Since 2006, Capital One and Junior Achievement (JA) have partnered to provide experiential personal finance education to students across the country through JA Finance Park®. This unique program begins with four weeks of intensive in-classroom money-management lessons. Students then have the opportunity to put their newly learned skills to the test in the interactive learning environment of Capital One/Junior Achievement Finance Park.
Capital One/Junior Achievement Finance Park is a state-of-the-art, mobile mock city where middle and high school-aged students live a fictional life situation, with marital status, children, job and salary. They are then challenged to create and successfully use a budget – making decisions around saving, spending, investing and philanthropic giving. Essentially, they are making the financial decisions and trade-offs their families face on a daily basis in the real world.
Last year, the organizations launched an online version of the program, called JA Finance Park Virtual, to extend the reach of the program to underserved communities and bring the experience into homes around the country. Students design avatars and, similar to the classroom experience, are assigned a random life scenario, based on which they have to complete a task related to financial planning and/or career goals. Students can participate from any location with Internet access or schools can provide the curriculum in conjunction with the classroom JA Finance Park program. Adults can also support students in the virtual program.
JA Finance Park is designed to empower young people with the skills to make smart financial decisions. A wide range of topics are covered in the classroom, including personal budgeting, saving and investing and career goals.
A partnership built on a shared mission
"Capital One’s partnership with Junior Achievement is built on our mutual belief that, as part of a broader educational agenda, financial education has a unique and powerful role in opening minds and opening doors," said Catherine Foca, senior director, Community Affairs. "We believe that financial literacy and money-management skills are crucial building blocks for economic success, and we are proud to invest in the JA Finance Park program, which has a proven track record of engaging students in financial-education learning that is both substantive and fun."
To ensure the partnership will have the greatest impact, Capital One has taken an integrated approach to building its relationship with JA – rather than simply donating funds to the initiative, Capital One works with JA to drive forward the strategic vision for the organization by engaging a number of executives to serve on both national and local area boards.
Capital One associates also regularly volunteer their time and skills to give back to the community. In 2012 year-to-date, more than 1,000 employees, representing various lines of business at Capital One, have volunteered for JA Finance Park, guiding students through their journey learning about money management and sharing their own personal experiences. Richard Woods, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs at Capital One, and a Junior Achievement USA® and JA Greater Washington Area board member, believes that associates are so drawn to the JA Finance Park program because it allows them to see banking as a vehicle for social change.
The program is coordinated internally with the Community Affairs team and with JA and its local area offices. The Community Affairs team works with nine different local area offices to execute site-based and mobile versions of the JA Finance Park program, and has partnerships with as many as 20 JA offices on other programs and initiatives.
Employee volunteering is facilitated by Capital One’s internal platform, Volunteer Connection, which lists the volunteer activities available to employees, tracks their volunteer hours and manages the roster for each activity. Once an event is filled with the necessary volunteers, it closes, and employees are able to direct their efforts where needed. For the Capital One/Junior Achievement Finance Park, no experience is necessary and all training is done on site.
Working together, the organizations developed metrics to track the efficacy of the program. According to JA administered surveys, since 2008, 93 percent of the volunteers have felt their experience with the program was “good” or “exceptional” and 97 percent of volunteers have felt that they had a positive impact on students participating in the program. Additionally, a recent survey on student impact demonstrates that 88 percent of students feel the program teaches them how to manage their money and that students experience a 21 percent increase in knowledge on key financial topics at the end of the program. Ultimately the collected data is aggregated and used to highlight trends and areas for improvement for both parties.
Together, Capital One and Junior Achievement have been able to make a lasting, tangible impact in the communities they serve. The success of the partnership is largely due to the close integration of the two organizations. For Capital One, the partnership goes well beyond writing a check. By providing JA with access to a wide range of in-kind resources, including office space to facilitate programs, marketing support, and human capital, Capital One has been able to amplify the impact Junior Achievement makes on students on a daily basis.
Capital One has a vested interest in JA – and the economic success of future generations. Together, JA and Capital One have evolved and adapted to the changing needs of their stakeholders, providing young adults with the skills and knowledge to make smart financial decisions in the future.
Partnering with Junior Achievement at multiple levels has given Capital One the ability to effectuate real change. The company has applied many best practices learned from this partnership to other programs with nonprofits.