NeighborWorks’ is working to promote individual development accounts (IDA’s) for first-time home-buyers through presentations at home-buyers’ education classes. However, funds are needed to cover the cost of traveling to classes to make the presentations.

While in-person presentations require a great amount of travel, it is important to establish a personal connection to gain the trust and willingness of people to open an IDA—especially given the situation of some of people attending these classes.

NeighborWorks requires completion of both home-buyers’ and general financial education classes for participation in its IDA program (classes completed before enrollment in the program may count to the requirement). It partners with organizations that teach these subjects to offer classes. Sometimes, students in these classes are there for help with other financial needs—such as credit counseling—so they may be wary of financial services.

In-person presentations are also important in rural areas, posing another challenge. Jose Jimenez, an AmeriCorps VISTA with NeighborWorks, conducts the IDA presentations.

“A lot of times I drive to a place like Havre, I don’t get a big turnout,” says Jimenez. “It’s in [places like] Billings, Helena, Great Falls where there’s turnout of 30 or 40 people. Ten people is a good number for smaller places.” He notes that online financial education classes are offered to people in many rural communities because they are too small or isolated for in-person classes.

To maximize the reach of the presentations he would like to give, one of the ideas Jimenez is considering is “to talk to rural leaders and ministers to get free announcements in things like church bulletins—to partner with people who [could] donate to have me travel and talk. I want to dig and see how many communities we can help in a general area.”

For more information on NeighborWorks Montana, please visit http://www.nwmt.org/.

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