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Pro Bono Financial Planning Surged in 2020, Group Says

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What You Need to Know

  • The pandemic created an increased need for free financial advice, according to FFP.
  • FFP saw a 27% increase in the number of one-on-one advice sessions for at-risk individuals provided by its grantees and partners.
  • The number of overall program participants, including those in financial guidance workshops, nearly doubled.

The Foundation for Financial Planning’s pro bono financial planning efforts for people in crisis or need increased significantly in 2020 as advisors stepped up to help those most affected by economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, it said Thursday.

FFP saw a 27% increase in the total number of one-on-one advice sessions for at-risk individuals provided by its grantees and partners, growing from 9,200 in 2019 to about 11,700 in 2020, it said.

Meanwhile, the number of overall program participants, including those in financial guidance workshops, nearly doubled, from about 26,700 in 2019 to more than 43,300 in 2020, it said.

By the end of 2020, more than 70% of Americans reported financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, with three-quarters of that group saying they struggled to pay basic bills, according to FFP.

Multiple Initiatives

“One year ago, we watched what was happening across the country and knew that FFP and our partners were in a position to help,” according to Jon Dauphiné, FFP CEO. “We quickly pivoted and expanded our efforts, focusing as much as possible on bringing guidance to those most impacted by this crisis,” he said in a statement.

FFP last year launched a COVID-19 Financial Resilience Fund that it said was driven by a $500,000 matching commitment from Charles Schwab Foundation.

To respond to the pandemic and related economic fallout, FFP said it awarded more than $800,000 to local and national pro bono programs for 2020 and 2021, including more than $60,000 in emergency grants to enable partners to pivot to virtual service.

FFP also activated about 1,737 financial advisors to volunteer their time, developed an online Coronavirus & Pro Bono Planning Resource Center and educational webinars that attracted more than 4,800 visitors and participants; and expanded its work to reach those made most vulnerable by the pandemic, including at-risk seniors, health care first responders, people with serious illness, and lower-income front-line workers, it said.

FFP and partner AARP also expanded their Retirement Resilience Program to reach more than 23,000 financially vulnerable seniors via virtual events and engagements.

To make it easier for advisors to help those in need, FFP also launched ProBonoPlannerMatch.org last year, it said, noting the digital platform was designed to connect certified financial planners to nonprofits with pro bono opportunities.

During the past nine months, more than 700 advisors created profiles on the platform, allowing them to browse opportunities posted by more than 30 nonprofits around the country, according to FFP. Volunteer opportunities have included everything from providing advice to lower-income seniors to helping newly unemployed New York City workers create a short-term financial plan.

In only a few months, 375 advisors “matched” to opportunities using the platform, and FFP continues robust outreach efforts to add more nonprofit opportunities to those now posted, it said.

FFP last year also introduced errors and omissions liability insurance for all qualified financial advisors offering pro bono service via FFP’s grantees or via connections made on ProBonoPlannerMatch.org. Coverage is made available automatically and at no cost to advisors, it said.

To date, FFP has provided more than $8.3 million in grants to national and community-based pro bono programs, worked with partners to activate more than 22,000 financial planners to volunteer their time and talents, and helped bring pro bono advice to more than 500,000 underserved people, it said.

(Pictured: FFP CEO Jon Dauphiné)