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How to increase attendance in financial literacy programs: 10 ways

Financial education programs can be hard to fill up. Here are some ideas to increase attendance in financial education classes:

  1. tips for financial literacy programsFrame it differently. Attending financial education programs can be seen as “being in trouble.” Because no one wants to be “in trouble,” people are not likely to come to a financial literacy class. So you need to frame it differently. Create a positive vision in your marketing. It’s not about “fixing” attendees. So don’t advertise it as “get out of debt” or “stop wasting money” that translates to “you are stupid.” Instead, try something positive as if you are offering something new that will make them look smarter without having to say they need help like: Ten tricks to pay off loans in half the time! Three steps to save thousands of dollars.
  2. Offer financial literacy programs where people already are. Whether it is at work, church, college dorms, or a social group, people prefer to be in comfortable, non-threatening surroundings. They want to feel safe. They’ll feel better attending in a place they already know.
  3. Join us at another event. If possible, combine your financial literacy programs with something that is already happening. This could be a community fair, parent-teacher night, or other events with more appeal than “financial literacy programs.” Asset-building organizations have found success in adding financial literacy programs to free tax preparation events and EITC seminars. Or, it may mean offering personal financial literacy in conjunction with benefits events that revolve around SNAP or WIC.
  4. Get a personal endorsement. Who influences your community? This might be a religious leader, sports figure, or business leader. If you get to work with businesses, ask for the supervisors to recommend coming to your financial literacy programs with their employees. Make it cool to attend.
  5. Offer incentives to get people in the door. A community college did six drawings throughout their financial literacy workshop for $150 scholarships — but people had to stay to receive the money. Other financial literacy programs have used sponsors to give significant amounts of cash or gift cards to get them in the door. Even dividing up $20 so every attendee gets a single dollar can add a sense of “winning” and excitement to financial literacy classes.
  6. Learn from the pros. Look at the words and strategies the commercial folks are using. They’ve done tons of research and people pay lots of money to attend for the same information you are offering for free or at a minimal cost! Forget being academic, serious, and setting goals/outcomes — be catchy, and fun and promise them something. Create a vision. Tell a story. Put a face to the story of how MJ, a 26-year-old veteran, got out of debt and now owns a successful business. Focus on positive stories rather than a scary story like how RM is living in poverty after her husband died.
  7. Make it memorable. You want people to tell others to attend the financial literacy programs you offer. Lecturing and endless PowerPoint presentations aren’t very inspiring or memorable! Get them involved. Extension educators have fabulous (and usually free) strategies, games, and interactive ideas. Hands-on activities work well because they get people engaged. Of course, Money Habitudes cards are a fun, interactive, financial education game that gets attendees talking and involved while giving them important insights.
  8. The talk is good. Make sure you include opportunities to talk in a non-threatening way in your financial literacy programs. Let people share times that they were successful. Let them share times when they knew better but still made a bad choice. People can learn more from each other than from the talking head in the front of the room.
  9. Make it great. If you are using PowerPoint slides, make them great! Minimal words; lots of pictures/graphics; just a few bullets at most. Throw some funny things in cartoons, sayings, and silly pictures. If you can get them laughing, you can get their attention.
  10. Remove obstacles. Think about why people do not attend financial literacy classes. Can you provide child care? Can you provide food? Can you provide transportation? People may want to get a financial education, but there may be other logistical factors that keep them from attending.