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The Inclusive Economy

Structural Challenges Continue to Characterize the State of the IDA Field

By Callie McLean, Graduate Intern on 09/08/2016 @ 10:00 AM

Tags: Individual Development Accounts, Federal Policy

Earlier in the summer, CFED solicited responses to its 2016 Individual Development Account (IDA) Program Survey. The results are in, with many important insights on how we can support and grow the field of practitioners who make it possible for even the most vulnerable families to save. Among the good news, this year’s survey shows that a large majority of IDA programs receive federal funding, and that funding is largely remaining stable or growing. But the survey also reveals deep and pressing needs, such as training on raising the non-federal match funds that are essential to secure federal dollars.

IDAs help low- and moderate-income individuals and families save toward an asset like a home, an education, a car, a small business and more to build financial stability. These matched savings accounts can go a long way to help jump-start greater economic opportunity. CFED takes stock of the field annually to discern trends and impacts across IDA programs nationally. The survey data allow IDA programs to see how they fit in this wide-spanning field and help CFED determine how we can best support IDA providers.

CFED distributed the 2016 survey to the IDA Program Listserv and the Assets & Opportunity Network and received responses from nearly 90 programs nationwide. We offer our gratitude to all who took the time to respond.

The Headlines

  • The funding picture looks more positive than in past years, Funding has remained stable for about half of respondents, while about one in three said their funding increased! Only 16% of respondents reported that their funding decreased. In addition, 80% of respondents reported receiving federal funding, making it the most common funding source (consistent with past years).
  • Financial coaching is becoming widespread at IDA programs. Eighty percent of respondents indicated that financial coaching and education are the top financial capability services that they offer to their IDA program participants. These organizations also offer a large variety of additional services through partnerships or referrals. Similarly, 80% of respondents indicated that they engage participants through ongoing case management and financial coaching. Also notable was the slight uptick in the number of organizations using social media to engage clients (37% in 2016, compared to 23% in 2013).
  • IDA staff are hungry to learn more about raising non-federal matching dollars and measuring impact. Sixty percent of 2016 respondents selected raising non-federal dollars for administration and/or participant match as one of the most important technical assistance topics they’d like to see, 55% selected measuring/evaluating the impact of IDA programs and nearly 50% selected developing effective funding proposals for non-federal funders.

New Legislative Innovations

In addition to understanding the needs of the programs in the field, CFED has also been hard at work incubating innovations in IDAs. Our most recent progress has been with the Refund to Rainy Day Savings Act. In addition to allowing tax filers to set aside and possibly receive a match on their tax refunds if they save a portion of their refund for six months, this legislation, introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), would also enable grantees of the Assets for Independence (AFI) program to innovate by changing the types of asset purchases available to participants, changing the eligibility requirements or testing out new structures. If you are interested in learning more or signing on to support this legislation, email Ezra Levin, Associate Director of Government Affairs, at elevin@cfed.org.

Want to know more about the results of our survey? Download our PowerPoint presentation with graphs showing responses to questions asked of respondents. Have questions? Feel free to email IDAProgramSurvey@cfed.org.

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