The Federation will use existing grants and raise additional funds to build and scale the Better Directions program, using existing programmatic staff and national partners.
New Participants: Better Directions intends to double the number of participating sites from eight to 16 to demonstrate that the existing model of CDCUs in partnerships with social service agencies can create positive impacts on a large scale. This growth will also create momentum for a much broader expansion of the program to mainstream credit unions and other financial institutions. NFCDCU's goal is to see a total of at least 1600 low-income seniors improve their economic and income status during the commitment period. While the original eight sites were chosen as part of a competitive grant process, the additional eight sites will be chosen on the basis of interest in and understanding of the program and the needs in their communities, an appropriate local economic casework site that serves seniors, staff capacity and a membership that includes groups-geographic and demographic, not fully represented at the current sites.
Expanding the scope of programs and services at existing sites: The eight existing Better Directions sites have laid a solid foundation by designing, enhancing and marketing financial products and services for older adults and working closely with local partners. NFCDCU will add the following components to the program:
1) Senior Employment at CDCUs-up to 16 seniors employed.
2) Incorporation of free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites for older adults
3) 'First Investors Club' geared to seniors of modest means
National Additions and Enhancements to the Program: Better Directions will seek to multiply its impact at the national level by:
1) Convening national organizations with a common focus on promoting financial security for older adults
2) Publishing a Best Practices guide to help financial institutions expand and improve their services to low-income older adults
3) Developing and disseminate financial education and financial management tools that address the specific needs of low-income seniors
4) Producing videography that tells the stories of older members at CDCUs, the impact of Better Directions and their relationship with the credit union and the local social service partner
Two new Better Directions sites, including a new partnership between a CDCU and local social service agency, will be added each quarter between July 2012 and July 2013
Two existing Better Direction sites will incorporate Tax Counseling for the elderly into their programs
Four existing sites will hire a senior employee by December 2013
At least two of the sites will incorporate a 'First Investors' program for low-income senior by July 2013
The Federation will convene national organizations with a common focus on promoting financial security for older adults in June 2013
Produce a videography that tells the stories of older members at CDCUs, the impact of Better Directions and their relationship with the credit union and the local social service partner by December 2013
Publish a Best Practices guide to help financial institutions expand and improve their services to low-income older adults by October 2012
Develop and disseminate financial education and financial management tools that address the specific needs of low-income seniors by December 2012
Real economic security is currently beyond the reach of many of the aging in America. The low-income and minority aging are confronted both by the inability to build assets and by predatory financial products. In the last decade policymakers and academics have focused on strategies to help low-income older adults build assets and economic security through access to reasonably priced financial products. But missing has been a mechanism to connect the low-income and minority aging with comprehensive financial services and appropriate savings, loan and investment products that will safeguard their assets and build economic security.
In 2010 the Federation was asked by Atlantic Philanthropies to work with its member credit unions to develop a program to bring financial products to aging low-income communities to help build their financial security.
Recognizing early on that a key to success was to build relationships between community-based financial credit unions (CDCUs) and organizations serving seniors in their communities, National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (NFCDCU) developed a partnership with the National Council on Aging and launched Better Directions in 2011. The program brings together community-based financial institutions (CDCUs) with networks of advocates for the aging in the communities they serve, to deliver holistic approaches to economic security for this population. The products and services offered in this program include savings products, affordable loans products, debt reduction loans and pre-retirement investment products. Beginning in September 2011 nine cities around the country rolled out their Better Directions programs.
Several hundred seniors have already worked with CDCUs and their local economic casework sites to determine their eligibility for benefits, open savings and checking accounts, participate in financial literacy programs, meet with a representative of a credit union, and move into lower cost consumer or debt reduction loans. Products range from the 'Borrow & Save' product to improve and/or re-establish credit ratings of members adversely affected by the economic downturn at Fairfax Federal Credit Union to the Savvy Seniors Save account in Burlington Vermont to the opening of 350 checking accounts for previously unbanked seniors in Long Island City, New York.
NFCDCU continues to seek financing for Better Directions in order to support data collection, product development and marketing. In addition media support will help scale the program nationwide. The organization's long-term goal is to see the Better Directions concept taken up by financial institutions across the country and to create a public policy agenda that effectively addresses the true financial needs of struggling seniors.
NFCDCU is interested in partnering with other organizations working on financial inclusion for seniors. The organization will share research and best practices as it develops its program to address the economic needs of low-income seniors.