A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action

Critical Components in Financial Empowerment: An Annotated Guide

A Resource from the

Community Action Partnership and Virtual CAP

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Table of Contents for online guide


Financial empowerment has become an expanding focus among Community Action Agencies (CAAs) and others committed to helping low-income families move from poverty toward self-sufficiency and economic security.  Efforts are designed to help those involved overcome barriers and challenges, set goals, acquire knowledge, modify behaviors, and take actions that will contribute to improved financial status and long-term stability.

This guide features resources for use by organizations getting started with financial empowerment initiatives, as well as those seeking ways to strengthen and expand on work already being carried out in this area.  It is our hope that use of resources within the guide will bolster work being carried out to improve the financial capability and status of low-income families in communities throughout the United States.

Resources are grouped together for each item designated by a blue R under these topic areas:

The Big Picture provides an overview of how financial empowerment goes beyond financial education by focusing on effective use of financial knowledge and resources to reach personal goals.

Delivering Financial Empowerment Services offers guidance on designing initiatives either as stand-alone programs with targeted services, integrated within an existing program, or bundled services involving existing programs.  The value of creating partnerships is emphasized to enhance and broaden the reach of financial empowerment services.

Building Staff Competencies leads off with Your Money, Your Goals – a toolkit distributed to participating CAAs in the Community Action Partnership’s effort to train front-line staff in learning when and how to introduce financial empowerment concepts to clients.  Using coaching as a technique to build staff skills in carrying out client-directed approaches and considerations for financial education certification are also covered as additional topics.

Financial Literacy Curriculum and Educational Resources features a variety of financial education curriculum options aimed at low-income populations.  A range of financial tools and online games to help teach financial literacy are also presented.

Asset Development reflects the importance of helping low-income families advance beyond meeting basic living expenses.  Part of this process involves goal setting by using data to calculate the amount of income needed to pay bills and build savings.  Promoting Individual Development Accounts/IDAs featuring matched savings to support asset building and facilitating participation with Earned Income Tax Credits to raise annual income are included as two mechanisms to help low-income families make financial progress.

Evaluating Your Efforts emphasizes the importance of monitoring progress and measuring results of financial empowerment initiatives.  Several resources are featured to assist with developing outcome measures and collecting data to support performance management and to determine program effectiveness.

CAA Financial Empowerment Strategies features five exemplary practices drawn from Community Action Agencies involved with Financial Empowerment.

This publication was created by the National Association of Community Action Agencies – Community Action Partnership, in the performance of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Community Services Grant Number 90ET052. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.