The Founder’s Corner, Edition 1: Making a Difference
Editor’s Note: This post starts off a new tradition in 2019: The Founder’s Corner. Each month, CARE Founder Hon. John C. Ninfo II (ret.) will write about a different topic CARE related. This month, Judge Ninfo is going to talk about the main challenge many volunteers face: engaging with the schools and making a difference. There is another note at the bottom with additional resources.
The Founder’s Corner
Happy New Year! I hope that 2019 is a special, successful and memorable one for all of you. I also want to thank you for everything that you did for CARE in 2018, so that we can continue to increase peoples’ Financial IQ’s.
At the NCBJ Conference in San Antonio in October, I was excited and proud to learn about what so many of you are doing, and have done, to make CARE the successful and growing National Financial Literacy Outreach Program of the Bankruptcy Community.
I learned that so many of you have taken the CARE message beyond just the schools to many other places, like prisons and military bases so that you can educate Americans of all ages and needs. As the result of discussions that I was honored to have at the Conference, I now know that thanks to George Norton, CARE volunteers will be presenting to The C-10 Leadership and Mentoring Program in Kansas City. The Program services high school students from under-served communities. In Florida, Charles “Chuck” Tatelbaum and his wife will be bringing CARE to the immigrants that their Foundation services in the Fort Lauderdale area.
I was honored to hear some of your feedback stories on how CARE has made a difference in peoples’ lives.
However, I also heard what I have heard for more than 15 years – how difficult it can be to get into more schools.
As a result of those interactions, Ian Redman and others thought that it might be a good idea for me to act as a clearinghouse, and to write a new monthly column. It will share your stories of how you know that CARE has made a difference in peoples’ lives. It will also share your stories of how you have brought our unique knowledge and experiences to places and groups other than the schools. In addition, it will share successful techniques that have helped you to secure more presentations. Finally, it will share stories that you feel will motivate our CARE Team, or just bring a smile to our faces.
Anecdote Ally: Making A Difference
Here are a few “making a difference” stories of my own, as examples, to start us off. They happen to be as the result of school presentations, but they don’t have to be.
I didn’t have a savings account, so I opened one that week and did what you said. Then one day I wanted to buy something really badly, and I did, but I didn’t feel guilty about it, because I had saved for it. Thank you!
I had a wonderful experience over the Holidays that I would like to share with you. I had a furnace issue, (it always happens on a weekend or holiday), and the technician who came was looking at some CARE things from over the years that I have framed and hanging on a wall near the furnace room. He said to me, I knew you looked familiar. I was in the Class of 1999 at Churchville –Chili H.S., and you came to my school. I asked him if he remembered anything. He said that he only has one credit card, and although he does have less than a $1,000 balance on it, he saves about 25% of everything he makes, so is prepared for emergencies and the future. He also remembers that cash is king and how passionate and sincere he felt that I was in trying to help them.
Recently, I had a young girl come up to me after a presentation to seniors at a high school. She said: I just want to thank you. I heard you when I was a sophomore in my personal finance class. You said we all needed to have a savings account, and to save something from everything we ever got – afterschool or summer job, a gift, whatever, so that we would become a lifelong saver. I didn’t have a savings account, so I opened one that week and did what you said. Then one day I wanted to buy something really badly, and I did, but I didn’t feel guilty about it, because I had saved for it. Thank you!
Finally, this year I had a young man come up to me after another high school presentation. He said that for years he and his mother have been giving his dad a hard time because he insists on using cash wherever they go, and it slows everything down. He said that he learned a lot that day about how cash is king, and how you will make different, and often better, spending decisions when you use it because you are connected to your hard earned money. He said that the stories about people who learned the power of cash really impressed him. At the end of our conversation he said, we will never give my dad a hard time again!
I can’t wait to share your stories about how we are making a difference.
Tactics Toolbox: Engaging Schools and Organizations
When it comes to CARE presenters bringing their unique knowledge, experiences, lessons, tactics, and techniques to other than students in the schools, here are just a few examples of things that I have done over the years.
Over the years, I have spoken to:
- Scouting Groups
- Church Groups
- Delayed Entry Marines and their families
- Senior Citizen Groups
- Rotary and Other Clubs
- and Halfway Houses
I know that many of you have unique presentation experiences, and, again, I can’t wait to hear and share some of them.
When it comes to getting into more schools, here are some things that have worked for me in the past. By the way, we don’t have unified school systems in Western New York. In the county in which Rochester, New York is located, there are 18 different school districts, so breaking into them all is a real challenge.
First, in the past, I have offered to be a speaker at regional conferences for business, economics, social studies, career, and financial management, or finance teachers. However, due to budget pressures, there are less of these than in prior years. Nevertheless, I recently was invited to speak at a Next Gen conference in my area, and I picked up three new high schools. Ian and I are going to try to see if there can be more of those opportunities nationally.
In the county in which Rochester, New York is located, there are 18 different school districts, so breaking into them all is a real challenge.
Second, I always ask teachers that I go in for to spread the word to any teachers that they know in nearby schools, and I do the same with parents and school board members that I meet that are involved with schools that I don’t visit. I have a solicitation package that I can email to them. It includes articles about my years in the schools and CARE, the Top Ten Lessons that I use in my presentations, and other articles that I have written. If you or your local program don’t have one, you should consider creating one to go along with a solicitation letter. It could also include recommendations from teachers and others who have seen a presentation.
Third, one thing that worked for me early on was to submit articles, opinion pieces, or letters to the editor to local and community newspapers at appropriate times when the media may be looking for them. I always identify myself as a CARE volunteer. Financial Literacy Month in April is a good time to talk about financial literacy in the schools and some general personal finance principles. Also, back to school time is when you can write about student loan debt and college costs. If they are printed, you can use copies of them to help you solicit new schools. Also, you can offer to go on local television news shows or talk radio shows. (Editor’s Note: There is a section at the bottom with examples of articles from Judge Ninfo)
Finally, I recently discovered a new possible referral source – a School District Communications Director or Specialist. I found out that in my area they have an association, and they have meetings. I have two of them that came to a presentation in their school so that they could do a website article. They found the presentation valuable for students and said that they would recommend them to their colleagues. I have asked to speak at an upcoming meeting, so I have my fingers crossed. If you are going to a school to do a presentation, consider asking the teacher to notify them, so that they can do an article. If they do one, you can use it as a part of your solicitation package.
I hope to hear from you with your stories. I know that they will be motivating, encouraging, and helpful. I also hope that they will make us all feel more like we are part of a TEAM that is really making a national difference.
I promise that any future columns will not be this long.
Judge Ninfo also provided some examples of outreach and articles that he has used in his personal efforts. Please see these links below as references.
About the Author
Hon. John C. Ninfo II is a retired U.S. Bankruptcy Judge in Rochester, NY and the Founder of CARE. In 2002, CARE was launched by Judge Ninfo in response to a need for financial education in his community. It quickly spread to several jurisdictions and communities around the country and over time, became the CARE of today. On his own, Judge Ninfo still gives over 100 CARE presentations and is extremely active in many different organizations and causes around Rochester.