The ABLE National Resource Center: Building Savers in the Disability Community

Creating pathways out of poverty through education, peer support and the use of technology-based solutions.

Photo of Christopher Rodriguez
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Eligibility

  • 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

Gender

  • Man

Where are you making a difference?

Across the United States (Nationwide)

Focus Areas (required)

  • Business & Social Enterprise
  • Children & Youth
  • Civic Engagement
  • Development & Prosperity
  • Human Rights & Equality

Date Started

01/01/2015

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

Budget

  • $250k - $500k

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

ABLE National Resource Center: http://www.ablenrc.org
National Disability Institute: https://www.realeconomicimpact.org/

Facebook URL

ABLE National Resource Center: https://www.facebook.com/theABLENRC/
National Disability Institute: https://www.facebook.com/RealEconImpact/

LinkedIn URL

National Disability Institute: https://www.linkedin.com/company/national-disability-institute/

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.

Growing up with a brother who has significant disabilities, I came to have a great appreciation for programs like Medicaid which provide the supports and services he needs in order to exercise freedoms that most of us take for granted. While programs like Medicaid do act as a lifeline for millions across the country, aspects of the program, such as resource testing, often shackle those same individuals to a life of poverty and financial unrest.

It was not until the ABLE Act was passed, in 2014, that people like my brother can now save for their futures without risking the loss of vital benefits. This transformative new opportunity motivated National Disability Institute to immediately create the ABLE National Resource Center.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

There is an overwhelming prevalence of poverty, economic inequality, and unprecedented lack of financial well-being among people with disabilities (PWD) and their families. Millions of PWD have been prevented from saving any resources as a result of asset testing related to eligibility criteria for public benefits, many of which are vital in allowing the PWD to live independently in the community.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

The Center supports PWD to expand their financial well-being and live more self-determined lives as a result of being able to save. First, it raises awareness about the benefits and availability of ABLE accounts nationwide. This involves extensive education and outreach with the collaboration of diverse ABLE-related stakeholders: national disability organizations, state ABLE programs, financial institutions, state and federal agencies, and others.

Second, it provides PWD and their families with the tools to be able to manage their ABLE accounts and maximize their benefits. This involves developing financial literacy skills that help account owners understand how to create a budget, setting short and long-term financial goals and developing strategies on how to grow the funds, both through building a network of contributors and by making informed investment decisions.

We utilize a combination of different platforms to pursue our described solution, including social media, national webinars, public awareness campaigns, various speaking engagements and the Center’s website.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

ABLE-eligible individuals utilize the information and materials provided by the Center in order to learn the benefits of becoming an ABLE account owner. Our website allows visitors to compare state ABLE programs to match individual needs. Before ABLE, PWD were not allowed to have more than $2,000 worth of assets at any given time. Now these individuals are saving for the first time and beginning to learn skills related to budgeting, setting financial goals and money management. An ABLE account is a
down payment on freedom.

Rachel’s story: Rachel is an ABLE account owner living in Kansas and has Down syndrome, just recently graduated from High School. She understood that accepting financial support from friends and relatives could jeopardize her benefits, so she asked them to contribute into her ABLE account. Rachel will use these funds to help pay for college classes in the Fall.

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?

No economically vulnerable population is more underserved than PWD: three times as likely to live in poverty and almost one in two adults with disabilities are unbanked or underbanked. The ABLE Act provides a new pathway to financial inclusion and better financial stability. With a potential target audience of 8 million individuals who are ABLE-eligible, the skills and tools provided by the Center build knowledge and a pathway to savings and investment products and services to meet their needs.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • socio-economic class
  • other (please specify on question 5a)

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The Center, managed by NDI and in collaboration with over 20 of the country’s largest disability nonprofits, is the only independent objective source of information about ABLE accounts. State ABLE programs and financial services companies (including BNY Mellon) are marketing their specific ABLE plans, however, no one has created a technology-based solution to assist ABLE account owners (PWD) in finding a new pathway out of poverty as savers and investors. By utilizing our “AchievABLE”TM app, users will become a peer support group empowered to help each other make informed financial decisions.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Within in the first 12 months of the ABLE Act being signed into law, the Center provided technical assistance to States which led to the passing of over 45 pieces of state legislation that directed states to build their ABLE programs. Additionally, through our outreach efforts, we have garnered over two million visitors to our website, including visitors from all 50 states. Perhaps most significantly, since the opening of the first ABLE account in mid-2016, we have seen the percentage of accounts being opened consistently increase each quarter. Our work is directly related to these increases.

We are proud to report that there are currently over 20,000 PWD across the country who have opened an ABLE account, with a combined savings of over $100 million. Through our sustained efforts, we expect to see significant new personal pathways to financial stability and inclusion.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

The Center has made documented success in our efforts to deploy ABLE accounts as a significant tool to help PWDs and their families build a more sound financial future. We will continue to implement our current strategy, but are excited about our newest venture: The “AchievABLE” App. The AchievABLE app is a first-of-its-kind technology-based solution that will help PWD maximize the benefits of being an ABLE account owner by teaching financial literacy skills, helping with recordkeeping requirements, and creating a nationwide peer-to-peer support group of individuals in like circumstances.

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Organizational Growth
  • Large Scale Partnerships
  • Organizing Conferences
  • Trainings, Consultation
  • Open Sourcing
  • Lobbying, Policy Change

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The Center plans to monetize our app, while maintaining financial accessibility of the tool to PWD. The aim is to generate substantial revenue to support continued evolution of the app, and act as a significant revenue source for the Center’s work. We believe this can be achieved by licensing the app to financial institutions involved in the ABLE space and/or data mining. We also provide fee-based TA to state ABLE programs and have continued anchored public and private sponsorships.

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?

In addition to our professional staff, which have decades of experience working on behalf of PWD , the Center has recruited 9 ABLE account owners to be ABLE Advisors. These 9 individuals are working-age adults with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities. They are a diverse in terms of location, type of disability, age, gender, race and ethnicity. These Advisors act as national spokespersons and as a focus group, providing input/feedback on activities related to the Center.

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)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • Communities of color
  • Disability community
  • Low-income community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Other

If you replied "Other" in the question above, please specify. (optional)

Recommended by others familiar with Ashoka.

Organization name

ABLE National Resource Center (Managed by National Disability Institute)

Program Design Clarity

The Center does extensive ABLE education and outreach (E&O) to PWDs and their families. The aim of this E&O is to bolster enrollment into ABLE programs and to assist PWDs in the management of their ABLE accounts. We utilize a combination of mediums in order to have as wide a breadth as possible, this includes monthly webinars, stakeholder calls, social media outreach, national speaking engagements and trainings, public awareness campaigns, an automated ABLE hotline, an extensive interactive website, regular meetings with state and federal policy makers, and a soon to launch AcheivABLE app.

Approach to financial wellbeing: does your project focus on creating financial wellbeing through innovating on any of the following?

  • education / literacy
  • entrepreneurship
  • investments
  • money transfer
  • saving

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)
  • Institutional innovation (Creation or changes in organizational structures, the setting up of new types of financial intermediaries, or to changes in the legal and supervisory framework)

Partnerships in detail: tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.

Partnerships and collaborations are at the heart of the Center's work. We have partnered with over 20 national disability organizations to help spread ABLE-related E&O, including autism groups, mental health groups, paralyzed vets, the blind and deaf communities and others. Additionally, we partner with groups in the legal and financial industries, as well as state and federal gov't agencies. Our partnerships serve as sounding boards, as well as vehicles to broaden our distribution channels.

If you won the Unlocking ₵hange Challenge, how would you invest the prize money of $50,000?

We would invest the funds in increasing our E&O abilities through website upgrades and we would use the funds to help launch and test our AcheivABLE app. The app assists PWDs in the management of their ABLE account by helping with record keeping, setting financial goals, and growing their savings.

Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions has the project received?

We have been recognized in major publications as a resource for those seeking information on ABLE accounts, including in Forbes, Reuters, Kiplinger, HuffPost, Money Magazine, USA Today, NY Times and others. We were also awarded with a placement in JPMorgan's Force For Good program, where we built our AchievABLE app. Lastly, we have been recognized as leaders at multiple Congressional events.

Evaluation results

7 evaluations so far

1. Overall, would you champion this entry as a excellent example to move forward to the next phase of the challenge and become a semifinalist?

Yes, absolutely! - 57.1%

Yes/maybe - 42.9%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 57.1%

Yes/maybe - 28.6%

Maybe - 14.3%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Is this entry IMPACTFUL on financial wellbeing?

Yes, absolutely! - 71.4%

Yes/maybe - 14.3%

Maybe - 14.3%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry SUSTAINABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 28.6%

Yes/maybe - 28.6%

Maybe - 28.6%

Maybe/no - 14.3%

No - 0%

5. What are some of the HIGHLIGHTS of strengths of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 100%

Clarity of Model - 28.6%

Clarity of Writing - 42.9%

Idea Originality - 57.1%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 28.6%

Impact measurement - 28.6%

Impact Potential - 28.6%

Financial Sustainability - 0%

Team - 42.9%

Partnerships - 28.6%

Potential to scale - 14.3%

6. What are some of the areas for IMPROVEMENT of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 0%

Clarity of Model - 66.7%

Clarity of Writing - 33.3%

Idea Originality - 0%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 66.7%

Impact measurement - 66.7%

Impact Potential - 33.3%

Financial Sustainability - 100%

Team - 0%

Partnerships - 0%

Potential to scale - 0%

4 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Brittany Corner

Great Potential!

Photo of Christopher Rodriguez

Brittany Corner Thank you so much for taking the time to check out the work done by the ABLE National Resource Center, we really appreciate the support!

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