let's take a peek at what some users have said:

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Apr 20, 2016

Change Machine 3.1

Posted by Clement Chan

We're excited to kick off Change Machine's development in 2016 with Release 3.1!

We’ve been hard at work improving the core infrastructure that runs Change Machine. This sets up the platform to run more efficiently with even fewer bugs, while preparing ourselves for an exciting year of new development.

This new release will be available to all users on Monday, May 9, 2016.

While much of this work is on the backend, there are also a few new features on the frontend for all of you!

Change Machine 3.1 Highlights

  • SHARE Redesign: We're propelling ourselves to the future! Your SHARE experience has been reimagined with a beautiful, modern user interface, allowing you to ask questions and view discussions easier than before.
  • Mixed Access Levels: Organizations can now have users with various access levels on the same organizational account! While previously this was not possible, you can now have any combination of Basic, Community, Coach, and Manager access levels in a single organization.
  • Collaborate on Customers Across Organizations: Do you have partner organizations on Change Machine as well? Now, customers can be handed off from one organization to another to receive all the services that they need! The receiving organization will then have access to information that has already been entered, allowing them to immediately get the fullest picture of the customer.
  • Customer Management: For those with access to COACH, working with customers has never been easier. In this release, we've re-enabled the automatic duplicate customer check, restored the ability to delete customer records and made it easier to change the Primary Coach.
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Jan 28, 2016

Identity Theft: Tools, Tips and Strategies

Posted by Jerin Arifa

January 25-29 is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, hosted by the Federal Trade Commission. We are grateful FTC is bringing attention to this important issue. We were honored that a special guest presenter from FTC joined the Credit Builders Alliance and The Financial Clinic to discuss best practices and answer questions on identity theft. View the presentation here.

FTC just announced the launch of IdentityTheft.gov – the federal government’s free, one-stop resource to help people fix problems caused by identity theft – now making it easier for victims of identity. 

Dec 18, 2015

Change Machine 3.0

Posted by Saul Miller

Hi there Change Machine Community!

After more than a year of development, Change Machine 3.0 is here! It will be available to all users on Monday, December 21, 2015.

Change Machine 3.0 Highlights

  • Manager Portal MANAGE: Formerly called the Manager Portal, the special area of Change Machine that supports managers and network users with program management and evaluation has been totally redone. Check out MANAGE with guided organization setup checklists, Manager Toolbox, and dedicated Data Portal.
  • LEARN Badges and Certificates: Your hard work on the quizzes in LEARN deserves to be recognized. Now, you can show off your new financial coaching knowledge with a printable certificate and an acknowledgement on your LinkedIn profile.
  • COACH Dashboard and Metrics: New charts and statistics provide coaches with insights into their caseload and performance. Reporting is no longer just for managers!
  • Customer Collaboration: Collaborating with your colleagues has never been smoother. Change Machine now makes it easy to see who is a customer's primary coach and who the customer met with at each meeting.
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Oct 20, 2015

Why We Built Change Machine

Posted by Becky Smith

I’ll never forget my first day in the field: April 14, 2008.

I was at a credit union in the South Bronx and it was the second to last day of tax season. It was my first time leading a coaching session and I was understandably nervous. When my first customer arrived at the reception desk, I grabbed a blank action plan, pulled up my favorite bankrate.com calculator, and took a deep breath.

Little did I know then that over the next seven years I’d be training staff and leadership teams from social and human services all across the country to conduct their own financial coaching sessions. My firsthand experiences combined with conversations I've had with hundreds of practitioners over the years revealed how widespread the challenges are for people and programs to be successful. Three of the foremost challenges I have encountered over the last seven years are:

Challenge #1: “Knight in Shining Armor” Syndrome

The first challenge is what I like to call the “knight in shining armor” syndrome. We fall into the trap of thinking if we do not know ALL of the answers right NOW, we have somehow failed to serve our customers. The truth is, there is so much information out there that changes all the time, not to mention that each person’s life is unique and complex. Not every obstacle requires the same action plan to overcome it. Also, as coaches, we are working with customers to achieve behavior change. The reality is: Change takes time. So no need to charge in on a white horse.

Challenge #2: Program Implementation Paralysis

Programs struggle to identify the “right” training, the “right” curriculum, the “right” tools, the “right” outcomes to measure… and when they make one or even all four of these decisions... they often still struggle with the “right” staffing configuration and the “right” tracking system. What compounds the problem further is that even with the most perfectly executed implementation plan, nonprofits often experience high turnover. I’ve seen many instances of the financial coaching supports leave with the staff that were trained to provide those services. Organizations need a more accessible and sustainable way to incorporate financial security strategies into their programs.

Challenge #3: “Alone on an Island” Effect

An overlooked challenge I often see (and experienced) is that discussing money is still a social taboo. The discomfort factor that many of us feel about our own personal finances is very real, and this can create a serious barrier to putting financial coaching strategies into practice with customers. Practitioners need to plug into a network that destigmatizes this issue and makes financial conversations less daunting. By providing an outlet for practitioners to easily reach one another for support and encouragement, practitioners grow confidence in incorporating sensitive financial discussions into their work with customers too!

These problems are real, but they are not insurmountable.

We built Change Machine to bring together all of our institutional knowledge and best practices about how to address the challenges that I experienced in the field along with my fellow coaches and dozens of our nonprofit partners. Three of the top reasons we stayed motivated over the last four years to build Change Machine are:

Reason #1: Stronger Coaching Relationships

We built Change Machine to better serve coaches and practitioners everywhere. There is tremendous excitement about the power of using a “coaching” approach with customers, and Change Machine provides the tools that make financial coaching come to life. The platform arms coaches to identify decision making moments that leverage the information they uncover in a meeting and puts “bumper lanes” in place to ease stressful sessions. Practitioners have a mega-resource at their fingertips ㄧ a coaching companion ㄧ to support customers to achieve their goals through personal commitments and action planning that sticks.

Solution #2: Stronger Programs

We built Change Machine to better serve programs far and wide. Change Machine houses a financial security framework that has been rigorously evaluated and promotes lasting behavior change. We wanted to make real-time information accessible to everyone at the organization so teams are not only focused on using data to increase funding opportunities, but to have robust conversations and water-cooler chats about their compelling customer stories. Programs are one-click away from data and metrics designed to provide practical insights and actionable information to ultimately improve services.

Solution #3: A Stronger Field

Change Machine is built by practitioners for practitioners. It represents the field of professionals on the frontlines of poverty alleviation efforts. We built Change Machine to better serve our fast-growing field of practitioners and elevate their voices. Change Machine is not only a peer-to-peer support system, but the conversations that take place can inform research, as well as fuel policy and advocacy efforts.

4 years in software development, 10 years in the making!

Last week marked a very special milestone in The Financial Clinic’s history: The public launch of Change Machine. We thought the best way to celebrate was to declare October 15th – exactly six months before “tax day” – as National Financial Goal Day. Financial goals are the single-most powerful indicator of whether the Clinic is accomplishing its mission, so the day also marks the launch of a movement that captures the very essence of our work and what Change Machine is all about!

- Becky Smith, Director of Strategic Initiatives, The Financial Clinic

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Oct 12, 2015

Change Machine Release 2.9

Posted by Saul Miller

Hi there Change Machine Community!

With Change Machine Release 2.9, getting started on Change Machine has never been easier. It will be available to all users on Monday, October 12th, 2015.

Change Machine Release 2.9 Highlights

  • Getting Started Checklist: A personalized checklist guides you through the first steps of success on Change Machine. Will you check them all?
  • Top Groups and Top Topics: New Group and Topic summary pages in SHARE highlight the groups and topics
  • New Profile Page: Your profile is your face in the Change Machine Community. Upload a profile picture and let the community know who you are.
  • New COACH Design: We refreshed the customer intake process and customer dashboard designs.
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Oct 11, 2015

10/15/15: National Financial Goal Day and Change Machine Public Launch

Posted by Jerin Arifa

Everyone has a financial goal. What’s yours?

On 10/15/15, The Financial Clinic will host the first Annual National Financial Goal Day, a celebration across America to launch financial goals! The celebration coincides with the public launch of Change Machine, and will feature events online and in-person.

All changemakers who register for an event will receive a FREE Community License on Change Machine through the end of the year. Details below.

By dedicating a day to encourage and celebrate individual goals collectively as a nation, National Financial Goal Day has the potential to help millions build financial security by addressing their immediate financial challenges and helping them set long-term goals to achieve financial mobility. You can RSVP for one of our National Financial Goal Day parties in:

  • Dallas, TX
  • Hawaii
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Madison, WI
  • New York City, NY
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Virtual (Everywhere!)

  • The Financial Clinic advocates that no financial goal is too big or small. With over a decade of experience empowering thousands to achieve their goals, the Clinic has seen firsthand the value of goal setting in building financial security and improving financial mobility--Clinic customers have set hundreds of financial goals to save over $42,821,199 in resources and assets. Having actionable financial goals are the driver to moving from financial insecurity to lasting financial security.

    The Community License provides access to a professional, social network connecting practitioners to a peer-to-peer support system of front-line staff, advocates, supervisors and financial coaching thought leaders. Enjoy 24/7 access to a network of colleagues with a shared passion for improving their customer’s financial security. Post your questions and comments. Give and get actionable advice.

    Visit here to learn more about The Financial Clinic. The financial coaching strategies on Change Machine have been rigorously tested, showing significant evidence of impact. In short, financial coaching helps build financial security.

    No matter where you are, we encourage you to develop a financial goal and LAUNCH it on 10/15/15.

    Sep 07, 2015

    Change Machine Release 2.8

    Posted by Saul Miller

    Hi there Change Machine Community!

    The newest Change Machine release introduces a customized landing page for all users and new levels of customer tracking in COACH. It will be available on Monday, September 7th, 2015.

    Change Machine Release 2.8 Highlights

    • Landing Page: A single location to easily access all the important features of Change Machine. Browse important announcements, complete lessons in LEARN, ask a question in SHARE, or create a new customer profile in COACH, all from one place!
    • Meeting Notes: Enter high level session notes for each meeting on the Meetings Tab in COACH.
    • Track Customer Referrals: Does your organization have referral partners? Organizations can now customize your list of referral partners in the Manager Portal and track customer referrals using the Referrals Tab in COACH.
    • Financial Capability Scale Survey: Change Machine has long had the FCS survey integrated into COACH. Now you can manually add a survey during any customer meeting and receive automatic prompts for follow-up surveys every three months.
    • New Manager Tools - Customer Baseline Reports: Measure and communicate the scale and impact of your programs by tracking changes to key customer financial metrics (asset balances, income, banking costs, credit scores and debt) in the Manager Portal.
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    Jul 24, 2015

    Change Machine Release 2.7

    Posted by Saul Miller

    Hi there Change Machine Community!

    The Change Machine Help Center is here! Release 2.7 takes Change Machine technical support to a new level by introducing the Help Center and more. This is the second release in a series of five releases leading up to Change Machine's public launch in October.

    The new release is available to all users on Monday, July 27th, 2015. Please review the release details below to familiarize yourself with the improvements.

    Change Machine Release 2.7 Highlights

    • New Help Center: A dedicated site with instructional guides, how-to videos and upcoming community trainings.
    • Enhanced Customer Reporting: Managers can now easily measure customer asset balances, income, banking costs, credit score and total debt changes.
    • Clock Your Meetings: You can now keep track of time spent on the various sections in each meeting.
    • Enhancements and Bug Fixes: Improving Change Machine throughout the platform. Thanks for all of the feedback!
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    Jun 05, 2015

    Change Machine Release 2.6

    Posted by Saul Miller

    Hi there Change Machine Community!

    We're excited to share Change Machine Release 2.6 with all of you. This release will deliver a new level of tech support features and improvements to the COACH section of Change Machine. This is the first release in a series of five releases leading up to Change Machine's public launch in October.

    The new release is available to all users on Monday, June 8th, 2015. Please review the release details below to familiarize yourself with the improvements. Register Here for a virtual Q&A event on Thursday, June 11th at 3pm ET.

    Read More
    May 07, 2015

    Change Machine User Feedback Results

    Posted by Saul Miller

    “I am more confident helping clients with financial goals and questions. The lessons [gave] me confidence to assist them in banking and tax planning…weak areas for me prior.” – program manager

    “It has made data entry time a lot shorter for me.” – financial coach

    “I can contact Change Machine to ask questions, particularly deal with legal issues and standards dealing with credit repair….” – financial coach

    “I love having access to up-to-date, quality content in form of tip sheets. I never wanted to… [have] copies and copies of resources…[on] my desk…it's all in Change Machine...” – social worker

    “I really enjoy the networking aspect of Change Machine because it allows you to connect with other professionals who have resources that you may not yet have.” – financial coach

    “It has supported…establishing financial safety with the survivors I work with…allowing them to see their progress and develop…ways to budget themselves regardless of their income…” – domestic violence case manager

    We recently asked Change Machine users how we were doing and the results were overwhelming. We heard from the broad range of professionals that Change Machine supports: financial coaches, domestic violence advocates, workforce development specialists, industry experts and more. The quotes offer an illustration of how Change Machine is making “all the difference” in the way front-line staff is implementing financial development strategies nationwide.

    Expert support, reliability, decreased time for data entry and increased knowledge and confidence were just a few of the reasons Change Machine users gave us a 90 percent approval rating, eager to recommend us to others. As one financial coach put it, “Change Machine is a revolutionary tool that not only helps Financial Counselors but also participants as a whole.” Many practitioners highlighted how the online platform allowed them to “provide more services and resources to educate not just my clients but myself to take better financial decisions.” Participants love the “clean and user-friendly interface,” noting how “having…specific information sorted by subject areas has saved…time,” and “the printouts…are easy to understand as well as explain.” Supervisors expressed how well Change Machine tracks “each encounter with clients and the support they receive from staff.” One program manager is so excited about the “groundbreaking tools” that she plans to use Change Machine quizzes as a part of her new hire’s training.

    Our users’ feedback is crucial to us as Change Machine continues to grow. In just a two-week period, over 60 Change Machine users completed an online survey covering everything from training, technical support, features and ease of use. The response represented 30% of our most active users!

    Congratulations to our winners Mario Gutierrez of New York Legal Assistance Group, Courtney Hammond of Amity Foundation, Teresa Jackson of Sharing Life Outreach, and Daniel Townsend of Doe Fund who each received a $40 Amazon gift card for their participation.

    While the vast majority of feedback was positive, there are always areas that we can improve. We have an aggressive development schedule ahead of us in the next six months to continue to make Change Machine the best it can be. We will be rolling out new Change Machine releases every two months, addressing many of the challenges that our users reported. As we approach the public launch in October, look out for a new user help center and enhanced user supports. We will also be increasing the level of Change Machine customizability and enhancing LEARN, COACH, SHARE and the Manager Portal.

    Whether through tech support, the Ideas Group or an email to [email protected], please keep the feedback coming. It’s an exciting time here at The Financial Clinic and we cannot wait to share Change Machine 3.0 with all of you.

    Mar 16, 2015

    Change Machine Release 2.5

    Posted by Saul Miller

    Hi there Change Machine Community!

    After a few quiet months of smaller maintenance releases, we are happy to share Release 2.5 with all of you. This most recent round of improvements focused on the COACH section of Change Machine.

    The new release is available to all users as of Monday, March 16th, 2015. Please review the release details below. We look forward to hearing your feedback in the Change Machine Community Group. Just tag your comments with the topic "Release 2.5".

    Like what you see but don't have Enterprise access yet? Contact us today at [email protected] to discuss a subscription upgrade.

    Read More
    Oct 28, 2014

    Change Machine Release 2.4

    Posted by Saul Miller

    Hi Change Machine Community!

    We are so excited to share Change Machine Release 2.4 with you. This release includes updates in every part of Change Machine. The Learn section has been totally redesigned, there is a brand new Toolbox in Coach, and even Share has a fresh look!

    It is available to all users as of Monday, October 27th, 2014. For those of you with Learn and Coach access, be sure to watch the training videos below to familiarize yourself with the changes. We look forward to hearing how you like the new release in the Change Machine Community Group.

    Read More
    Jul 02, 2014

    Exciting Coach Changes Released 6/26/2014

    Posted by Saul Miller

    Hey Everyone!

    We are excited to share some big updates to the Coach section of Change Machine. There are updates to some areas you are familiar with and brand new interactive worksheets to use with your customers.  For those of you with Coach access, please watch the training videos to familiarize yourself with the updates.

    Read More
    Jan 30, 2014

    New Year, New Features

    Posted by Keith Mancuso

    Every time I sit down to write about a new release I find myself saying, "This is our biggest release to date" and this one is no exception!

    This release has new features in every section of the site, including this blog you're reading right now.

    Read More
    Aug 29, 2013

    Blog

    Posted by Keith Mancuso

    This video will show you how to get the most out of Share's most powerful feature, Chatter Community. Enjoy!

    Aug 29, 2013

    Blog

    Posted by Keith Mancuso

    This video will show you how to get the most out of Change Machine's blog.

    Aug 26, 2013

    Blog

    Posted by Becky Smith

    Here's the first of a series of four videos about how to use the different parts of Share. There have been some major recent upgrades to Share and we want to make sure everyone knows how to take full advantage of Share's power. Over the next week there will be videos appearing on each of these three components of Share: (1) Blog; (2) Chatter Community; (3) Ideas.

    Mar 13, 2013

    1st Release: Learn Action Pages and Share Support!

    Posted by Keith Mancuso

    Hey everyone,

    We are excited to announce that we just pushed the lastest release of Change Machine Beta live. Thank you to everyone who has been using the system so far and providing your feedback. We hope to continue these releases once a month, so please continue to provide feedback and ideas!

    Read More
    Feb 06, 2013

    New Members: Beta Launch

    Posted by Becky Smith

    We are thrilled to welcome United Way of Southeastern Michigan's financial coaching network and its Center for Working Families and Community Financial Centers partners as our inaugural beta testers on the Learn section of Change Machine! We want to send a special shout out to the following organizations participating in the first beta launch:

    Read More

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