DollarWise: Mayors for Financial Literacy is the official financial education initiative of The United States Conference of Mayors and its Council on Metro Economies and the New American City. Since its inception in 2004, mayors and cities across America have made a commitment to increasing access to financial education for their citizens by participating in DollarWise initiatives. Our goal is to incorporate a financial education component into every summer youth jobs program in the nation.
We invite you to explore our website, where you can learn all about DollarWise and find out what it takes to tackle financial illiteracy in your city. Most importantly, we invite your city to make a commitment to financial education and participate in the campaign. Together, we are building strong foundations for the future of our communities and those who call them home.
What we do
Each year, DollarWise offers USCM members the opportunity to apply for an award through its Innovation Grants program. As of 2017, DollarWise has awarded Innovation Grants to 34 cities.
Member cities of The United States Conference of Mayors are eligible to apply for the DollarWise Innovation Grants. Each year the program awards three grants of $10,000 each to cities to expand and enhance their financial literacy efforts. DollarWise awards one Innovation Grant to a city that provides financial education to residents in an English as a Second Language program, one grant to a city that integrates financial education into a prisoner re-entry program, and one grant to incorporate financial education into a a public/assisted housing initiative.
2017 Innovation Grant Award winners include
- Lexington (KY) Mayor Jim Gray for financial education in ESL
- Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser for financial education in Prisoner Re-entry
- Youngstown (OH) Mayor John McNally for financial education in Public/Assisted Housing
The application processes for both the Innovation Grants and Summer Youth Campaign Grants begin each November. Winning cities are announced the following January at The U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C.
DollarWise encourages every city to incorporate a financial education component into its summer youth employment program. Our goal is to make financial education a key component of every summer youth job.
A summer youth job can be a watershed moment in a youth’s life when he/she learns the responsibility of work and the excitement of earning money. Being hired for a job and receiving a paycheck is a teachable moment that can shape attitudes and habits that last a lifetime.
The DollarWise Summer Youth Campaign is an initiative to encourage mayors to use their summer youth employment program to deliver financial education to youth in their community. It’s all about seizing the teachable moment of a young person’s first paycheck. The idea is to use this window of opportunity to instill in youth conscientious habits and attitudes toward money and equip them with financial-management skills.
Summer Youth Campaign Grants
Each year, the DollarWise Summer Youth Campaign awards two grants of $10,000 each to cities with innovative efforts to incorporate financial education into their summer youth employment and year-round youth programs. As of 2017, DollarWise has provided Summer Youth Campaign grants to 36 cities.
2017 Summer Youth Campaign Grant winners include:
- Apopka (FL) Mayor Joe Kilsheimer for financial education in a Summer Youth Employment program
- Los Angeles (CA) Mayor Eric Garcetti for financial education for year-round youth programming
The application processes for both the Summer Youth Campaign and Innovation Grants begin each November. Winners are announced during the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. in January.
Each April, DollarWise encourages mayors and cities across the nation to hold events that financially empower their residents. These events can focus on: free tax assistance, financial advice for adults, encouraging youth to save for their future, and more.
During April of 2018, DollarWise will work with residents who qualify to seek free tax help in their communities until April 15th. Free File and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites are just two resources that residents can use to seek free tax assistance – although cities are encouraged to utilize all resources that can assist their communities.
Mayors are also encouraged to promote the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as an opportunity for residents in lower tax brackets to receive more money in their tax returns, and use their returns to create a savings plan.
Financial Education Best Practices
Summer Youth Jobs and Financial Education
How do I set up a financial literacy campaign in my city?
Setting up a local financial literacy campaign may sound overwhelming, but it is easier than you might think. Sure, it will take some work and a little bit of effort, but by following a few simple steps you’ll be up and running in no time.
Step 1 Analyze your city’s financial education needs
Different cities scope out their financial literacy needs in different ways. Some bring together groups of city and community leaders and residents to discuss their needs; others take a statistical approach based on sources such as census and IRS data; yet others use some combination of the two. In the end, chances are you’ll be able to identify many different groups to help. But that can be overwhelming. Focus your efforts on one segment of your community and then expand from there as your capacity grows.
Step 2 Find out who’s already addressing those needs
Most likely, one or more organizations are working on financial literacy in your city. There’s no need to “reinvent the wheel,” as the saying goes. Learn who those groups are, how and where they do their work, and the segments of your community they work with. Groups that are probably addressing financial literacy may include faith-based groups, financial institutions, public and private schools, nonprofits, the local housing authority and/or housing-assistance programs, local employers, and other community-based groups.
Step 3 Develop partnerships with those groups
Establish partnerships with those organizations that are working to improve financial literacy. Help them to reinforce and enhance their work and to build a coordinated, citywide effort. You can work with them on organizing classes, workshops, and community programs. Your work with them will build your application for an Innovation Grant and create a foundation for even greater expansion of your local financial literacy efforts in the future.
Step 4 Take advantage of all DollarWise has to offer
- Apply for Innovation Grants.
- Participate in the Summer Youth Campaign and Financial Planning Days.
- Work with your local partners to organize financial education classes and events.
- Work with our national partners and learn from other DollarWise cities.
- Make a commitment to an ongoing, year-round financial literacy effort.
- After a while, take a step back and evaluate your local campaign. Identify areas in which you can improve.
Stay Connected With DollarWise
Contact DollarWise Program Manager James Kirby at: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the program.