How Community Partnerships Can Help Advance City Financial Inclusion Efforts

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This is the fifth post in our financial inclusion blog series. The series provides examples and action steps to help city leaders start or strengthen financial inclusion efforts. This post focuses on the role of community partners in implementing financial inclusion efforts.

ThinkstockPhotos-83313318Partnerships hold the key to successful local financial inclusion systems. (Michael Blann/Getty Images)

Strategic partnerships between local governments and stakeholders are a critical step that cities can take to advance their financial inclusion efforts.

It’s no surprise that cities are most effective when they bring together a broad-based network of community partners to improve the well-being of individuals and families and strengthen the local economy. Support and buy-in from community partners, including nonprofits, the local business community, and state and regional coalitions can foster sustainability in programs designed to help residents build financial stability.

NLC’s financial inclusion report highlights the innovative partnerships in cities across the country that are meant to help city leaders mitigate the financial hardships many of their residents face on a daily basis.

Our report is the result of an in-depth scan of financial inclusion programs in cities across the U.S. The scan included a survey, with 34 percent of survey respondents indicating that community leaders other than mayors or councilmembers, including local business and nonprofit organizations, have made it their mission to address the financial needs of families by dedicating staff to support financial inclusion programming, participating in committees or task forces, initiating asset-building coalitions, etc.

Lansing, Mich., for example, established the Employee Empowerment Corps (EEC), a collaborative partnership of the Lansing’s Financial Empowerment Center, Center for Financial Health and the Asset Independence Coalition, to pioneer innovative approaches to increasing financial well-being for low-and moderate-income employees. The EEC delivers financial counseling, income support through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and benefits access and asset-building opportunities through homeownership.

The United Way of Metropolitan Nashville partners with Mayor Karl Dean’s office to operate the Nashville Financial Empowerment Center and offers free tax preparation and other financial inclusion services to residents.

CITIES_Figure07_webOne of the most common partnerships for local governments is with a financial institution, often a community bank with strong roots in the community. One third of survey respondents reported working directly with banks on financial inclusion efforts.

These relationships present a ‘win-win’ situation for the city and the bank. Columbia, S.C. launched a campaign in partnership with Wells Fargo Bank that targets the largest public housing facility in the city for financial education workshops and promotes no- and low-cost bank accounts. Many cities, including Denver; Houston; Nashville, Tenn.; San Francisco, Seattle; and Virginia Beach, Va., cited Bank On program that helped municipalities and stakeholders build partnerships with financial institutions. To date, approximately 100 cities have Bank On campaigns.

Other cities are integrating financial capability into existing programs. Los Angeles partnered with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce to launch Hire LA’s Youth, a summer jobs program that provides job readiness, financial literacy training, on the job experience and a paycheck to young people.

Community partners often have the power to generate a wide base of support that can outlast an elected official’s term. Thirty-six percent of cities surveyed indicate that nonprofits lead financial inclusion efforts, without significant support from the city government.

Cities can still support local financial inclusion efforts through:

  • Co-branding and publicizing materials that provide information on available services,
  • Broadcasting announcements on local cable access channels,
  • Incorporating messages in water/utility bills,
  • Presenting to community groups, and
  • Promoting special events such as Financial Literacy Month.

CITIES_Figure02_webCity governments and their partners can also collaborate with national organizations to better meet residents’ needs. Louisville, Ky. partnered with the National Disability Institute to convene the first-ever Economic Advancement Assembly, bringing together 40 organizations focused on tailoring financial capability programs to better serve individuals with disabilities. Community stakeholders, with strong support from Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, highlighted emerging needs of the disability community and specifically identified where agencies could better collaborate to provide more effective service for this population. The Assembly led to the creation of the Workforce Development/Financial Empowerment Collaborative, which is developing recommendations to help Louisville and cities nationwide better serve individuals with disabilities through financial inclusion programming.

Denise Belser
About the Author:
Denise Belser is the Program Manager for Family Economic Success at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.