Growing Your Child Account Program: Funding and Policy Opportunities: Panel Discussion

October 8, 2015

Panel Discussion Moderator: Teresa Cheeks Wilson, Senior Community Development Specialist, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Memphis Branch

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Below is a full transcript of this video presentation. It has not been edited or reviewed for accuracy or readability.

Teresa Wilson: Throughout the day we’ve heard about so many different programs, Kindergarten to College. We’ve heard out the Mississippi Program, Promise Indiana, and there are a lot of discussions that states and municipalities are having about how they may offer a meaningful and, also, impactful Child Account Program. And I know we have many practitioners in the audience, so how would you–what information would you give or advice would you give to them about finding the best and most suitable program for them and where’s the money? And we’ll start with Benita.

Benita Melton: So, I think there are a lot of opportunities and challenges, in terms of finding the resources for CSA programs. I don’t want to take [unintelligible at 00:01:08], so I’m not going to go deep into them. I want to talk about–I think about this in terms of operations and match.

I want to talk about the match side for just a second. I think we have to think about expanding or building or growing the pie or however we want to think about it, which isn’t to say foundations, whether they’re national or regional, statewide, or local, aren’t a resource, but we still have a lot of work to engage more of our efforts. So, how do you we think, while we’re doing that [unintelligible at 00:01:45], how do we overcome the resources?

Well, one of the things to think about, how do we rethink the way we deliver scholarships, which is a role that some community foundations are thinking about, community foundation, you know, initiative in [unintelligible at 00:02:02] County was thinking about this, I know. Indiana was thinking about this. And I think that there’s some more thinking in that space is top goal.

And then, I think it’s, also, an opportunity to think differently about financial aid financial aid. How do we deliver financial aid? It was touched on a little bit earlier today, but at the institute or higher education policy and our college board, both propose for managing our financial aid accounts, the college board has so far is to suggest a source of financial aid money that could go into those accounts and are not repeated; it’s controversial if you read the college board report. But the point is that the idea is [unintelligible at 00:02:46] that we need to be thinking about that, because that is a source that some tab and that’s a part that can be brought to the table.

Teresa Wilson: Colleen?

Colleen Quint: So, I guess the way that I think of it is to look at the models that are out there, right? And so, as you’re thinking about your own program and how to see that, how to fund that, how to sustain it over time, all those different kinds of things. So, as was mentioned earlier today, CFED has just come out with a blueprint and you’ve got a, I think, a cover sheet of that that’s in the materials, and that’s a terrific resource. It goes through, kind of explains the differences in different models and really thinking about what your program goals are, and who you’re trying to reach, and how you want to engage with them, and what you’re trying to get to, all those things help you figure out the elements of how you want to structure it, the how you want to fund it piece.

I think, you know, like any effort, diversified funding is a really good thing. So, people look at me and my program and say, “Well, you’ve got it made,” right? I mean, I’ve got this wonderful, very generous, large foundation that wants to give us a ton of money to do this, and that’s awesome. I tell you, the pressure’s on, because I got to keep them happy, and if they ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, right? So, there’s that piece.

And they want to make sure, part of their challenge is that there are other people involved, and so that’s why I’m brining other foundations to the table, businesses to the table, community partners to the table, to provide–they’re not providing the $500.00, but for $10,000.00, the John T. Gorman Foundation in Maine is seeding accounts in Headstarts in four different counties, right? That’s a pretty small dollar contribution from them to be part of and play a role in supporting this expansion. And they don’t need to do that every single year, but they do that, and then maybe someone else will do the next one, and then maybe the Steuben Account or the King Foundation will support the libraries, and then who will do, will they do or will a local business decide to do the grant at the end when a kid meets the summer reading goals?

I think there’s a role for business in this, you know, the business partners, half a dozen of the 20 up there, or 21 now, are offering their own matching grant when a family opens an account. So, there are lots of ways to have those conversations and think about not just the seed money, but the matching money, the incentive money, the outreach efforts, and, you know, using whatever those local relationships may be, so . . .

Joe Antolin: So–what were you going to say?

Carl Rist: Go for it. I’ll do clean up.

Joe Antolin: So, that’s great. So, I was just going to suggest that as you figure out your design, there’s not a Children’s Savings Account field of philanthropy or even public dollars, right? So, you’re talking about leveraging or converting dollars that are purposed for something else. It might be for a young population. It might be for foster care. It might be for TANF recipients, you know. It might be block grant money. It might be parking money from public sources.

But, foundations are the same way, you know. They have a very defined sliver of the world that they fund, for the most part. It might be education, but CSAs may or may not fit into their view of education, yet. It might be a public health social determinate model and this squarely fits into that model, but they haven’t seen CSAs as that, yet. You know, it’s the community foundation model and what’s the role of the community in it, but I think you have to sort of be thoughtful about where they’re coming from. It’s almost the way, you know, the practice of social work and you deal with your client where they are in the strength based model. You almost have to approach the funder that way, right? It’s like where are they and how do you get them to move to the place you want them to?

Carl Rist: So, I think a lot of good ideas here. And I, also, do want to point out my colleague, Cher, and her design guy, which has a lot of, also, good ideas about fundraising for local programs. I want to take the question in a different direction and talk to folks in the room, who are advocating at the state and local level for these larger scale Children’s Savings Programs, like we have, here, in St. Louis, now, like in San Francisco.

I think in those–when we’re talking about larger scale, I think it’s critical to have some initial public dollars in there, like has been done so well in San Francisco, have public dollars initially seeding accounts, for example, and then private dollars, maybe, matching those to same model, for example, in Nevada and, here, in St. Louis, as well. Don’t mention Michael’s comments in the earlier panel. There’s so many dollars out there, so much, that we’re spending through the public sector that’s not well spent, right? It’s regressive dollars producing assets of families, who mostly have a lot of wealth, right?

So, I think finding some ways to get public dollars in initially and then maybe augmenting those private dollars is the way to go, but don’t forget about those public dollars. I’ve seen the trend in a couple of states that say, “We’re going to pass legislation and we’ll fund this all with private dollars,” and I think that’s a recipe for disaster to sort of get a program going that’s going to be poorly funded and may not succeed. So, again, thinking about bigger scale models, thinking about blending the public and private dollars.

Teresa Wilson: Okay. We’re going to open up to our audience, please. And we just want to thank Benita for being a part of our panel. Let’s give her a hand.

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