(September 8, 2017) In August, CFWNC board approved its largest competitive grant to date when $200,000 was awarded to OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling to expand the SECURE program that provides financial literacy training and a three-to-one match to help low-income people establish and maintain emergency savings.
"We are very proud of this grant," said Elizabeth Brazas, CFWNC president. "With these funds, OnTrack will offer financial literacy and an opportunity for matched savings to clients working with partnering nonprofits around life issues such as childcare, education and job training. Indications are that this comprehensive approach works, and that emergency savings is a key component of that success."
In 2015, CFWNC began researching ways to help people escape the cycle of poverty. The Foundation partnered with three nonprofits in May 2016 when $114,000 was awarded to OnTrack and two other organizations to develop pilot programs serving several WNC counties. A further investment in match dollars of $8,000 was made when OnTrack's enrollment exceeded expectations.
"Initially, we funded the pilot programs out of our discretionary funds because it was a risk," explained Brazas. "Over the past two years, we've learned that with the right approach and support, participants can become more financially stable. We invited our fundholders to co-invest in this funding opportunity, and they responded with a generous $70,000 to support the grant." Co-investment came from an anonymous fund, the Fidel Duke Fund and the Brown Family Fund.
"When I think of the SECURE participants, I think of people who have a job and are trying to make ends meet, but for many of these people the smallest, unplanned financial event can turn into a crisis," said OnTrack's Executive Director Celeste Collins. "This program is innovative because it does not dictate to people what they have to do with their money. It provides crucial opportunities for failure, learning and ultimate success."
"We know that a lack of emergency savings is a significant factor in trapping low-income people in a cycle of high cost borrowing, poverty and dangerous debt. SECURE is teaching people that they can save money and prepare for financial events," added Collins. "For some families that is a catalyst for a different way of managing their money. The Community Foundation's continued investment in the SECURE program will enable us to work with expanded populations and to continue to test the outcomes in our community. It is an amazing opportunity."
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