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Pro Bono & Tech Initiative

Bringing Tech to Pro Bono

FFP believes that good tech solutions can help facilitate pro bono engagements while bringing more efficiency and impact to the volunteer and client experiences. Within five years, we hope to see widespread adoption of technology that enhances pro bono work with LMI (low-to moderate-income) clients, driving scale by making it easier for advisors to volunteer their time and talent. Rather than a one-size-fits-all solution, we anticipate that a range of stakeholders within the fintech ecosystem will develop promising approaches.

How We Are Helping

  • 2018: Funded and co-developed the Pro Bono for Cancer effort, the first-ever national, tech-driven, virtual pro bono financial planning program for cancer patients, in partnership with grantee Family Reach.
  • 2019: Co-developed the Retirement Resilience Program with partner AARP, which offers LMI seniors free access to financial education webinars and consultations with CFP® professionals.
  • 2020: Launched to connect CFP® professionals to volunteer opportunities;
  • 2021: Announced key findings from the most extensive research ever undertaken to assess the role of technology in pro bono financial planning.
  • 2022: Worked with tech consultant, Hussain Zaidi, to explore various technologies that address client engagement challenges. Selected PreciseFP platform, using it to develop a simple workflow, accessible to nonprofits, pro bono financial planners, and clients, that includes scheduling, letter of engagement signing, client information collection and more.
  • 2023: Piloting PreciseFP platform with FFP grantees and FPA Chapters, receiving feedback that allows us to iterate and make improvements. Will offer to more FFP grantees and FPA Chapters throughout 2023.

Groundbreaking Research

In Fall 2021 FFP announced key findings from the most extensive research ever undertaken to assess the role of technology in pro bono financial planning. The research included the first-ever national survey of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals regarding their current usage, needs, and preferences in applying tech solutions to pro bono engagements with low-to-moderate income (LMI) clients.

The national survey results cover four key areas:

  • The preponderance of survey respondents (42 percent) reported providing between 11 and 50 hours of pro bono service over the last five years.
  • About one-third of advisors reported doing exclusively one-time (single session) pro bono engagements; 40 percent engaged with their clients over 2 to 5 sessions; and about one-quarter of survey respondents provided a combination of both single and multi-session engagements with clients, depending on the client’s needs. Advisors who conduct only single-session engagements were less likely to say they need additional tech solutions or supports.
  • Approximately half of volunteers have engaged with underserved clients who are experiencing a financial emergency; and more than one-third have assisted clients who are dealing with a health condition.
  • Most engagements focus on helping clients with basic financial needs. The top three goals advisors discuss with clients are:
    • Creating a budget & managing cash flow (70 percent reporting)
    • Building an emergency fund (63 percent)
    • Credit card debt management (51 percent)
    • Less common but still prevalent goals include retirement planning (43 percent), estate planning (19 percent) and home purchasing (14 percent).
  • Pro bono financial planners indicate that the biggest pain points in pro bono engagements pertain to resources – having access to public benefits information and helping clients find service providers that can help them in the longer term – as well as securing information about the client before the meeting. Other pain points can include meeting scheduling and managing no-shows.
  • Top tools used during pro bono financial planning engagements are pen and paper (86 percent); phone calls (79 percent); and email (72 percent). Also used: Financial planning software (55 percent); spreadsheets (48 percent); and online conferencing (47 percent).
  • Survey respondents who don’t use financial planning software report a variety of reasons for not using it, primarily that:
    • “Software doesn’t adequately address client’s needs (e.g., emergency fund, debt management, budgeting etc.)” and;
    • “Planning capabilities of the software are too complex for their client’s needs.”
  • 72 percent of respondents would be more likely to use financial planning software if it were simple, free, and relevant to pro bono clients’ key needs.
  • Survey and focus group research support the need for a pro bono technology solution that is very easy to use and segregated from an advisor’s paid clients.
  • Highly rated features to consider include information on public benefits, widgets/calculators, the ability for clients to input information, and content on basic financial issues.
  • Also deemed important is a way for clients to enter information before first or subsequent appointments; content on basic financial issues that can be shared with clients; and secure document exchange capability.

How to Get Involved

We want to hear from you! If you are interested in sharing a potential tech solution that could advance pro bono financial planning and advice, please let us know by completing this short form. We will use the information you provide to inform our “Tech & Pro Bono” planning; and may be in touch for further information.

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