This year’s Spotlight Series is presented by the Amy and Brian France Foundation and in January we are focusing in on our local nonprofit partners who provide programming to improve financial literacy and who are helping to build a stronger economy one neighbor at a time.
Personal finances influence many of our daily decisions and nearly every aspect of our lives, making financial literacy essential for understanding how to make responsible decisions that shape a positive future.
When we talk about financial literacy, what we are referring to is the understanding of financial, credit and debt management and the knowledge that is necessary to make financially responsible decisions that are integral to our everyday lives (Investopedia).
Why is financial literacy important, especially in a town like Charlotte that has been credited as the second largest banking city in the United States? According to a study conducted by FINRA, trends in the U.S. show that financial literacy among individuals is declining, with only 37% of respondents to the study showing a firm grasp on the way our economy works and how to manage personal finances.
And specifically to the place we call home, financial literacy becomes crucial especially in light of the 2014 study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research which ranked our city last among the country's 50 largest metro areas for economic mobility (Common Wealth Charlotte). The rude awakening that those who are born poor in Charlotte are likely to remain poor is only perpetuated by a lack of financial literacy among our community.
And while a lack of financial literacy may seem like an individual problem as opposed to a community-wide issue, it is broader in nature and more influential on the entire population than previously believed (Investopedia). Take the financial crisis of 2008, for example, to see the financial impact on the entire economy that arose from a wide-spread lack of understanding of mortgage products. Financial literacy is an issue with much broader implications for economic health, but the GOOD news is that an improvement in this one arena can lead the way to a global economy that is competitive and strong.
Check out the organizations below that do GOOD work supporting financial literacy in Charlotte, and support them by donating funds, signing up to volunteer your time, or shopping their Amazon wish lists this month!
Common Wealth Charlotte
Common Wealth Charlotte (CWC) is an innovative nonprofit organization providing financial capability-building services to Charlotte’s economically-vulnerable families. CWC uses financial education coupled with access to traditional, yet specially-designed banking products and services. It's trauma-informed financial education (TIFE) curriculum is unique to any other organization operating locally, and offers a proven alternative to traditional, one-way financial assistance. CWC produces long-lasting change and upward economic mobility by replacing the negative experiences of scarcity, poverty and having to continually ask for financial assistance with empowerment, higher credibility as a borrower and an opportunity for the recipient to "pay it forward" to the next family in a similar situation.
CWC's unique approach provides access to a re-banking program and donor-funded loan collateral pool, allowing its credit union partner to bank and make low-interest loans (called CWC Opportunity Loans) to clients with otherwise insufficient credit scores. These services enable clients to start on a pathway of upward mobility and break out of the cycle of poverty by providing an affordable alternative for depositing paychecks, addressing financial emergencies, refinancing existing predatory debt, and paying off items that negatively affect credit scores.
Community Link's mission is to enable individuals and families to obtain and sustain safe, decent and affordable housing. Astonishingly, 46 percent of our local workforce cannot afford safe and decent housing, defined as being forced to spend more than a third of their income on housing. And even successful renters earning “moderate incomes” find themselves challenged to buy a home given barriers to saving appropriately for a down payment. Helping to solve these problems is the driving force behind their Homeless to Housing and Asset Building programs, that include first-time homeownership and financial empowerment classes and counseling. With Charlotte being the 21st most expensive rental market in the US, it is hard for low-income individuals and families to find and keep housing, but by helping them better understand their finances, Community Link creates an opportunities for our neighbors to afford a safe place to live.
RoleModels University provides youth with financial education and leadership development. Their goal is simple: help youth to stay in school, build leaders and break generational poverty cycles by teaching students financial literacy and personal business ownership as a “Plan B” to their career choice. Their vision is to see youth become productive members of the community, responsible and caring parents, and competent and self-sufficient global market place participants who have the tools, motivation, education, and inspiration to excel and become leaders.
Project One supports motivated students from single parent families who are involved in their community, stand out academically, and possess a strong desire to succeed through higher education. The program provides four-year college scholarships of up to $25,000; but what sets Project One apart from other scholarships are the Programs for Success. Project One provides every scholar with a trained adult mentor to help them successfully navigate their college journey. Scholars also receive financial literacy education, professional development experiences, and a personal gifts/talents course that will help them identify their strengths and discover ways to be involved with their community.
Charlotte Area Fund
In operation since 1963, the Charlotte Area Fund (CAF) is a nonprofit organization and the designated community action agency for Mecklenburg County whose mission is to identify and address poverty causes by providing programs and services that assist economically disadvantaged citizens with gaining the skills and abilities necessary to achieve self-sufficiency.
The Blue Haven, Inc.
We provide temporary assistance to families that are in a financial crisis by assisting with essential resources and delivering programs geared towards self-sufficiency including financial literacy. To date, they have provided aid to more than 500 families experiencing financial hardship and their goal is to ensure that every family facing hardship receives the necessary resources needed to gain self-sufficiency.
Vision Beyond the Eyes, Inc.
Vision Beyond the Eyes mission is to increase economic mobility in low-middle income families by providing employment referrals, skilled training, outpatient assessments,and homeownership workshops that will reduce poverty and close the gaps to meet the needs of individuals and families to become self sufficient to strengthen and rebuild our communities.
Their ultimate goal is to obtain affordable housing and home ownership programs for their clients and they close the gaps by providing things such as food referrals, clothes, employment opportunities, financial literacy classes, entrepreneur classes, and home ownership workshops to meet the ultimate needs of their clients.
WYTV7 Christian Broadcasters Network
WYTV7 Christian Broadcasters Network is a local nonprofit that provides education, empowerment and encouragement to people to enrich the lives of those who are experiencing adverse life situations. One of the ways they did this in 2019 was by providing a financial literacy workshop for 15 local students, and in 2020 they plan to expand that workshop to a larger scale and help even more students learn the importance of managing, saving and budgeting finances.
Charlotte Family Housing
Charlotte Family Housing (CFH) incorporates Financial Literacy into its wraparound services with clients in two main ways. First, CFH partners with other community organizations (Common Wealth Charlotte and State Employees Credit Union) to offer financial literacy workshops to adult and teenage clients. Adult workshops are offered monthly and the teen workshop is offered twice a year. Second, CFH social workers reinforce the skills learned at these workshops by supporting clients in creating monthly budgets, saving a designated amount each month, and working on other financial goals such as credit repair. The hope is that by the time clients complete the CFH program, they are leaving with a “nest egg” of emergency savings and the skills needed to independently manage their monthly budget successfully each month.
YWCA Central Carolinas
YWCA Central Carolinas’ mission is to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all people. YWCA provides after-school and summer session literacy programming to over 250 students K-5 in Mecklenburg and Union Counties, hosts community forums and events centered on racial justice initiatives, offers up a co-ed fitness center on Park Road, and has two transitional housing programs for single, unaccompanied women and families in search of permanent housing. YWCA's housing programs are partnered with outside organizations, hosting on-site social events, educational and self-improvement workshops and tutoring sessions facilitated by volunteers, including financial literacy training and counseling in both 1:1 and group settings.
Volunteers from Common Wealth Charlotte bring a trauma-informed approach to financial counseling with YWCA transitional housing participants. Fifth Third Bank supports the 15 week program, "Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin' By World", enhancing financial literacy to a group of YWCA transitional housing participants.
Foundation for Girls
Foundation For Girls is a youth-led social venture that endeavors to change the life trajectory for at-risk girls and youth through programs in financial wellness, leadership, digital literacy, and health & wellbeing. 98% of the youth they work with have not had a caring adult talk to them about financial accountability, personal leadership, technical skills and a healthy mind, body, and spirit needed for both personal and professional success. That means that the likelihood of these youth getting an opportunity for economic mobility is slim.
They host a variety of workshops to help girls and youth develop their financial literacy and build economic independence. Each 90-minute class is a stepping stone to improving their knowledge of financial products, tools, and pitfalls; practicing skills that lead to healthy money management and hearing practical advice.
Fathers United, Inc.
Fathers United Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring fathers to prominent roles in all children’s lives. This organization was created in reaction to statistics showing that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crimes; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. Father’s United Inc. aims to help current fathers, recovering fathers, isolated fathers, step-fathers, uncles, future fathers or anyone with a desire to have a positive impact in the lives of a child and their community and one way that they support those they serve is by providing financial literacy programming among other life skills training.
Renaissance West Community Initiative
Renaissance West Community Initiative (RWCI's) mission is to promote a collaborative community centered on quality housing, education, health and wellness, and opportunity. Their vision is to end intergenerational poverty through a holistic community revitalization effort.
RWCI contributes to a better future for Charlotte by providing high-quality educational options for everyone, regardless of income. They do this through a continuum of educational opportunities within their neighborhood for all ages and all levels of education including adult learning opportunities such as financial literacy classes.
Pride Entrepreneur Education Program
Pride Entrepreneur Education Program (PEEP) provides local youth, ages 10-25 years in under-served communities with education in entrepreneurship, business and financial literacy via group mentoring in-classrooms, Saturday programs and events, and awards annual scholarships. To date, PEEP has completed two in-school financial literacy courses with freshman at Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology.