Nashville Financial Empowerment

What are the target goals?
The Metro Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee partnered with the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville (UWMN) to expand their financial inclusion programs and services. Building upon the city's history of supporting the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville's robust Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, as well as joint efforts to launch Bank On Music City to help residents' access bank accounts and financial education, an extensive corps of local leaders created seven financial empowerment centers (FEC's) throughout the region. 

What is the strategy? 
Based upon New York City's model, FECs offer free one-on-one financial counseling to residents. In order to become eligible for the Bank On program, residents may be asked to complete a financial education course offered by a local provider. Counselors are professionally trained and provide support to residents in navigating complex financial decisions. Individuals receive assistance with money management, budgeting, reducing debt, establishing and improving credit, connecting to safe and affordable banking services, building savings and referrals to other services and organizations as needed. 

Who are the partners? 
The Metro Government of Nashville and Davidson County partnered with United Way of Metropolitan Nashville in this initiative. FEC staffs are employed by the United Way and provide direct services to residents, but both partners work together to make programmatic suggestions and decisions. All decisions related to FEC outreach and marketing are decided between partners using a decision tree that helps detail which partner handles specific aspects of the operation. 

How is this effort financed? 
The city and UWMN pursued funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies' investment in the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund. Through the CFE Fund, cities had the opportunity to apply for a FEC replication grant. In 2013, the CFE Fund awarded Nashville a grant to replicate the FEC model. The CFE Fund in total selected five cities to receive a $16.2 million, three-year investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The other four cities selected were Denver, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Lansing, Mich. 

When was the program launched? 
There are seven FEC locations throughout Nashville/Davidson County. Since opening in March 2013, Nashville's FECs have helped over 1,800 individuals and held more than 5,800 individual counseling sessions. 

Other details 
One lesson learned by both partners was the need to establish accountability and clear expectations with community partners in order to have a more reliable referral system of services for residents. 
All decisions related to the FECs are data driven, building upon the partners' use of data to evolve the VITA program. The most powerful and appealing aspect of the FEC model is the ability to track financial success using measurable data. 
Co-locating FEC services within existing nonprofits can offer wrap-around support services to individuals in need. The city highly recommends that programs co-locate with other similar services so they can effectively provide wraparound support. 

Bank on Music City
Financial Empowerment Centers (FEC)
Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund

NLC Staff Contact 
Heidi Goldberg
Institute for Youth, Education, and Families

This post was last updated in June 2015