Contact: Kent Thompson, Army Financial Program Manager, Army Community Service (ACS), Camp Ederle in Vicenza, Italy
Situation: Financial education classes without funding to attract soldiers to a class by offering pizza or other food.
Who: Soldiers who are generally unwilling and uninterested but are told that they have attend a financial education class and soldiers who may need the financial information and skills but are not motivated to attend these classes.
I needed a draw: If I can’t provide food, I can at least say that we’re going to have some games of some sort.
- Getting soldiers to attend a financial class has some additional challenges: generally they don’t want to be there and it’s hard to compete with programs that depend on that old, reliable attendance booster: food. Unfortunately, because Army Community Service (ACS) runs on specially allocated funds, Thompson was prohibited from dipping into his already limited budget to buy food to increase attendance.
- He advertised financial classes with card games, using Money Habitudes along with some other games that he and his colleagues created to complement it.
- The first time he planned to use the cards, when a few soldiers arrived early, he gave them the cards to kill time. Hey, you got some cards there, why don’t you read the instructions and mess around with them for a little bit while we’re waiting for everyone else to show up. So I didn’t even give them any instructions. I didn’t tell them anything. So they started messing around with them and they started laughing with each other about, ‘No, that’s not you,’ ‘Yeah, that’s you!’ Some of them were friends and they knew each other’s attitudes about money a little bit and they kind of treated it like a game, at first.
- It worked so well, in subsequent classes he allots the first 15 minutes at the beginning of each one or two hour class to do the Money Habitudes Solitaire Game. Using the cards for these few minutes allows Thompson to develop an effective “to be continued” approach where the students will come back for the next class or finish the card game at the end of the present class.
- Using the cards at the beginning as the icebreaker for the class before all students arrive allows students to get to know each other and while Thompson doesn’t give any instructions about the cards the students are able to have fun with the cards without any pressure of doing it a “right way.”
- The last 10 minutes of the class Thompson goes over the cards in a “serious way” asking the students to really pick the attitudes they have, putting the cards in the right pile and seeing what it says. He then has them take the yellow cards and asks the students to see what it says about them.
- Advertising financial classes with games draws the crowds.
- The classes are more approachable, non-threatening, relevant and enjoyable
- Using the cards as an icebreaker helps to open the door to soldiers attending other financial classes they need which fits well with the ACS strategy to tie classes together so that current offerings logically feed into upcoming classes. The conversations provided a way to identify their needs and recommend other classes.
- The cards are a more budget friendly option than food that would be purchased for every class to ensure attendance.
Observations and Comments:
Kent Thompson’s says his task-driven financial classes are akin to the no-nonsense approach of basic training: get in, get the skills and move on. One of my weak points, honestly, is the icebreaker. I’m more of a nuts and bolts kind of guy: You came here for this kind of class – let me give you the class. A lot of classes are filled with people who are told they have to be there, or they finally recognize, on their own, that they need to be there, but they’re uncomfortable with it, especially when you’re doing a group class. And this is a battle we fight on a daily basis. By using Money Habitudes cards it softens them up. It puts that light-hearted attitude on it.
Most of the people in the class said, “You know, I really didn’t think that would be a challenge for me, but now that I think about it, it is. A lot of them were like, ‘Yeah, I need to work on that.’ So it almost became a self-starting thing, The soldiers keyed in on the challenges of their money personality. “I could identify certain attitudes that people had and then get them into other classes.”
It works. It does kind of run itself.