The Portland-based chapter of a growing national financial literacy nonprofit organization has received a $200,000 grant to increase its outreach.
Bank of America announced in November that it had awarded the grant to Financial Beginnings Oregon. The organization will use the funds to reach an additional 5,000 Oregonians with free financial education.
"The Oregon Department of Education sets financial literacy standards at every grade level, but the teachers aren't supported and the students aren't tested on them. Students are expected to be able to make good financial decision by the time they graduate high school, but that isn't happening. We are offering our services to help fill that need," Financial Beginnings Oregon Executive Director Kate Benedict said.
Financial Beginnings Oregon was founded in 2005 with the goal of help young people and adults better manager their money. It expanded into the Washington in 2013, and the launched a national organization, Financial Beginnings USA, to create new chapters in other states.
The organization recruits and trains volunteers who present its curriculum in schools and nonprofit organizations. Subjects range from the basics of personal finance to debt management and understand the local, national and global economies. It currently has over 300 volunteer instructors in Oregon, including current and retired bankers, insurance executives and social service workers. Their presentations range from one to 20 hours of information and materials, all designed to help people better understand how to manage money.
Not understanding budgeting is not the only reason people struggle financially, but it plays a role," said Benedict.
According to the Oregon chapter's most recent annual report, over 31,000 youths and adults have taken at least one of its courses by the end of 2018. Although it is active in 20 counties, the most participants live in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counites, followed by Deschutes and Marion counties.
The grant will allow Financial Beginnings Oregon to establish a new Bank of America Financial Empowerment Fellowship. The funds will be used to recruit and train diverse student leaders each year to serve as leaders called Fellows. They will receive leadership and skills training, and will then bring the organization's financial education programs back into their own communities.
"We know that communities learn best from a member of their own community. The Bank of America Financial Empowerment Fellowship is our chance to make sure Portland-area communities attain valuable financial teachings from their own student leaders. This program will help us reach significantly more Oregonians than ever with life-changing, free financial education programs," said Benedict.
The grant was made through Bank of America's Neighborhood Builders program. It distributes $200,000 to 25 different nonprofit organizations across the country every year for a total of $5 million a year. In addition to the funds, each organization also receives a year of leadership training for the executive director and an emerging leader, contact with a network of peer organizations across the U.S., and the opportunity to access capital to expand their impact.
"Financial Beginnings Oregon is the kind of program that helps build neighborhoods and communities, and we are happy to help them expand," said Roger Hinshaw, Bank of America's Market President in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
"It used to be that personal finances was taught in the schools, but that has not happened for a long time now. As a result, people don't know things like how to protect their credit scores when they get out into the community. That's something we should all learn," said Britney Sheehan, Senior Vice President for Regional Media Relations at Bank of America.
Grants are awarded to applicants by a panel of seven judges, withthe majority from outside the ranks of the bank. The focus is on helping members of underserved communities acheive greater financial mobility. Over the past 15 years, Bank of America has invested $240 million in 49 communities through Neighborhood Builders, partnering with more than 1,000 nonprofits and helping more than 2,000 nonprofit leaders strengthen their leadership skills. Previous local organizations to receive such grants include Meal on Wheels People, Habitat for Humanity and Dress for Success.
Bank of America also awarded a $200,000 Neighborhood Builders grant this year to the Portland Parks Foundation to provide free lunches and other program to park deficient neighborhoods, which are concentrated in East Portland.
"Both of these nonprofits do extraordinary work, so I am pleased we are able to bring forward this additional support at a particularly strategic time for them," said Hinshaw.
To learn more about Financial Beginnings Oregon, go to www.FinancialBeginnings.org.
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