NGO: step by step guide to include financial literacy in your programmes

What do you want to achieve with your financial education project? Defining clear goals will make your project focusedmeasurable… and successful. For example, if your target group is heavily indebted, focusing the programme on long term savings is unlikely to be implemented by the programme recipients. On the other hand, for a target group who is rather young and has regular income, focusing the programme on controlling expenses and savings is relevant. So the very first questions to ask yourselves are:

  • Who do you want this programme to reach?
  • What behaviour changes do you want them to implement so that their financial situation changes?

Your project scope will also depend on your resources; some important factors to consider:

  • Who are the trainers?
  • Who are your sponsors?
  • Compile solid project proposal
  • How will you measure a project’s success?

Training is a heavy cost and time investment. So knowing the return is crucial to:

  • Get funding to organise more training and reach more people,
  • Build a sustainable training programme, with dedicated and motivated trainers,
  • Encourage more participants to attend financial education training.

Identifying the problems is the beginning of solving them. Don’t offer a general financial literacy programme but help your target group acquire practical tools and skills to address their specific issues, one at a time. Assessing needs is the most important part of your project, especially:

  • What issues your clients face- and more specifically (but not only), what financial issues they have,
  • How they currently manage money,
  • Quantitative data on their income and spending pattern/saving/debt,
  • How available and open they are to attend a programme on money matters,
  • What training need they spontaneously identify for themselves.

An efficient programme is client-focused; this is why your social workers, project officers and trainers are so important. They know your clients’ challenges very well and meet them regularly. In order to really impact your clients’ lives, a financial literacy programme has to be repeated over time. Your staff is your most sustainable and valuable resource to make sure the programme addresses your clients’ issues and to roll it out. Your clients know your staff and they have already established a relation based on mutual trust. Your staff can encourage your target groups to apply what that they have learned over time through one-to-one follow up dicussions. To be efficient financial literacy facilitators, your staff first of all needs to manage their own money: they have to learn for themselves, apply what they have learned to their own money, share it with their families, experiment, fail and improve. This will help them internalise the content of financial education and become credible trainers. Our training the trainers always consist of three parts: learning to manage our money, learning to share this knowledge and skills to others, practising facilitating a money metters course.
Once equipped with a good understanding of financial literacy tools, challenges and solutions, they can better fine-tune our standard programmes or owrk with us on adapting or creating a programme that addresses your clients’ needs. Efficient programmes include solution (getting out of debt, paying for emergency, paying for bils…) and prevention (avoiding too high level of debt, saving for emergency, planning for commitments…).
Try your training programme on a group during a pilot and fine-tune it. You may design various versions, one for for each target group, with specific income and expense types and amounts so that participants can better identify themselves to the case studies and apply them.
When your programme is ready, implement it. Market it: invite participants to join and try to advertise the training event locally. Evaluate it: make sure to get participants’ feedback on each training session and keep improving whenever needed. Discuss with other facilitators what worked and what was difficult.
Measuring output in real value is challenging because:

  • Financial education impact is more about behaviour than knowledge: knowing the difference between needs and wants is a first step… but prioritising expenses every day and saving money for emergencies or goals is another thing.
  • It can be influenced by many external factors – what if one participant starts getting out of debt thanks to the training, but four months later loses his job… and has to borrow more money to pay for his daily food?
  • Confidentiality must be ensured; indicators should not be ambiguous; and you need to collect enough data to make your impact study significant.

A few pieces of advice:

  • Don’t be too ambitious: focus your training programme on one or two objectives (example: give tools and confidence to participants to get out of debt).
  • Define what you want to measure according to your objectives (narrow down your measures).
  • Measure your participants’ situation before the training. Make sure you don’t use jargon. Get a broad picture (all expenses, debt level, income and savings). This will to help you analyse potential biases (example higher savings due to… a second income or a pay rise).
  • If you can, get objective data (third party for example).
  • Get qualitative data- organise focus groups and let participants spontaneously speak of the broad impact of the training.
  • Get success stories: a few participants are likely to quickly apply what they have learned and actually change their attitude towards money and life- get their testimonies.
  • Keep measuring participants’ situation and the couple of indicators you are focusing on at regular intervals (every month for at least one or two years). Following up can help you get long term imact data and keep encouraging participants implement what they have learned.
  • Give an incentive but make it clear that there is no reward in “tricking” the data and only giving positive answers.