Milwaukee nonprofit calls for volunteer money coaches

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As Make-A-Difference Wisconsin continues to expand its financial literacy programming across southeastern Wisconsin, the nonprofit is seeking volunteer coaches to mentor students in small groups and one on one.

The Milwaukee-based nonprofit organization delivers financial management courses to high school students throughout Wisconsin, preparing them to take control of their finances at an early age.

The organization’s offerings include a core financial education program, which is facilitated by volunteers in classrooms across the state, and a deeper dive program, known as “Money Coach,” that currently caters to small groups of students in southeastern Wisconsin.

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Make-A-Difference will launch its third year of “Money Coach” in the fall and is now working to recruit 10 to 15 volunteer coaches.

During the program’s pilot run, throughout the 2013-’14 school year, 41 students at five area sites completed the curriculum with the guidance of 10 coaches. Last year’s programming grew to reach 105 students at 10 sites with the help of 22 coaches.

The nonprofit wants to continue scaling up its Money Coach programming as “thousands” of students in Milwaukee stand to benefit from it, according to executive director Brenda Campbell.

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The goal this year centers on impacting 150 students, many of them from low-income households, according to Campbell.

Each “Money Coach” volunteer is assigned to meet monthly with a handful of students and use program curriculum to teach them the principles of budgeting, saving and banking. The curriculum also steers students through the basics of getting a job, paying for their education, living independently, buying a vehicle and handling credit.

Among the program’s priorities is teaching students how to establish a relationship with a bank, track their expenses, and structure and follow a budget.

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Program coaches typically meet with their students at a designated school or youth-based organization’s office and juggle a mix of small group activities and one-on-one interactions.

“Really what they’re doing is they’re helping the students take what was learned in the core program and apply it to their own lives,” Campbell said.

In tailoring the curriculum to individual students’ lives, coaches also help their students set specific financial goals and gauge their progress throughout the duration of the school year, both at their meetings and through contact via texts, phone calls and emails.

Examples of students’ financial goals include saving money toward the purchase of a laptop or toward the cost of filing college applications.

Students who show initiative and reach their goals are then eligible for a $500 scholarship backed by Make-A-Difference Wisconsin.

Among the most impressive outcomes from the program’s first two years, Campbell said, is the fact that 99 percent of all program students now have a bank account, 96 percent actively track expenses and 80 percent follow a budget.

Beyond the statistics, “Money Coach” also boosts students’ confidence in their ability to set up sound financial futures, according to Pam Evason, program volunteer and managing director of Windermere Wealth Advisors LLC.

“They just seem much more prepared to make financial decisions, and they take great pride in it,” Evason said.

Individuals interested in volunteering as coaches should contact Desiree Cocroft, program manager for “Money Coach,” before Aug. 1 at After training the next cohort of volunteer coaches, Make-A-Difference Wisconsin will kick off “Money Coach” in September.

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