April 3, 2019

Financial Literacy Month at ECF

April is Financial Literacy month.

At the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF), we spend much of our time helping individuals and churches with their strategic, financial and leadership resources. We strive to educate and alleviate concerns around endowments, help seminarians navigate the transition out of seminary and into their first job or cure, coach clergy and lay leaders to be stronger, more effective leaders, and a whole host of other things. However, every April, we take some time out of our busy schedules and build on our own financial knowledge. Kate Adams, Project Director for the Lilly Endowment National Initiative, and I have looked forward to April when we get to put together a set of fun finance activities for our staff. Activities usually culminate with an end of the month gathering over food to share what we’ve learned over the past month. It’s a way for us at ECF to learn about ourselves but, more importantly, learn how our own relationships with money can affect the work we do every day. Here are a few exercises Kate Adams and I wanted to share with you in hopes that you mind find them useful for your own teams.

Starting off Easy

There are several easy exercises that don’t involve a lot of work and can become fun points of conversation during congregational meetings or “at the water cooler”. One of our most successful month openers has been a money personality quiz from Olivia Mellan. This easy exercise is light and a nice way to begin the month, especially if people in your congregation or office are reticent to talk about their own personal finances. You can also check out NerdWallet for another variation on the personality quiz.

If personality quizzes aren’t your cup of tea, try giving people a goal of checking their retirement accounts or even their credit scores. Sounds too easy to be effective? At ECF, we encourage people to simply do a quick check-in and receive a prize. You’d be surprised at how many people avoid necessary check-in with things like retirement account or credit scores and how quickly people will do these check-ins when prizes are involved!

Going Bigger

Something new we’re trying this year is a bigger activity that will take some time to complete (about an hour) and involve a little more thought. We’ve asked everyone to complete a SmartPlanner report and then come together to share our learnings and even our plans for the future over lunch at the end of the month. Check out Jonathan’s Pond’s Smart Planner for a more in-depth activity that might offer lots of think or talk about for your team.

During the last week of the month we usually bring in a guest speaker and provide lunch (free food always brings a crowd.) For example, we had a representative come to our New York office and talk about retirement savings plans. They helped walk us through the online account, which allows you to check your retirement goals against your savings and use an online calculator to help you try different scenarios to save more. There is another feature which has a quiz on how we approach our financial planning and what might be holding us back. These exercises allowed our staff to think more about their own personal relationship with money and saving for the future.

With any of these activities, the goal is to grow and learn more about our own relationship with money. It’s alright if not everyone wants to share their learnings but what’s important is that they take a little time to get to know themselves better. That said, don’t forget that the promise of free food or other small prizes might be the crowd pleaser that brings everyone together!

Adriane Bilous is Project Coordinator for ECF's Lilly Endowment National Initiative