In Review – Year 2021

Acknowledgement

Our thanks to the 3Rivers Federal Credit Union. Adult Life Training, Inc.’s Financial Literacy and Employment programs were underwritten in part by a generous grant from the 3Rivers Federal Credit Union Foundation. If you’re ready to start a lifelong banking relationship with a local organization you can trust, then 3Rivers is for you.  3Rivers is Here for you: here for good!

Overview

Year 2021 lost no time in taking over where year 2020 quit. The same political mandates and challenges confronted businesses, while the same sound business policy – rejecting debt and all enticements to politicize the business – proved fundamental in prospering. Other, richer, businesses failed outright or were relegated to irrelevance. During year 2021 in-person training was still impractical and the government-imposed restrictions made the environment unsuitable for any form of education, especially training older displaced workers in marketable job skills. Zoom, on the contrary, was a magnificent boon.

Financial Literacy Program

People appear to want Financial Literacy training this year a lot more than in the prior decade. Year 2022 may see us exceed the total of all prior year’s impact on community wealth and well-being.

Participation

Having demonstrated the value of the Ramsey+ Site License in 2020, in 2021 we pushed hard to penetrate the COVID wall and deliver financial literacy training with Zoom technology, but reached only 16 more families through the site license, and in the four classes for which 30 people did register, we had 18 of the 30 (18 / 30 = 60%) actively participating. 16 site license members + 18 registered in classes is 34 people total. In year 2020 we had 39. Most activity occurred in 3Q-4Q. Holding steady but not the growth we wanted.

In radical contrast, in January 2022 we currently have 18 families added through our Ramsey+ site license and four classes started in January with 17 of 23 (74%) families actively participating. While year 2021 was lower than expected, it appears that 2022 will be higher than our best prior year, 2020, which saw 18 of 39 (46%) families actively participating.

We typically get 1-3 families registered for Financial Peace classes in January, and at best 1 actively participates: due to the financial stresses of 2021 this year so far we have 32 families in January (9 non-duplicated through site license + 23 in classes), most are participating, and half of those are not using the site license – they are paying for their own Ramsey+ subscription at $130 each. People want this program now.

Statistics

Anything not measured is not managed. Collecting statistics in the past was accomplished without difficulty by passing out anonymous slips of paper with our three metrics: amount of non-mortgage debt, amount of liquid cash, and number of credit cards. These metrics were collected twice – at the beginning of classes and again at the end of classes – and the change noted. Class members at in-person classes willingly wrote their numbers on these slips of paper and the total was calculated while the class watched the video for that session.

All years prior to year 2020 totaled up to $570,492 debt paid off, savings increased $21,676, and 37 credit card accounts closed and paid off during the nine weeks of class. Year 2020 and 2021 presented a new challenge in collecting the necessary metrics because we could not find a way to collect the numbers – survey monkey and other similar approaches recommended by Ramsey Solutions did not work – people left to themselves would not submit their numbers.

In live Zoom training that we attended in early January we learned that we could now use Zoom to run polls in class. We created polls with the appropriate metrics, and had 100% participation as the poll was handled face to face electronically. At week #2 the classes totaled $665,227 non-mortgage debt, $50,017 savings, 14 credit card accounts. On average we can expect that by week #9 debt should be reduced by $169,600 ($5,300 per family), savings increased by $86,400 ($2,700 per family), and most of the credit card accounts should be closed. It looks like year 2022 may see us exceed the total of all prior years impact on community wealth and well-being.

Outreach


We believe a major cause of low participation in year 2021 was due to lack of awareness. Our primary means of outreach has been FaceBook and places where free ads can be placed such as the library TV network. FaceBook’s politicizing and random censorship policies are problematic – some of our ads with Ramsey-provided professionally-prepared videos were banned as “violating community standards because they contained the word debt, which is a personally identifiable trait that people are not responsible for and can not change, and makes some people uncomfortable”. Although I have well over 1,000 followers, like others with basic common sense and a preference for traditional American values, I have been randomly censored for irrational infractions that are later retracted when challenged. FaceBook has now removed any method of challenging such censorship which they have admitted in court is only the opinions of their “fact checkers” and has no basis in any facts, only their personal opinionsi (JOHN STOSSEL, v. FACEBOOK, INC., UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, CASE NO.: 5:21-cv-07385). Suborning what is effectively a Common Carrier to enforce a radical political platform by randomly censoring paid and unpaid ads, often without notice to the advertiser, has made FaceBook unreliable as an advertising medium.

Mid 2021 I discussed with my Board of Directors how to get more reliable outreach, and we have identified three (3) action items as a beginning.

  1. We need to advertise in a way that potentially interested people learn about the free help available to them through our programs, and that we can keep current without needing to constantly change published ads. One way to achieve this is with a generic ad consisting of short text and a QR Code pointing to an Internet landing page that we can easily change. By using the QR code we increase flexibility for the community – all they need do is take a photo of the QR Code or view it with their mobile device to open our landing page.
  2. We needed to make a landing page, which we did at https://alt-fw.org/outreach/. It is a work in progress and contains a credit for our main underwriter, short video explaining how our Financial Literacy programs can help, links to our classes, a place to honor local businesses who partner with us to help, and a mechanism for others to support the work by volunteering or giving money.
  3. We want to re-form our Advisory Board from local business people whose experience can help us better focus our outreach and programs to address community needs. Two people have expressed a willingness to serve in year 2021 but have not yet responded to our request to form the board.

Other advertising means

We will try to access other free means. We are already working on some free venues, such as the Allen County Public Library TV network ads and working directly with Allen County Public Library personnel in some of their community outreach programs while showing them how they can make our Financial Literacy resource available to their patrons, and with in-person classes and video classes in Financial Literacy and Computer Job Skills for Fort Wayne Housing Authority.

But free advertising has its limits. We would like to work with paid advertising in particular because it is more likely to produce consistently effective results. Most “free” ads require just as much work but are likely to have little or no impact. There is also a question as to whether we can obtain sufficient funds to buy paid ad space. We might also approach ad companies who control area bulletin boards to place our short text and QR Code ad on unoccupied boards. We would also like to persuade 3Rivers Federal Credit Union to add our short text ad and QR Code to their rotating video ads on the screens in each 3Rivers branch throughout year 2022.

Volunteers

With increased participation comes the need for increased trainers. We need an outreach for people able and willing to donate time to lead one or more Financial Literacy class individually or through their organization. This is another area where membership on an Advisory Board becomes helpful, as board members would help facilitate.

Employment Program

The health and political complexities created by COVID continued to prevent in-person meetings for employment training. This did not exempt us from continuing to maintain the computer software and repair failed equipment such as several computer power supplies, a printer, and a refrigerator. I hope the COVID mandates will be eased this year and allow in-person employment skills classes to resume, so we have maintained the lab. Whether or not the SCSEP Senior Aides will return this year is still unknown.

I lieu of the Senior Aides daily schedule, we are working with Allen County Public Libraries and Fort Wayne Housing Authority to provide tablet classes at three external locations on Wednesday (Beacon Heights), Thursday (Little Turtle Branch ACPL), and Friday (Little Turtle Branch ACPL). Seniors can obtain an eight inch (8”) android v11 tablet for free, and learn how to use it in one-on-one tutoring at these sessions.

We have scheduled Computer Skills Classes for residents of Fort Wayne Housing Authority on Tuesday afternoons in our computer lab. FWHA is providing transportation. These classes involve cooperation with external organizations to enhance the Quality of Life for seniors, providing access to Internet and technology for jobs, job search, and enhanced Quality of Life.

Budget

Income (Donations, In-Kind, and Grants) came to $44,524.42 for year 2021 while expenses came to $44,786.25 – a loss of $261.83. The largest in-kind grants were from Microsoft ($34,790.00) and covered the costs of our Azure web services, and licenses for Office 365, Office 2019, and Windows 10 Enterprise for our computer training lab.

Financial Literacy Program expenses came to $7,166.54 (primarily licenses $6,338.80 and materials $377.74) and Employment Program expenses came to $1,240.52 (primarily computer equipment maintenance $1,050.58).

Our biggest unexpected expense was to replace the refrigerator ($615) and printer ($319.99). There was also an unexpected opportunity for cost savings on an extension of seven (7) months of our Ramsey+ Site License for $995 ($142.14/month vs. $2,500 for 12 months or $208.33/month), which we took.

Detailed financial statements are published on https://alt-fw.org/public/?page_id=3115.

End Notes: i  UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA, SAN JOSE DIVISION. JOHN STOSSEL, Plaintiff v. FACEBOOK, INC., SCIENCE FEEDBACK, and CLIMATE FEEDBACK, Defendants., CASE NO.: 5:21-cv-07385, Courtroom 2 – 5th floor, Date: March 8, 2022, Time: 10:00 AM

Year 2020 review is here