Compass Working Capital

At a Glance

National Office: 
89 South Street Suite 203
Boston, MA 02111
Phone: 6177900810

Sherry Riva
People Served: 
1,600
Year Founded: 
2005
Tax ID: 
20-3975100

Focus area(s):

Job/Career Development
Asset Development

Description

Compass Working Capital is a nonprofit financial services organization with a mission to empower working, low-income families to build assets and financial capabilities as a pathway out of poverty. Starting in 2005 with a group of 10 families in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, Compass’s work has grown to serve nearly 1,000 families each year in three states. Compass believes that all families deserve the opportunity to save for and invest in their future, and that the national approach to the problem of poverty should empower families to do just that.

Compass takes an entrepreneurial, iterative approach to its programs and focuses on research, data, and evaluation to get at what really works when it comes to lifting families out of poverty. Compass’s work builds on the research and practice of a broader asset building field, which has demonstrated the key role that financial security plays in lifting families out of poverty. The organization’s broader vision is to build a leading nonprofit organization that promotes financial security and economic mobility for working, low-income families by influencing field-related practice and policy.

Impact and Outcomes

Compass has helped families save more than $2.15 million toward their financial goals, such as homeownership, retirement, or a child’s college education.
In 2010, Compass became the first organization in the country to launch an asset building and public-private partnership model for the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, an employment and savings program for families living in federally subsidized housing.
After two years in a Compass FSS program, 60% of participants increased their annual income, by an average of $11,748; 65% of participants increased their credit score, by an average of 49 points; and 74% of participants reduced or maintained zero collection debt.
Compass’s first FSS program – in Lynn, Massachusetts – has enrolled 36% of eligible families, more than seven times the national average for FSS programs. These strong enrollment trends have continued as Compass has expanded the program to seven additional sites in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
In response to growing local and national interest in the Compass FSS model, the organization launched a national training and technical assistance network in September 2016. The Compass FSS Network will support mission-aligned partners across the U.S. to incorporate asset building and financial capability strategies into their FSS programs.

Matching Gift

In April 2012, Strategic Grant Partners (SGP) provided a $313,000 1:1 matching grant on private dollars raised through individual and institutional donors. The matching grant applies to private funds raised from September 2012 through December 2015.

Mission & Goals

Founded in 2005, Compass Working Capital (“Compass”) provides incentive-based savings and financial coaching programs that empower working families with low income to build assets, achieve their financial goals, and become financially secure. Our broader vision is to build a leading, nonprofit financial services organization that promotes economic mobility and financial security for working families with low income by influencing field-related practice and policy.

Program

Compass launched its first matched savings program through a pilot program with Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Boston in 2005. We expanded our core savings program to Lynn, Massachusetts in 2007 through partnerships with the local housing authority and the nationally recognized KIPP Academy. After several years developing successful financial coaching and savings programs for low-income families, we began to identify and capitalize on growth opportunities that would enable us to apply our proven financial coaching model and core competencies to a broader and sustainable market. Since 2010, we have focused our efforts on launching and expanding an innovative, asset building model for the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, a historically underutilized employment and savings program for families in federally subsidized housing. After more than a year of planning, Compass launched its first FSS program in Lynn in September 2010 through a unique collaboration with Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development (LHAND), a local housing authority with a strong track record of promoting economic mobility for its residents. Promising early program results, as well as growing local and national attention on the program model, fueled expansion of the program to pilot sites in Cambridge, Boston, and Springfield, MA, as well as sites in Connecticut and Rhode Island. The Compass FSS program has increasingly attracted local and national attention. In order to build on this interest, Compass hosted a national roundtable in November 2015 of practitioners, funders, and policymakers to discuss strategies to expand the scope and impact of the FSS program nationwide. In September 2016, Compass launched a three-year national demonstration to expand access to our FSS model in 10 U.S. cities by teaching and training partners to implement our model in their communities.

 

The Compass FSS program provides financial education, financial coaching, and a savings incentive, administered by our housing partners, to help housing residents increase their earnings, strengthen their financial capabilities, build savings, and achieve their goals. Each of these components is described in more detail below.

 

•Financial education workshops. Workshops focus on goal setting, budgeting, credit, debt management, savings, and asset building. They are designed to provide families with the foundation of skills, confidence, and practices that will help them reach their goals.

 

•Financial coaching. Through a unique approach to financial coaching, Compass works with families to break down their goals into measurable and achievable steps. Our goal is to equip families with the financial capabilities required to both build, and ultimately preserve, financial assets. Participants receive ongoing, customized financial coaching to help them achieve reach benchmark targets in five core areas of financial security: income and employment; credit and debt; savings; utilization of quality financial services, and asset development.

 

•Savings account. The FSS program allows participants to capture a portion of their increased rent payments in a savings account, held by the housing partner, which can be accessed upon program graduation. Participants can use their savings to achieve their goals, such as buying a home, repairing credit, saving for their children’s education, completing a job training or college program, or starting a business.

Impact

In our five years of building and expanding our model for the FSS program, we have engaged in continual program monitoring and evaluation with external research partners to inform program modifications and evaluate the program’s impact. In addition to these evaluation projects, Compass also engages in ongoing performance measurement and program monitoring to assess participant outcomes against benchmark targets in core areas of financial security: income and employment; credit and debt; savings; utilization of high quality financial services; and asset development. Initial outcomes from our early partner sites are promising, with a majority of enrolled families experiencing earnings gains, debt reductions, credit score increases, and asset growth. For example, families enrolled in the program for at least two years have demonstrated the following outcomes:

 

·         60% of clients have increased annual income, with an average annualized increase of $11,748

·         65% of clients have increased their credit score, by an average of 49 points

·         74% of clients have decreased, or maintained zero, collection debt, with an average reduction of $2,445

·         81% of clients have accrued savings in their FSS account, with an average savings of $1,769

 

These positive outcomes have come even as the program has expanded enrollment to cover a much larger share of the eligible population than typical FSS programs.

 

Over the past several years, as we have worked to develop and expand our local FSS programs, issues of income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have become more salient than ever before. The asset building field has strengthened and intensified interest in the potential for financial capability and asset building strategies to enable families to move up and out of poverty. Despite the evidence for the importance of these strategies for families with low income, the number of families who can access these strategies falls far short of those who would benefit.

 

Compass’s track record of excellent local program delivery as well as growing national interest in our program model have helped position us to play a key role in acting on these growing national interests. Fundamentally, our interest is in expanding access to asset building and financial capability strategies for all families with low income. At the present moment, the market of more than 2 million families living in federally subsidized housing is the strongest market where we can demonstrate the impact of these strategies and work to shift practice on a national scale.

 

Our broader vision is to embed asset building into the core fabric of our public assistance and anti-poverty programs in the U.S. Our experience working with families with low income, particularly those living in federally subsidized housing, has illuminated the ways in which our system of national anti-poverty programs are not designed to support families to move forward. Benefits that are tied to income and asset limits in public assistance programs discourage families from increasing their income and building savings, leading to well-documented “poverty traps” that keep families in poverty rather than creating a pathway out. We envision a transformation of the human services sector wherein a savings account, opportunities to build assets, and access to high-quality financial coaching is the norm, and not the exception, for families living in poverty.

Growth Plan

Compass is at a strategic juncture in its organizational growth. For the past ten years, we have worked diligently to research, develop, and test program models that best support families with low income in our local communities to move up and out of poverty. Strong program results to date in our innovative FSS program model have attracted local and national attention in our work, and enabled us to engage with a broader field of practitioners and policymakers interested in expanding access to our model on a national scale. Over the next three years, we have the potential to take what we have been building locally and leverage it for broader systems change, by demonstrating that our program model can work in other places and influencing national practice and policy.

 

We have outlined a strategic vision that builds upon our local success to pursue a set of three strategic goals over the next three years:

 

1. Strengthen, and continue to innovate on, our direct services program model. Above all, our goal is to deliver best-in-class client outcomes. Our intentional and tireless focus on data driven execution is the heart and soul of what we do. Over the next three years, we will continue to focus on strengthening our direct services programs. Key investments in organizational infrastructure and in external learning and research partnerships will be instrumental in helping us drive stronger client outcomes. We will also continue to build upon, strengthen, and invest in the growing body of content expertise and data-driven financial coaching and educational practices that have fueled our success to date. In particular, our financial services team will focus on understanding how best to optimize technology in expanding both the scope and impact of our work. We believe that key investments in a technology-enabled platform, including the launch of an eLearning platform and mobile-ready tools, will help drive stronger outcomes for clients served in our direct services programs and through our network delivery partners. These investments will also help position us for broader growth.

 

Our direct services programs also function as the “research and development” engine of our organization. They allow us to test, adapt, and learn from new asset building and financial coaching models. Over the next three years, we will focus on two specific areas of innovation in our direct services programs. First, we will launch and study an “opt out” approach to our FSS program, a variation on the traditional FSS program that has the potential to reshape national practice and policy. Second, we will focus on exploring new markets for delivering our services, including an employer-based delivery model. Investing in innovation enables us to learn, adapt our program models to drive better outcomes, and share new insight with our network partners and the broader asset building field.

 

2. Launch, test, and evaluate license or network delivery models for our expertise. Building on the success of our direct services programs – and in response to a growing interest in our FSS model - we seek to identify and leverage opportunities to integrate asset building and financial capability strategies into markets and programs that serve low-income families. Over the next three years, we will launch and test a network delivery model focused on providing training and technical assistance to partners who are interested in integrating asset building and financial capability strategies into their work.

 

As mentioned previously, we will build and test this network model in the FSS market, with the launch of a national Compass FSS network supported by a lead investment from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. This growth model positions us to expand the scope and impact of the FSS program by delivering our core knowledge and expertise through a training and technical assistance model to mission-aligned, local partners around the country. Through this network, we will “export” our FSS model through a license approach that bundles our core practices, tools, and resources – including our marketing tools, financial coaching methodology, financial education curriculum, data systems and tools, and expert personal finance content.

 

3. Translate learning into broader field building and policy efforts. Our broader organizational vision is to build a leading, nonprofit financial services organization that promotes economic mobility and financial security for working poor families by influencing field-related practice and policy. With growing interest at the national level in identifying proven models that address both income and wealth inequality in this country, we believe that we have a unique opportunity to inform national practice and policy. The deployment of our model on a national scale through the FSS program, and eventually in new markets, will provide additional proof points to strengthen our reputation as a thought leader and our ability to influence broader systems change work.  

Location of Sites

National Office: 
89 South Street Suite 203
Boston, MA 02111
Phone: 6177900810
List of locations

To make a contribution to a program site:

  1. Click on the "Make a Contribution Now" button and include the name, city and state of the program you would like to support, in the "notes" text box on the organization's donation form, if available.
  2. If a "notes" or "designation" box is not available, write the city and state on your check in the "notes" section or call the national office to designate your contribution to a local program site.

Locations in the following states:

Massachusetts

Financials

Most Recent Budget

Year Ended:

2017

REVENUE

Corporate Grants: 
$78,525
Foundation Grants: 
$1,212,512
Government Funding: 
$0
Contributions from Individuals: 
$796,000
Special Events: 
$0
Program Services Fees: 
$904,787
Membership Dues: 
$0
Other Earned Income: 
$0
Other Revenue: 
$4,502
Other Revenue (Description): 
Interest Income: $1,940.00
Total Revenue: 
$2,996,326

EXPENSES

Salaries, Related Salaries & Professional Fees: 
$2,100,349
Occupancy: 
$105,321
Travel & Entertainment: 
$48,794
Office Supplies, Printing, Postage: 
$21,242
Telephone & Communications: 
$15,178
Payments to Affiliates: 
$0
Other Expenses: 
$489,996
Other Expenses (Description): 

Program Expenses: 294,346

Other expenses: 130,727

IT Services: 64,923

Total Expenses: 
$2,780,880

NET GAIN/LOSS

Net Gain/Loss: 
$215,446

Prior Year Actuals

Year Ended:

2016

REVENUE

Corporate Grants: 
$68,827
Foundation Grants: 
$786,726
Government Funding: 
$0
Contributions from Individuals: 
$291,391
Program Services Fees: 
$655,199
Membership Dues: 
$0
Other Earned Income: 
$0
Other Revenue: 
$3,424
Other Revenue (Description): 
Interest Income: $1,792.41
Special Events: 
$0
Total Revenue: 
$1,805,567

EXPENSES

Salaries, Related Salaries & Professional Fees: 
$1,499,696
Occupancy: 
$102,562
Travel & Entertainment: 
$15,179
Office Supplies, Printing, Postage: 
$21,062
Telephone & Communication: 
$14,469
Payments to Affiliates: 
$0
Other Expenses: 
$307,514
Other Expenses (Description): 

Program Expenses: 96, 323.51

IT Services: 59.678.22

Other Expenses: 151,513.50

 

Total Expenses: 
$1,960,482

NET GAIN/LOSS

Net Gain / Loss: 
$-154,915

Major Funders

Cambridge Community Foundation

The Clipper Ship Foundation

Cummings Foundation

Eastern Bank

The Roy A. Hunt Foundation

Imago Dei Fund

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The Kresge Foundation

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Herman and Frieda L. Miller Foundation

Oak Foundation

The Plymouth Rock Foundation

The Women’s Fund of Essex County