Making Savings Feel Like Play!
A personal finance tool empowering individuals to establish positive financial habits making savings feel like play using games and rewards.
I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
I am over 18 years of age
My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States
Where are you making a difference?
Berkeley, CA, 94706
Focus Areas (required)
Business & Social Enterprise
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Start-Up (first few activities have happened)
Website or social media URL(s) (optional)
1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.
As a teenager, Pedro immigrated from Brazil having to navigate his finances alone, overcoming barriers to teach himself healthy money habits. After 6 yrs at Oportun helping Latinxs establish credit, he realized that financial health goes beyond access to credit and was inspired to address the lack of a savings within these communities. As a child, Jessica’s father fell ill and her mother worked hard as the family’s sole provider. Her family faced financial hardships. Vowing to help others in similar situations, she spent 10 yrs in the nonprofit sector and became passionate about empowering others to find financial stability. Combined, our team leverages resilience, empathy, and fun to support our community build a better financial future.
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Nearly half of American households do not have enough set aside to cover an unexpected emergency. This is more alarming for minorities and first-generation immigrants who are more likely to lack a financial safety net. Without short-term savings, financial shocks that might seem small to some can destabilize the financially vulnerable. Saving becomes more difficult as people associate stress and anxiety with the topic of money.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Flourish creates an engaging experience for individuals from low to moderate income backgrounds by rewarding responsible financial behavior. We focus on building savings habits by leveraging commitments and celebrating small actions, allowing our users to feel in control of how they build up to their goals, while encouraging them to go further with the chance to win prizes.
In our app, users track their savings growth in a game-like interface that visualizes their commitment. As the user deposits and keep money into their savings account, they unlock rewards by participating in fun activities. Inspired by prize-linked savings these activities include a weekly raffle, games that allow them to compete with the Flourish community for prizes, and rewards given by achieving savings milestones.
We believe that building financial habits should be tangible, social, and fun so that individuals can overcome the stressful and overwhelming feelings that associated with money. These feelings cause individuals to avoid interacting with their finances and planning for the future, but if they find rewarding and enjoyable reasons to save, they can begin building healthy financial habits.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.
Take for example, Yolanda, a recent college grad with student debt who wants to start an emergency fund. She would download Flourish for the excitement of winning prizes. In a gamified process we help her set a commitment. After seeing a preview of our games and rewards, she links her bank account. When Yolanda deposits money into her savings, she will see her progress. Based on how much she has saved, she will have the opportunity to enter a weekly raffle (drawing from prize-linked savings research). Yolanda can also choose to play a game and when she has the top score of the community at the end of the week, she gets a prize. Encouraged by the access to prizes, Yolanda is able to meet her goals. When she meets her commitment she gets another opportunity to unlock a prize. These prizes range from more game play within Flourish to small monetary rewards such as coupons and gift cards.
5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?
Our team has a first hand perspective into the needs of this population as we grew up in lower-income immigrant communities. We interviewed 200+ potential users, and many mentioned that mainstreamed institutions do not care about servicing and aligning with their interests. We will enable individuals who are often underserved by designing a product with flexible requirements (such as not requiring a Social Security number) and creating a bilingual and multicultural experience.
5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:
age - youth
6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?
Traditional financial institutions tend to have high barriers to access, such as monthly fees, minimum balance requirements, and older technology platforms. Their solutions do not address the psychological barriers to saving and have failed at getting people to save enough. Some companies such as Digital and Acorn have taken the approach of automation distancing people from financial tasks, but we believe that in order to truly build financial health there must be some awareness and direct engagement. There are very few organizations truly making an effort to serve the immigrant community.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
From the early days our team got together for the positive impact we wanted to make in our community.
Our most recent product version had a batch of 50 users, and we are about to release a new iteration in order to scale our impact. We have interviewed 200+ individuals among LMI communities and can see our solution supporting millions of everyday Americans engage and take care of their finances. We have lined up a banking partner that shares our mission; and in the next six months, we will be expanding our product testing to thousand of users so we can both continue to maximize our impact as well as refine our engagement and game mechanics.
As part of our discovery work and co-designing with our community, our founders have held multiple workshops to engage individuals in different topics around personal finance encouraging hundreds of young adults rethink their finances.
8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?
We are building partnerships with organizations that share similar guiding principles and have a large base of our customers, including a community bank as our initial pilot partner and we are exploring partnership with different organizations that are trusted by our prospect customers such as Opportunity Fund, Oportun, Beneficial State Bank and the Mexican Consulate.
In terms of brand building, we understand that is very important to work with influencers that our users trust and this range from non-profits, local universities to social media influencers and other channel partners.
8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?
Large Scale Partnerships
9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?
In order to scale, we see three potential revenue streams. First, deposit and referral fees from our banking partners. Second, referral fee for financial products, using our understanding of the user to tailor product offerings that are appealing and beneficial. Third, advertising and sponsorship revenue through our prize offerings, allowing for “sponsorships” of prizes from relevant companies. As we test these revenue streams, we will keep the impact on our user as a top priority.
10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
Pedro Moura (CEO) with over eight years of consumer finance. He led and expanded the retail operations at Oportun and spearheaded implementation and growth of the mobile product. Jessica (COO) with 10 years of experience in technology and operations within the nonprofit and philanthropic sector. Ramses (Designer + Developer) with over 15 years of design and product development. Roberto (Game Design and Developer) with previous CTO experience and creator of award winning games.
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)
Hispanic, Latino/a, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)
Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani)
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)
Communities of color
How did you hear about this challenge?
Program Design Clarity
In Flourish, the beneficiary connects or opens a savings account, sets a commitment, and tracks savings transactions. Based on their account balance, beneficiaries earn the ability to play simple 30 sec games or enter a weekly raffle in Flourish. Games and raffles provide an opportunity to win prizes. When a commitment is met, savers also get a chance to win a prize.
We have designed engagement loops to get savers in the app a couple of times per week to check results and sign up for prizes. Flourish encourages awareness and reinforces the habit with “nudges” and tips related to savings.
Approach to financial wellbeing: does your project focus on creating financial wellbeing through innovating on any of the following?
education / literacy
If you marked "Other" in the question above, please specify:
Building savings habits and financial awareness.
Innovation type: Please select which of the following types of innovation best characterize your work
Product innovation (Introduction of a good or service or improvements made to existing products)
Process innovation (execution of a new or considerably improved production or delivery method)
Partnerships in detail: tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.
To get close to prospective beneficiaries, we are developing partnerships with organizations they trust. This includes non-profits (i.e. Opportunity Fund, OperationHope), key influencers in the community such as Mexican Consulate, Oportun, Puente Project, and different undocumented centers in CA.
We also need banking partnerships and value banks with shared mission and purpose. We are in conversation with a mission-driven Bay Area bank to allow users to open a savings account within Flourish.
If you won the Unlocking ₵hange Challenge, how would you invest the prize money of $50,000?
Most funds will be devoted to product development to iterate on our engagement mechanics and deepen our learnings. We will also fund brand building and user acquisition, including grassroots marketing, such as financial literacy workshops at local colleges to get close to our first target users.
Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions has the project received?
Dean Seed Fund — UC Berkeley, 2017 Winner
Global Social Venture Competition, 2018 Regional Finalist
MASH — LAUNCH’s Annual 30-Hour Makeathon, 2018 Runner Up
LAUNCH's Accelerator Demo Day, 2018 Audience Award
Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®), 2018 Participant
Opportunity Hacks by PayPal, 2018 Nomination
Kintone's Social Impact Challenge, 2018 VIP Nomination