Introducing: The CSA Innovative Grant Project

We are proud to announce the recipients of CEDAM’s Children’s Savings Account (CSA) Innovative Project Grants! In partnership with the Michigan Poverty Task Force, CEDAM has awarded four Michigan CSA programs up to $50,000 each to implement projects that will enhance program impact and advance the state’s CSA field. 

All projects were required to relate to at least one of the following five areas of emphasis: increasing student and family participation in CSA programs, promoting sustainable fundraising, reducing administrative burden, prioritizing marginalized communities, and expanding wraparound programming. 

To evaluate the impact of these projects and document lessons learned along the way, CEDAM has partnered with Dr. Trina Shanks and her team at the University of Michigan’s Center for Equitable Family and Community Well-Being. The team will also develop a common set of metrics local programs can track to holistically measure their impact and will provide them a guide on how to conduct their own impact evaluation in the future. CEDAM hopes that the Network’s partnership with the U of M team will enable all local programs to make data-driven program enhancements and share their impact more effectively. 

Announcing our CSA Innovative Project Grant Recipients

KickStart to Career Muskegon County (Community Foundation for Muskegon County): To increase student and family CSA program participation (particularly amongst those in marginalized communities), KickStart to Career Muskegon County will be launching a Teacher Champion program. They will offer Muskegon County educators $250 grants to become KickStart to Career Champions, where they will be provided a training and information session on KickStart to Career and will help the program develop methods to engage their students and families. They also plan to empower high school seniors taking a course in personal finance to become Student Ambassadors. These ambassadors (each with a different plan for their future) will be invited to share their hopes and goals for the future with other students. The goal is to increase teacher and school engagement as a means to further engage students and families, providing an increased focus on the three districts in their county that have a “performance improvement plan” in place related to the educational outcomes in the district.

In addition, the program will address school engagement in three target districts by engaging every classroom (K-4th grade) in a Deposit Day, where funds will be used to ensure all students are able to make a deposit in their account. Each student will receive a $5 deposit into their KickStart account regardless of their family’s financial ability. 

Kickstart to Career Newaygo County (Fremont Area Community Foundation): To expand access to students and further educate them about the depositing process, Kickstart to Career Newaygo County’s project will involve purchasing and installing two deposit kiosk machines in two participating schools.  Students can use the machines to make safe deposits into their accounts when the school is open. Offering services in both English and Spanish, the kiosks will provide not only more convenient physical accessibility but also expanded linguistic accessibility. 

This idea largely stemmed from the program’s close analysis of Newaygo County’s demographics and exploring ways to reach rural and Spanish-speaking students better. Currently, 20% of the Newaygo County population is underbanked, and 8.5% of children live in a home where English is not the primary language. Providing a deposit kiosk will allow engagement with the bank for students who may not have a physical bank close to home, and will offer an ATM/mobile deposit experience to strengthen their connection and trust in electronic banking. Customizing the kiosk for Spanish-speaking users will also reduce barriers for many students and their families. 

Lansing SAVE (City of Lansing – Office of Financial Empowerment): Lansing SAVE’s innovative project explores the impact of seed money, which goes on to inspire students and their families to contribute more to their accounts. After eight years in operation, Lansing SAVE’s average account balance is about $14. While CSAs are about more than account balances alone, the program noticed a great opportunity to cultivate community partners to increase these balances, setting a goal of each student graduating high school with $500 in their account. To accomplish this, Lansing SAVE will perform a five-year capital campaign with a goal of $5 million over the next four years. This grant will support their partnership with a professional fundraising firm, marketing and outreach for the campaign, and more. 

This work will advance the Lansing SAVE program far beyond simply raising account balances. The program expects it will raise participation rates (the percentage of students who have deposited on their own) and parental engagement due to increased motivation resulting from higher balances. Lansing SAVE also predicts this will increase community awareness, thereby raising the impact of existing “Community Champions” and “8th Grade RISE” fundraising activities for smaller-dollar donors.

LEAF – Lapeer County Education Attainment Fund (Lapeer County Community Foundation): LEAF will carry out a series of three initiatives that focus on developing the LEAF brand, with the goal of making it a household name in local schools, financial institutions, and the community in general. First, their Bank Bound initiative will focus on LEAF’s 2032 cohort of nearly 1000 fourth-grade students, offering an engaging field trip to reignite enthusiasm for saving for postsecondary education. The field trip will offer students the opportunity to see and engage with a financial institution hands-on, many for the first time. 

The second initiative will involve developing a children’s “LEAFlet” (a small children’s booklet) entitled BeLEAF in Your Future. The LEAFlet will feature a multicultural children’s story describing the importance of building savings habits. Lastly, to engage the community as a whole and celebrate LEAF’s five-year milestone, the third initiative will include planning and hosting LEAF LIVE!, a live event in collaboration with community partners to support students and their families with wrap-around services and foster inspiration.

Congratulations to all of the 2023 Innovative Projects Grant recipients! We’re excited to see what you accomplish. Learn more about the MI CSA network and the impact of children’s savings accounts here.