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How to Jump Into Pro Bono Financial Planning

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What You Need to Know

  • For more than two decades, financial planners have been volunteering their time to help underserved and at-risk individuals and families.
  • Several dedicated FPA chapters have focused on reaching out and serving their communities.
  • There are many ways for advisors and their firms to get involved in a pro bono program.

One of the hallmarks of a growing, thriving profession is the willingness of those within it to use their time, talents, experience and knowledge to impact others’ lives positively. Financial planning is a relatively young profession compared to medicine, law and accounting, but that hasn’t stopped financial planners from having the same positive impact as doctors, lawyers and accountants.

Pro bono financial planning is not a new undertaking. For more than two decades, financial planners have been volunteering their time to help underserved and at-risk individuals and families address their pressing financial challenges.

This important work goes back to the 9/11 terrorist attacks when Financial Planning Association  members sought to help those impacted by that solemn day’s events. Since then, pro bono financial planning has become an activity many practitioners seek involvement in every year.

FPA, our chapters and our members have been at the center of these important efforts. We proudly work with the Foundation for Financial Planning and many national, regional, and local partners to make these services available in communities across the country.

And despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, FPA chapters and members managed to touch the lives of thousands of individuals and families who need the support.

In 2021, more than 5,700 individuals received pro bono services from 960 volunteer financial planners who volunteered 17,407 hours of guidance, an 18% increase from the previous year.

When combining the one-on-one engagement numbers with the number of individuals participating in various additional pro bono programs, including financial education workshops, a cumulative total of 11,277 underserved and at-risk individuals and families received much-needed support throughout the year.

We are proud of our chapters and members who dedicate themselves to this important work and thank them for their commitment to bettering the lives of others. Here are just a few examples of the work being done by a few dedicated FPA chapters and members:

FPA of Dallas/Fort Worth: The FPA of Dallas/Fort Worth collaborated with Polaris Real Estate Partners, MoneyW!se, The Family Place, and the Fort Worth Public Library to help support low-income families, domestic abuse survivors, and the general public through various programs. Their goal was to equip people with financial knowledge and tools to better their lives and families.

FPA of Charlotte: The FPA of Charlotte worked with the North Carolina Council on Economic Education (NCCEE) to provide pro bono financial planning to teachers who had questions about their personal finances. The program connected teachers with volunteer financial planners who provided pro bono financial planning guidance. As a result of the feedback collected, the chapter and NCCEE intends to offer pro bono financial planning to teachers twice in 2022.

FPA of Orange County: The FPA of Orange County, winner of the 2021 Power of Financial Planning Award by FPA and the Foundation for Financial Planning, collaborated with several community organizations to make pro bono services available. They worked with the United Way, Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, Families Forward, Goodwill, Working Wardrobes, Hoag Center for Healthy Living, among others.

Are you looking to get involved in pro bono financial planning? Do you desire to pay it forward in your local community? Are you wondering how to get started? Here are a few ideas to get engaged:

  • Get trained as a pro bono financial planner. Pro bono work requires a level of understanding and training so you can best serve the needs of those from underserved communities. FPA proudly provides members with two training courses – one for working with underserved members of your community and one for working with members of the military. The Foundation for Financial Planning also offers a pro bono training program for those not members of FPA.
  • See what programs your local FPA chapter is offering. As already highlighted, many FPA chapters are actively working to impact those in their communities, so there are plenty of opportunities for you to get involved. Reach out to your local FPA chapter to see what programs they are hosting and how you can get involved. They would love to hear from you!
  • Get involved in a national pro bono program. Not only are chapters coordinating local programs, but FPA is working with several partner organizations on national initiatives. For example, FPA and the Foundation for Financial Planning are working with Family Reach on the Financial Planning for Cancer program that connects volunteer financial planners with families impacted by a cancer diagnosis. And FPA works with Homes for Our Troops to provide financial planning to severely injured military veterans.

Pro bono financial planning is transformative – not only for those who receive the advice and counsel of an experienced, knowledgeable financial planner but also for the planners themselves. As you consider the many ways you can positively impact your community, we hope you will consider the many possibilities pro bono financial planning offers.

FPA will be there as your partner in planning to make the training, resources, and programs available when you’re ready.

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Dennis J. Moore, MBA, CFP, is volunteer president of the Financial Planning Association and an executive leader with Mercer Advisors in Dallas. Patrick D. Mahoney is chief executive officer of the Financial Planning Association in Denver.