by Karin Price Mueller
Karin Price Mueller is a 2010 FPA Heart of Financial Planning Award task force member and a 2010 award recipient.
Saundra Davis, MSFP, 2010 Heart of Financial Planning Award Recipient
It took five people to put together Saundra Davis' nomination for the 2010 Heart of Financial Planning Award. Not because it was a hard job, but because there were so many good deeds to share.
"Saundra epitomizes the Heart of Financial Planning," said the nomination letter.
And it's no wonder. Davis seems to have her hand in so many of the major pro bono efforts put forth by and supported by FPA.
Here's some of what Davis' fans said as part of her nomination for the award:
"Saundra enabled the FPA to obtain trust and forge longstanding relationships with various community- based organizations such as Tax Aid, WISE, EARN, Job Corps, Junior Achievement, NEFE and Room to Read," wrote Holly Gillian Kindel, chair of the FPA's San Francisco Pro Bono Committee.
"Saundra Davis has been an integral part of EARN's efforts to help working poor families achieve greater financial security and prosperity. Her unique combination of skills and experiences, together with an unwavering commitment to this work, have proven valuable beyond words to the hundreds of families EARN serves," wrote Ben Mangan, CEO of EARN, a California-based non-profit that assists low-income workers.
And Vivial Padua of Project Read said: "Saundra Davis worked with Project Read to develop the financial literacy component of our adult education program. We found Saundra to be dynamic, intelligent, and possessing the unique ability to keep people engaged at a very fundamental level. She demonstrated that she can explain complex financial concepts in a way that people with low literacy and a limited education can understand."
We asked Saundra Davis about her contributions to the financial planning community, and what receiving the Heart of Financial Planning Award means to her.
FPA: Many professionals say they want to do pro-bono work. How did you first get involved and why is it important to you?
Davis: Prior to becoming a financial planner, I spent 20 years in the nonprofit sector as a grant writer and technical assistance provider. I realized that the social service delivery system failed to offer any financial education to assist people who were on public benefits. I came to believe that without a solid financial education their financial situations would never change. They would likely always experience poverty and have financial barriers to self-sufficiency. When people have limited financial resources they must take every possible step to use their money wisely, and I believe that financial planning is a service that can help them on the road to building wealth.
FPA: Can you share the story of a family you helped that most touched you?
Davis: Every interaction touches me. One situation that was impactful was when I volunteered to teach workshops at EARN and a women attended with her high school-aged daughter. The training was about saving and spending, and the mother and daughter had several questions that I answered with specific action steps that they could take to begin saving. Two years later, an EARN staff member contacted me to ask if I would be willing to participate in an interview with the EARN graduate. During the interview she and I were both in tears as she described how that training changed her perception of her ability to change her financial life.
FPA: How can others get involved? Tell us about the Pro Bono Boot Camp.
Davis: There are so many ways to offer pro bono services. Planners can choose to serve as part of their FPA Pro Bono Chapter program or simply connect with a local nonprofit agency. I encourage people to choose an agency or a field that makes your heart beat fast. If you love working with children or disabled vets, find an agency that serves the population you care most about. You can also participate with team efforts such as Junior Achievement or NFTE. There are so many organizations that could use our expertise. The most important thing is to remember that while we may be the "financial expert," the agency is the expert on the population they serve.
It is important to treat this relationship just as you would a client walking into your office. This is where the Pro Bono Boot Camp comes in. Many financial planners are concerned that their expertise is not a good match for low income people or people who are different from their usual client base. The boot camp helps demystify some of the challenges of working in diverse communities and helps the planner feel confident in their ability to match their expertise with the needs of the population they are serving. The boot camp is designed to help the planner make connections with the nonprofit agencies of their choice and build good relationships with clients whether offering workshops or individual planning support.
FPA: Why is it important for members to nominate someone they respect for the Heart of Financial Planning Award?
Davis: I do think it is important to bring attention to the wonderful efforts of planners and allied professionals who are working hard to make a difference in peoples' lives. This award recognizes efforts that often go unnoticed but are crucial to the financial health and well-being of our communities.
FPA: What does the award mean to you?
Davis: I had no idea that I had been nominated for the award so the first reaction was overwhelming shock. I feel grateful to the people in my community who thought enough of my work to recognize my efforts. So many people helped me make the transition to this profession and helped me carve out a very unique way of delivering services, so from my perspective this award was recognition that the work I do is important and the people I serve matter.
Brent A. Neiser, CFP®, CAE, 2010 Heart of Financial Planning Award Recipient
Brent A. Neiser's career-long effort to promote financial literacy is at the core of why he was honored with the 2010 Heart of Financial Planning Award.
In his nomination of Neiser, Marv Tuttle, executive director and CEO of FPA, called Neiser, the director of strategic programs and alliances for the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), a tireless contributor to the financial planning community.
"His enthusiasm and deduction are demonstrated in his many years of service in hey organizations, continuous volunteer involvements, and a wealth of projects and programs generated by his creativity and genuine interest,'' Tuttle wrote.
Among Neiser's successes include financial literacy initiatives in partnership with nonprofits such as The Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity and the creation of a personal finance literacy web site for college students called CashCourse.
We asked Neiser why financial literacy is so important, and what it means for the financial planning profession in general and to him personally.
FPA: Why is financial literacy so important to you?
Neiser: I have experience and interest in public policy, philanthropy, community service, financial planning, and leadership. Financial literacy is a space in our society (even internationally) that allows me to blend all these skill sets and perspectives on a daily basis. Plus, there is the personal impact that can be life changing for individuals and families-and by extension neighborhoods, communities, regions, and our nation.
FPA: Is there one person or family you remember whose personal finances were touched by your work with NEFE?
Neiser: My son used the Boy Scout Personal Management merit badge booklet NEFE redesigned and rewrote for the Boy Scouts. He did this on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. I have been active in scouting as a youth and later as an adult volunteer. I have heard that of the 11 merit badges required for Eagle rank, out of 22 needed, Personal Management is one of the toughest and one with the most lasting value for benefit during and after their scouting experience. Many Scouts have told me how hard it was, but how important it was as well.
The NEFE materials we did on adoption and foster care also grew out of a family experience because all of our children are adopted and were older foster youth with special needs. Linking these audiences in need with aspects of personal finance was a special experience. We are doing an updated project in this area this year, the demand has been continuous.
Our work with the American Red Cross on personal finance and disaster preparation and recovery began after Hurricane Andrew, and I was on the phone with FEMA talking about this project when the federal building in Oklahoma City blew up. So we addressed natural and man-made disasters, and later we updated the material to deal with death and disability following September 11.
We cover performing mitigation actions, backing up records, doing and recording visual home inventories, and enhancing insurance coverage. I cannot tell you the peace of mind this gives families to be prepared financially.
I have heard how disaster survivors and financial advisers have used the material to begin the process of reconstructing their financial life following disaster.
FPA: You've played a key role in many of NEFE's partnerships with nonprofits and foundations. What's next?
Neiser: I was fortunate to work on the initial design of NEFE as a foundation and identify effective and economical paths to place financial education on the agenda of scores of national nonprofits.
Our partnership work continues and we are now doing research and development projects with outside groups. We are doing other projects related to social services and financial innovation. We are creating material and tools, and participating in alliances around retirement (www.myretirementpaycheck.org) and community financial education outreach (www.financialworkshopkits.org) to help financial planners and community educators do pro bono engagements with many of the audiences NEFE has worked with. Our work in public policy involves research and strategy surrounding financial capability and education throughout one's lifespan.
FPA: Have you ever nominated anyone for an FPA award? Was it a hard or easy process, and why is it important?
Neiser: I have nominated two individuals for the P. Kemp Fain Award. It was easy, but I put a lot of thought into it.
FPA: What does the Heart of Financial Planning award mean to you?
Neiser: It is peer recognition from financial advisers who live and deliver financial literacy to their clients and community while at the same time are building a profession and running a business. To receive this says a lot.
Nominate, Recognize Your Extraordinary Colleagues
Tell us about your nominee and why that person should be considered for the 2011 Heart of Financial Planning Award. Let us know about those who have made an impact on the financial planning community and/or the public while upholding and promoting FPA's core values. It could be an FPA member, a financial planning firm, an FPA chapter, a business person, a professor, a journalist, or even yourself. Nominees will be recognized at FPA's Annual Conference, the largest gathering of the financial planning community.
The deadline for nominations is June 3, 2011. Download a nomination form or submit a one- to three-page letter that includes:
- Detailed description of what sets your nominee apart. Give specific examples of the nominee's extraordinary work.
- Show how the nominee's actions contribute to or give back to the financial planning community and/or the public.
- The nominee's excellence in demonstrating FPA's core values.
- Your affiliation with the nominee.
Send nominations to:
Heart of Financial Planning Awards
Financial Planning Association
7535 E. Hampden Ave.
Denver, Colo. 80231