Recently GreenPath, one of the country’s largest nonprofit financial counseling organizations, released “Building Successful Nonprofit-Fintech Partnerships,” detailing its work to co-develop and distribute a new client service with EarnUp, a fintech company that makes it easier for people to manage and pay down debt. The report is a goldmine of insights on how to build better and more effective partnerships. It tells a compelling story about the successful first phase of the collaboration, while providing actionable advice and tips for those seeking to build partnerships of their own.
The release of the report–and the progress it highlights–marks an exciting moment in a broader journey the Financial Health Network has taken to explore the potential of partnerships between fintech providers and nonprofit organizations. The Financial Solutions Lab, a $30 million, five-year initiative conducted with our partner JPMorgan Chase & Co., provided funding to support the GreenPath-EarnUp partnership as well as the documentation of its results. We’ve been along for the ride as a part of our interest in learning if and how fintech providers and nonprofits can work together to increase the impact they can have on the financial health of struggling households. GreenPath and EarnUp’s early success gives us a sign that our hunch about the potential of these partnerships might be right.
We’ve long held the belief that complementary cross-sector partnerships can result in holistic solutions that enhance the financial health of consumers. Through our engagement with the tech community via the Financial Solutions Lab, we began to see particular potential for partnership between fintech providers and direct service nonprofit organizations. Such nonprofits bring valuable resources and strengths to the table–most significantly, their trusted relationships with financially struggling consumers and unique insights on how to serve them. Many of these organizations also have the experience and infrastructure needed to effectively deliver financial health solutions to underserved communities. Partnering with high-performing nonprofits can help Fintech companies design better products, boost their impact, and reach consumers that are hungry for new solutions.
Excited by our theory about fintech-nonprofit partnerships, we set about testing it. We shared our vision for fintech-nonprofit partnerships, launched a working group to engage interested partners, and even provided support for a number of early-stage partnerships to see what we could learn.
Working with GreenPath and EarnUp helped us to get started. The two organizations met in late 2016 at the Financial Health Network’s Network Summit meeting. Recognizing a shared sense of mission, they quickly began working together, embarking on an iterative process to design and develop a new service. The result was the Simple Payment Plan, a program for GreenPath clients in need of help with debt management. Under the SPP, GreenPath counselors review a client’s finances to identify eligible debts and helps to set them up on a payment plan. Clients then use EarnUp’s technology to automate and optimize payments while GreenPath counselors remain available to assist clients throughout the process.
The SPP has been a great success. In pilot testing, 125 clients enrolled in the program and set up a total of $9.3 million worth of outstanding debt on payment plans that have the potential to save $600,000 in interest and fees. The partnership won GreenPath the 2017 Innovative Practices Award from the Council on Accreditation, and GreenPath and EarnUp continue to invest in refining and scaling the SPP. Their work has come with a host of learnings about the lifecycle of a successful partnership, chief among them being that it isn’t easy. The report delves into how GreenPath and EarnUp worked together to build the SPP and highlights best practices for collaboration such as establishing mission alignment upfront, engaging frontline staff in planning, and developing a cadence of regular effective communication among leadership. These lessons and more are presented and discussed in GreenPath’s report; it’s a must-read for anyone considering a partnership of their own.
We’re excited to see GreenPath and EarnUp’s collaboration continue to grow and to see others come to fruition. With more examples to learn from, we will deepen our understanding of the factors that make a partnership productive, leading to more effective solutions for building the financial health of American households. Read the full report here, and stay tuned for more on this exciting fintech/nonprofit partnership!