SaverLife: A Transformative Online Savings Community
SaverLife is a vibrant online platform that helps low-income families save and develop lasting financial stability.
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?
SaverLife reaches people in all 50 states. Currently, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Michigan and North Carolina are the states with the most SaverLife members and savers.
Focus Areas (required)
Development & Prosperity
September 28, 2016
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)
Website or social media URL(s) (optional)
http://www.earn.org and http://www.saverlife.org
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.
EARN was founded in 2001 with the premise that low income families can and will save when given the right tools and the opportunity to do so. After helping Bay Area families invest in large assets like homes, businesses, and education by operating the nation’s leading IDA program for 10+ years, EARN looked to scale impact through technology. We had learned from clients that the most impactful change facilitated by saving was not the purchase of an asset. Rather it was greater financial resilience: establishing a savings habit brought them confidence, optimism, and a sense of agency and control over their lives. EARN used these lessons to develop a flexible, scalable platform that would enable people across the country to start saving.
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
The Federal Reserve Bank finds that, 44% of Americans do not have enough savings to cover an unexpected $400 expense without going into debt or selling something. The outlook is particularly dire for communities of color – 25% of black households would have less than $5 if they liquidated all of their assets. Unexpected expenses cause immediate hardship, often triggering a downward spiral from which it is hard to recover.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Families with a savings cushion of as little as $250 to $749 are less likely to be evicted, miss a housing payment, or receive public benefits after a financial shock. Saving provides a way for families to weather short-term emergencies and stay on track towards long-term assets.
With SaverLife, EARN addresses the widespread need for savings by providing tools, incentives, and resources to support individuals on their savings journey via an accessible, mobile-first platform that provides the following:
• An incentivized savings program that rewards users for saving $20/month for 6 months
• Opportunities to win prizes for saving
• Digital financial coaching content developed for low-income families
• SMS and email notifications to keep savings top of mind
• Access to quality products including the option to open a savings account
With SaverLife, EARN helps thousands of people establish savings and financial health while providing proof points for how low-income consumers succeed in a more inclusive financial system. Our goal is to work with people who have traditionally been excluded from the financial mainstream to access supports that will help them save.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.
For Carolyn, a single mother, saving was an “aspirational idea” – she wanted to be a regular saver but felt overwhelmed. SaverLife gave her a starting point that “met me where I was.”
One of the most positive aspects of SaverLife for Carolyn is the weekly emails she received from SaverLife’s financial coach. “I love them, they hit close to home” says Carolyn, who saves the emails in an “inspiration” folder.
SaverLife’s emphasis on small savings has helped Carolyn change her relationship with money. “I’m wrapping my arms around the mindset of saving and I know it’ll be a lifelong thing. Now I feel like saving isn’t this exhausting thing where you’re failing all the time. It’s manageable and it allows me to have more freedom.” Encouraged by the small-dollar rewards, Carolyn is aiming to build a $2,000 emergency fund and then eventually save money to help her daughter go to college.
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?
The majority of SaverLife members are people of color (59%) and women (83%), many of whom are single mothers (65%). They generally do not have a college degree (81%), are not saving when they join (67%), and have monthly expenses that exceed their income (49%). Like many Americans, they face rising income volatility, with nearly half reporting monthly income fluctuations of $500 or more. SaverLife members earn an average income of just $25,000 and over 50% use SNAP (food stamps) benefits.
5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:
6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?
As a nonprofit operating within the fintech space, EARN focuses on impact and the ability of technology to advance a more inclusive financial system. Fintechs are unable to provide the same tools and monetary incentives or able to approach a systems level/partnership approach to savings. In the nonprofit space, EARN is the only group offering a savings product at scale with a substantial level of data (actual transaction information from consumers). EARN takes a partnership approach and enables 100+ groups to use SaverLife to integrate savings into their work, multiplying impact.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
100,000+ members have joined SaverLife and 20,000+ people have become a Saver to earn rewards for saving. In 2017, 5,000+ LMI Savers collectively saved $6.2 million with SaverLife. Savers who complete the matched savings portion report:
• $465 avg amount saved in 6/months
• 89% report a habit of saving, up from 54%.
• 40% stick to a monthly budget, up from 23%.
• 11% increase in those with savings for 3-months of living expenses w/o income.
During the 2018 tax season, 3,000+ tax refunds were deposited, totaling $8.7 million in savings, as a result of EARN’s prize-linked savings initiative. Plus, over 100 community partners are using SaverLife in their programs.
"I hadn't really been shown how to save, and it wasn't part of my life before. I had feelings of shame and guilt, not knowing how. Now I know it's not as hard as I thought." - SaverLife Saver, Alaina
8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?
SaverLife was designed for scale and looks to create impact in two ways: 1) Directly improving the lives of members by reaching at least 1 million LMI households by 2021 through community-based campaigns, large partnerships, and targeted marketing, and; 2) Amplifying the collective voices of underserved consumers to advocate for a more equitable financial system. EARN develops useful products for those who are struggling today, and uses data, research, and stories to inform public policy.
8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?
Large Scale Partnerships
Lobbying, Policy Change
9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?
Currently, EARN is primarily supported by philanthropy. Our technology also enables us to pursue earned revenue business models. We develop custom programs for organizations like NeighborWorks and Levi’s Red Tab Foundation through a fee for service model. EARN uses a “freemium” model where 100+ nonprofits use SaverLife with their clients for free and pay a fee to access reports and data. As SaverLife scales, EARN is exploring earned revenue opportunities via sponsored content and advertising.
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?
Our team consists of 15 full-time employees, 7 engineers, and 11 board members. EARN’s CEO is Leigh Phillips who formerly led the SF Office of Financial Empowerment. Collectively, EARN’s world-class team has launched nationally recognized programs and municipal initiatives, built savings technology used by thousands of families, led asset-building efforts across the USA, and contributed original research to inform the field. As we scale, EARN will hire additional positions to manage growth.
How did you hear about this challenge?
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