This is the first post in a series highlighting the alumni of the 2014 Fast Forward accelerator.
Motivated by the 2008-2009 global economic recession, a group of UChicago students founded an extracurricular club to provide basic financial literacy and investment skills to low-income students in Chicago high schools. Since graduating from the Fast Forward accelerator last summer, Moneythink has become a field-defining institution. Fast Forward reconnected with Moneythink Co-Founder and CEO Ted Gonder to talk about what’s new for the organization.
What has been the most important factor influencing your growth over the last year?
Around the time we were finishing Fast Forward last summer, we launched our pilot of MoneythinkMobile, a mobile app which our students call “The Instagram for Money.” The students we work with use their phones all the time, so getting Moneythink in their pockets was crucial for deepening the impact we had on them beyond face-to-face time in classrooms. During our pilot, we noticed that students were doing what we hoped they would: using the app when making financial decisions. It serves as a reminder to be smart with their money. One student said “I used to just spend it on food, on junk. But now, I put money in the bank.”
Can you share some stats or program milestones?
We now have close to 2,200 students on MoneythinkMobile, with more than 8,000 posts made in app so far. Students have set 550 financial goals through our program, and 30% of students who didn’t previously save have become regular savers. Since our pilot, students have saved more than $6,500 total, which may not sound like much, but keep in mind that most of these kids earn less than $50 per year.
We’re thrilled to be the recipients of a $650,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase, which will significantly supplement our expansion efforts in the two years.
What advice or takeaways from Fast Forward have stuck with you?
Our best mentorship around how to grow exponentially has come from the tech community. The tech industry understands the growth projections Moneythink is striving for better than any other industry, and we wouldn’t have discovered this without Fast Forward. I hope Moneythink can spend more time in the Bay Area. Our mentor connections there through Fast Forward were amazing, and they’ve led to so many other crucial introductions. In fact, we even have our product manager working from the San Francisco IDEO.org office for this reason.
It’s been great to stay in touch with our peers from the Fast Forward cohort. I learn something every time I reach out to them because they’re going through the exact same things we are as tech nonprofits and as organizations at a similar stage and size.
What next steps are you most excited about?
In 2016 we want to grow the impact on each student’s saving and spending behavior relative to the benchmark data from our pilot, expand the technology and the number of organizations using it through our partner channels including youth summer employment programs and financial readiness for college programs, and build a demand for learning solutions as financial solutions.
Do you see evidence of a growing tech nonprofit ecosystem?
Yes, but there is still a need to expand it. We need more investor education about what a tech nonprofit is so that more foundations are open to giving to tech nonprofit grantees. Until now, there has never been a “cutting edge” for nonprofits. Fast Forward is the voice of reason showing the philanthropy world that tech nonprofits can indeed be cutting edge.
To learn more about Moneythink, check out their 2014-2015 Annual Report.