The Need for Professionalized Financial Counseling

Effective financial counseling is vital in the face of economic challenges at all levels in our society – but had not been professionalized with a common set of standards and preparation. Working across multiple organizations nationally, we set out to create an approach that would professionalize financial counseling and institute a set of rigorous standards.

A Credential with Rigorous Standards

Specifically, we aimed to develop a recognized, portable professional credential for counselors embedded in community-based organizations, government agencies, educational institutions and other organizations. The charge was to: 1) create a standardized and rigorous financial education curriculum, 2) make the program scalable and replicable, and 3) enable financial counselors to empower their individual clients through education and knowledge/skills transfer.


Moving from Crisis to Stability

Acceleration Group’s co-founder Joyce Moy’s innovative approach to training financial counselors maximizes their ability to empower clients to move from crisis to stability. This empowerment represents the foundation for improved quality of life, financial security, career opportunities, wealth-generation, and self-sufficiency.

Giving People the Power to Make Choices

Acceleration Group addresses the counterproductive economic behaviors that keep communities from building wealth. These range from resource scarcity, which keeps people living in survival mode and not reaching beyond that, to associations of money with negative emotions and experiences. Our approach reframes the internal dialogue to create a deliberate and empowering mindset: it’s no longer about making sacrifices but about making choices. This emphasis is coupled with comprehensive and standardized financial education content that gives counselors real command of the financial, and regulatory levers affecting their clients.


Qualitative Impact – Professionalized Financial Counselors Nationally

To supercharge counselors’ effectiveness, the programs we implemented support training in the essential skills of financial literacy with powerful workshops in counseling, coaching and negotiation skills. Counselors hone these skills in role-plays of live counseling and negotiations situations and further their understanding of the impact of financial issues by reviewing current news and journal articles and media clips that illustrate the plight of citizens dealing with student loans, foreclosure, and having to work well beyond retirement age.

Quantitative Impact – Millions in Personal Balance Sheet Improvement

Acceleration Group’s approach and curriculum have been adopted by 14 cities nationally. In New York City alone, organizations that have adopted this approach have trained several hundred counselors. These counselors have served more than 25,000 clients, enabling low-income New Yorkers to amass savings of over $2.5M and reduce debt by $15M.



Image © 2014 Florence Montmare



Strategy in the Face of Change

In 2014, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC), the largest nonprofit in Brooklyn, needed a new strategy to adapt to a fast-changing environment. While RBSCC’s name derives from its early work on behalf of senior citizens in Brooklyn, today it is a $100M-plus, multi-program agency providing social services for the community at all stages of life. The agency hired Acceleration Group to develop a comprehensive strategic plan and to facilitate innovation across its programs.

While RBSCC was instrumental in revitalizing Bushwick and creating the thriving neighborhood it is today, it faced an unprecedented set of challenges and opportunities. It needed to expand its impact and adapt to changing conditions while keeping this evolution rooted in its historical commitment to the community.

Achieving Inclusive Economic Development

The stakes were high, since success could mean the difference between gentrification as a displacing force, and inclusive economic development, where wealth was reinvested in the community, improving quality of life for all. RBSCC needed to set a course that would enable disparate segments of the population to participate fully in the benefits of change.



A Powerful Vision and Model

Acceleration Group developed a comprehensive program to enable RBSCC to lead and define the change, rather than simply react to it. We worked with stakeholders throughout the organization to articulate the agency’s core vision of “somewhere to go, someone to become, dignity for our elders.” We then advised the executive team and board in developing a comprehensive program that applied this vision to changing conditions, and set a course to lead the change in the New York City of today.

Capturing Resources Behind the Model

Internally, formerly siloed programs are now integrated, and externally,  RBSCC has forged powerful relationships throughout the ecosystem. This has meant identifying and connecting key players, innovating new programs, stimulating cross-program collaboration, and laying the groundwork for diversified funding, All of this has contributed to RBSCC’s articulation, development and proving of a comprehensive model for inclusive economic development.




Dots Connected

Our strategy helped RBSCC lead and define the change, identify and connect key partners in the ecosystem to multiply its impact, and open new opportunities for funding. Today, RBSCC is distinguished by collaboration and innovation across its programs. Many social service programs respond to crises without addressing underlying causes; by contrast, RBSCC looks comprehensively at providing the support to allow families and businesses to thrive.

The Conditions for the Community to Thrive

For families, this means stable, affordable housing, sustainable financial and personal health, pathways to meaningful and quality employment and economic advancement, and care for young and the old. For businesses, this means the reinvesting of wealth and developing the local talent pool. RBSCC is leading the way through its environmental and next-generation infrastructure, creating the community of the 21st century and beyond.