It’s a $pending Frenzy!

Experiential learning for the real world.

Photo of Sarah Dewees
6 10

Written by


  • 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


  • Woman

Where are you making a difference?

Indian Country : most recently Dulce NM (87528) (Jicarilla Apache Nation); Gallup, NM (Gallup Central High School); Tama, IA 52339 (Meskwaki Nation); Mashpee, MA, 02649 (Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe) ; Lapwai, ID 83540 (Nez Perce Tribe).

Focus Areas (required)

  • Children & Youth
  • Development & Prosperity

Date Started

5/11/11 was our first workshop, and we have been refining the program since then.

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)


  • $50k - $100k

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

Twitter URL

Facebook URL

LinkedIn URL

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.

Money solves all problems, right? Not so much. Our “Aha!” moment came when we were working in a Native American community that provided dividend payments to its citizens. These payments created new problems, especially among youth. Youth were blowing large sums of money on fancy cars only to find out they couldn’t afford insurance. They were spending all their money and then not qualifying for financial aid for college. In a high-poverty area there were few intergenerational role models for money management and kids weren’t learning basic skills. Our program makes money less abstract, teaches basic management skills, helps practice good habits, and allowed kids to have a trial run at life. Easier to bounce back from mistakes with play $!

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

Native American youth experience low levels of financial capability, perpetuating cycles of poverty and hopelessness. Many Native American high school students do not have financial role models in their families. High poverty levels across multiple generations means that many youth lack financial management experience and have few opportunities to develop personal finance skills. We can break the cycle by providing experiential learning.

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

The $pending Frenzy is an interactive financial skills workshop created for Native youth to help them learn the basics of money management. The $pending Frenzy is also referred to as a “financial simulation” because it provides a simulation of real life–what happens when you have make choices, pay bills, and deal with emergencies. The $pending Frenzy provides an opportunity for participants to experience a “trial run” with their money in a casual learning environment. In addition to preparing participants for the challenges and responsibilities that a young adult consumer must face, the workshop also develops organizational and prioritization habits, hones recordkeeping skills, and teaches techniques for budgeting money. It also helps youth practice basic math skills that are associated with financial management. We have a field-tested workshop kit that we will scale up and refine and will offer training in at least 10 Native communities to help them adopt an effective financial empowerment program.

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

Our program has reached nearly 5,000 Native youth and our evaluations demonstrate that youth enjoy the interactive nature of the workshop, learn a lot, and have fun. In reviewing evaluation forms I found quotes from students: “The biggest challenge for me was buying stuff I NEEDED instead of just stuff I wanted,” and “It was hard to keep track of all my spending. I need a system.” It is clear kids are thinking about money in new ways and, in some cases, experiencing failure (running out of money) and learning how their choices relate to financial success. A specific story comes from Gallup Central High School where we worked with a class of Native American students. A student told us he opened a bank account and used it to cash his paychecks for free and save his money. He now carefully tracks his spending. A simple change at age 18 will make a lifetime of difference.

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 focus is Native American youth. Through research, program development, and technical assistance, we have learned a lot about working with low-income communities that have experienced historical trauma. Over the past 5 years we have served nearly 10,000 Native adults and youth with our culturally-sensitive, interactive financial empowerment programs. Building on relationships of trust and reciprocity, we have developed effective partnerships to promote financial capability and empowerment.

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

  • geography
  • race/ethnicity
  • age - youth

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

We got the idea for the $pending Frenzy after using the Mad City Money program designed by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). Their interactive “reality fair” worked well with Native youth but lacked cultural sensitivity and did not include unique cultural components. We built upon their curriculum (assisted with a small grant from CUNA) and created a culturally-responsive model that can be used in diverse Native communities. We also partner with Oweesta to offer a range of financial education programs but see a unique market opportunity in experiential learning.

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

We have collected evaluation forms from nearly 5,000 Native youth. We wrote an evaluation report in 2012 that assessed the experiences of 130 students who participated in $pending Frenzy wkshps (attached). Over 71 percent agree or strongly agreed with the statement that the $pending Frenzy was relevant to their life, and over 81 percent said they will use the information they learned to help manage their money. Our ongoing evaluation continues to demonstrate that youth enjoy the experience and believe they learn a lot about managing money. It is a new experience for many. See the attached PowerPoint for more information about our evaluation strategies. Also additional information can be found in the response to comments.

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

We are proud we have proof of concept. We designed a workshop kit and started generating fee-for-service income. But we want to add new modules (e.g.: health care, having a child, paying for a smart phone), new materials to facilitate workshop execution (pre-printed budget sheets and receipts) and to reach out to a broader audience. Our strategies for scaling impact include upgrading the workshop kit, offering free workshops to at least 10 tribal communities, and marketing and disseminating the model for youth in schools, summer youth employment programs, tribal classes, etc.

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

  • Organizational Growth
  • Trainings, Consultation

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

This program is currently funded by a mix of grant and fee-for-service income. We have supported its sustainability for 5+ years because the program works and there is demand for it. We anticipate moving forward that the project continues to be funded through a mix of grant and fee-for-service income. But this grant will help us disseminate the model more broadly, encouraging tribes and communities to use it in an effective and sustainable way far beyond the work of our organization.

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?

Project is led by 2 people and FNDI, a Native-led nonprofit with 20 staff (12 Native American), supports program. S. Spruce, our lead trainer, is a financial educator with over 10 years of experience providing financial education to Native youth. An enrolled member of Laguna Pueblo, he has provided $F workshops across N. America and helped design the $F workshop. S. Dewees provides institutional support for financial education programs, helping with fundraising, marketing, and operations.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)
  • Native American or Alaska Native (for example: Navajo Nation, Blackfeet Tribe, Mayan, Aztec, Native Village of Barrow Inupial Traditional Government, Nome Eskimo Community)
  • Self-identify race, ethnicity, or origin

If you replied "Self-identify race, ethnicity, or origin" in the question above, please specify. (optional)

Our nonprofit: a staff of 20 people (12 Native American) and a board of 8 Native American leaders.

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

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Email

Program Design Clarity

Main activity is the $F workshop. We travel to partners’ community and deliver the wkshp, also training people to conduct their own wkshps. The primary beneficiaries are Native youth, 2ndary beneficiaries are partners who need to reach Native youth. The volunteer training, wkshp, and debrief takes 4 hours and is delivered by our lead trainer. With our partners we conduct over 40 wkshps a year. We also sell kits so can conduct own wkshps.

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

  • education / literacy

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.

We work closely with several partners, including financial institutions, federal financial management programs (the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians at the U.S. Dept. of Interior), and organizations that work with Native youth (such as high schools, colleges, and tribal youth employment/college prep programs). These partnerships enhance our approach by helping us reach our target market (by building relationships), refine our materials, and innovate to be more effective.

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

We would be honored to win and would use the resources to help implement our strategic plan. We have plans for growth in 4 key areas: Evaluation, product innovation, model dissemination, and training dissemination. We would use the UCC funds to help us reach more Native youth and evaluate outcomes.

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

As a community-based program, we have not nominated the $pending Frenzy for any awards. However, we have received competitive grant funding from the Credit Union National Association, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, and the Northwest Area Foundations, among others. We have sold over 50 $F workshop kits, demonstrating that organizations see value in the product.

Evaluation results

6 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! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 16.7%

Maybe - 33.3%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 16.7%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 50%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Is this entry IMPACTFUL on financial wellbeing?

Yes, absolutely! - 66.7%

Yes/maybe - 16.7%

Maybe - 16.7%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry SUSTAINABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 16.7%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 33.3%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

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

Connection to underserved community - 100%

Clarity of Model - 80%

Clarity of Writing - 60%

Idea Originality - 40%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 60%

Impact measurement - 20%

Impact Potential - 60%

Financial Sustainability - 20%

Team - 20%

Partnerships - 20%

Potential to scale - 40%

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

Connection to underserved community - 0%

Clarity of Model - 0%

Clarity of Writing - 0%

Idea Originality - 33.3%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 0%

Impact measurement - 100%

Impact Potential - 33.3%

Financial Sustainability - 66.7%

Team - 0%

Partnerships - 66.7%

Potential to scale - 33.3%

View more

Attachments (3)

Logic Model Spend Frenzy.pdf

This Logic Model for our $pending Frenzy provides an overview of expected outcomes.

It's a $pending Frenzy!.pdf

This PDF provides an overview of our evaluation activities and evaluation plan.


We conducted an early evaluation of our work.


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Photo of Greg Rawski

Great idea. Have you considered other factors besides expenses for financial literacy such as attaining a strong GPA, a college degree, career (income), importance of a good credit score, or the importance of saving / investing early. There are two sides to a balance sheet - you seem do be doing a good job on the expense side, perhaps add in a few features on the other. Have you connected with junior achievement? Another idea is to connect to a local / regional college. College students would be able to help you with you ideas, use as a class project, or give back to your target market. You mentioned cultural norms (just wondering what an example or two would be)? You mentioned evaluation report ... have you considered doing a pre and post test on financial literacy for your students? If you had this data, their are a number of financial institutions that may jump on board to support. Also may be good to get the student's emails and updates from simulation alumni (place on your website) - they could be a powerful voice to come back and talk to the next generation of students. Perhaps help with development too.

Photo of Sarah Dewees

Thanks for your comment, we appreciate it! You certainly have a lot of questions. Regarding evaluation, I would be surprised if this one intervention alone would contribute to changes in GPA, college attainment, and employment, but you never know. We are more interested in short term changes such as increased knowledge and changes in financial behavior. We have conducted several small scale evaluations (see attached report) and are confident this workshop increases knowledge. We have not been able to secure funding to do a larger, longitudinal evaluation (maybe with a control group) but we would welcome the opportunity to do so! Such an evaluation would of course include pre and post tests and also follow up assessments 6 and 12 months after the simulation. Also, we would love to do a longitudinal evaluation looking at multiple outcomes beyond just knowledge and behavior. And we do like the idea of following up with students and possibly having the come back and talk to the next generation of students, although have to be careful when working with minors under the age of 18 (not easy to collect contact info). After every workshop we do have a debrief session, and also ask all students to fill out evaluation forms, and this has helped with program refinement based on student feedback.

Thanks for your ideas about potential partners. We work closely with several partners, including a credit union that has adopted our model and uses it with high schools in Indian Country in New Mexico. We also partner with several high schools and one high school media class even helped us make our marketing video (see We work closely with the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (at the U.S. Dept. of the Interior) which has offices on many reservations. In addition, we work with local Native community development financial institutions (we just presented at a Native Youth Empowerment conference in partnership with Tewa Lending and the Pueblo of Isleta) and summer tribal youth employment programs (or college readiness programs). We have partnered with a few tribal colleges to offer the workshop as well. We agree that working with several strategic partners is helpful for reaching our target market, achieving program goals, and program refinement.

Regarding the unique issues in Indian Country, we include tribal dividend payments as part of the revenue stream for the $pending frenzy, and our “fickle finger of fate” cards address issues like family members asking for money, spending money on ceremonies, and tribal employment opportunities. We try to create scenarios (including “fickle finger of fate” cards, which are unexpected expenses) that are relatable for Native high school and college students and reflect their lived experience.