A Message from Executive Director Mike Couch
Year of Challenge and Opportunity
- In the past year, MakingChange has enhanced its community outreach and partnerships, increased both the number of programs provided and the number of people served, and expanded its Board of Directors, fielding an impressive group of civic and business leaders. It has been an exciting year of challenges and opportunities.
- One success was receiving an Award of Excellence from the Maryland CASH Campaign for having achieved the lowest reject rate of tax returns submitted by coalition partners.
- A visit from the IRS also produced a commendation for Best Practices for MakingChange’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site.
- MakingChange was also selected to participate in a state-wide pilot program, MyBudgetCoach, which paired individual participants with trained volunteer budget coaches for 12 monthly sessions to help them improve their ability to budget and make well-informed financial decisions.
- Our outreach included financial coaching at the MultiService Center in North Laurel and through Howard Community College’s Career Links program. In addition to holding regularly scheduled group sessions at Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center and the Family Self Sufficiency Program of the Howard County Department of Housing, financial seminars are now being provided at HopeWorks and the Office of Workforce Development.
- One of the highlights of the year for me was participation in the Conscious Venture Lab of the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship as the sole representative of a nonprofit. The six-month business accelerator program concluded with Demo Day, where participants presented early stage product concepts before potential funders.
More information about MakingChange programs and participants is available elsewhere in this newsletter.
Financial Wellness Programs Make Impact
For more than a decade, MakingChange has been helping people create their own financial success stories through educational programs that are user friendly and meaningful. MakingChange’s target population is the low income client, specifically an individual or family earning less than $53,000 per year. Clients are generally between the ages of 18 and 55. Our programs and the number of participants in our 2014 fiscal year include:
Financial Seminars – 390 attendees
The Financial Seminars are the backbone of MakingChange services. The seminars include over a dozen topics, including creating a budget, understanding credit, long term savings and identity theft. The curriculum is designed to address immediate issues, like how to achieve longer term goals such a buying a house. In measuring performance, we look for satisfied clients who report an increase in knowledge and expand it further by scheduling a one-on-on personal coaching session.
Financial Coaching – 103 sessions
Financial Coaching is offered to individuals who are interested in addressing their specific financial concerns. The sessions begin with an assessment of a person’s current financial situation, such as level of debt, to determine the initial areas to be addressed. A minimum of three sessions is encouraged for any changes in financial habits to occur. More than half of the clients reported achieving at least one of their financial goals.
Tax Preparation – 309 tax returns
MakingChange provided free tax preparation with the help of 25 volunteers who provided 700 volunteer hours through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Of the 309 tax returns prepared by our volunteers, 228 resulted in a net refund through the identification of Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit and other savings. MakingChange implemented an online appointment system this year and was able to accommodate many walk-in clients.