In the wake of the 2007 economic collapse, a group of college students asked not what their community could do for them, but what they could do for their community. Step by step, a local service initiative became a national student movement restoring the economic health of America. Learn about our history in the timeline and videos below.
In an October 2013 interview with Tom Sosnoff and Tony Battista of Tastytrade, Moneythink co-founder and CEO Ted Gonder recounts the early inspiration of Moneythink and how the organization established traction as a national service organization.Read more on the White House blog.
Milestones since Moneythink's beginnings in autumn 2008:
Greg Nance, a sophomore at the University of Chicago, conceives of the idea to send students from the campus investment club into local high schools to teach investment workshops. He calls the initiative "American Investment Fellows."
UChicago freshmen Ted Gonder, Shashin Chokshi, and David Chen join with Greg to expand the idea, establishing the initiative as a separate club focused on basic financial literacy and service learning. After skipping class to cold-call dozens of local high schools, the group finally gets permission from administrators to pilot workshops at the South Shore School of Leadership at 76th and Constance on the south side of Chicago.
The group hosts a field trip for local students to visit the University of Chicago and pitch investment portfolios to a panel of judges from the Chicago business community. Morgan Hartley, a reporter for the university newspaper, writes about the event and comes aboard as the organization's fifth and final co-founder.
Meanwhile, the founders hear from students at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Florida, who reaches out wanting to start chapters serving their respective communities.
The founders incorporate the project under the name "Financial Education Initiative" and ponder the potential of this initiative as the economy continues to founder and school districts go bankrupt nationwide.
The organization begins operating under the brand "Moneythink," redoubling its efforts to serve students in Chicago and beyond.
The founders write the first sophisticated versions of the Moneythink curricula, a two-part program focused on financial life-skills and entrepreneurship. While imperfect in many ways, these early curricula benefit from their authors' ignorance: heady concepts are absent, instead replaced with practical ideas laced in relatable pop-culture examples; project-based learning and goal-setting are emphasized over testing and standardization, leading to engaging discussions among young people invested in building a better future together.
Now in 10 communities nationwide, volunteer demand for the Moneythink program grows. The founders begin to draft not only curricula but also operations manuals for volunteers in other cities to replicate what has been accomplished in Chicago.
The Chicago chapter of Moneythink hosts its second annual student competition, this time focused on entrepreneurship. Community members and business leaders begin to take notice of Moneythink's momentum, encouraging the founders to reach out to more universities and push expansion. At the same time, Moneythink participates in a social entrepreneurship competition and loses; judges worry that the organization is scaling at the expense of quality, leading the founders to question their rapid expansion opportunities.
The founders take the summer to ponder the directions the organization can head. At the suggestion of future donors, the organization files for 501(c)(3) non-profit tax-exempt status.
The organization continues to grow, now at 14 campuses nationwide. Moneythink earns 501(c)(3) non-profit tax-exempt status.
With the graduation of Moneythink co-founder Greg Nance a few months away, the founders begin considering what will happen to the organization once they graduate: should it centralize and grow proactively, or should it decentralize and grow passively?
The organization hosts its first community fundraising event and receives a goodwill launch grant from a Chicago philanthropist. This encourages the founders to plan even more seriously for the organization's sustainability. Now in 17 communities nationwide, they realize it's probably good if they have a plan for where this movement is headed!
Co-founder Ted Gonder spends the summer working at the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship in Kansas City, incubating the Moneythink idea and exploring all of the different routes it can go as a vehicle for social change. Moneythink co-founder Shashin Chokshi offers feedback and ideas throughout the summer. Co-founder Morgan Hartley begins pursuing a career as a writer and continues helping Moneythink with its brand and communications. Co-founder David Chen launches a technology startup whose product Moneythink will eventually use to engage communities. Co-founder Greg Nance heads to Eurasia to pursue his business degree while remaining very active in guiding Moneythink's strategic direction.
Co-founders Ted Gonder and Shashin Chokshi (roommates at the time) begin working together on a plan for how to finance, staff, and operate the launch of the Moneythink central office nine months out. Ted Gonder attends a conference on economic opportunity in New York City and has an epiphany. On the plane ride back, he makes the commitment to turn down other career opportunities and pursue Moneythink as a full-time venture. Moneythink USC chapter founder Chirag Sagar expresses interest in helping to institutionalize the movement with Ted Gonder upon graduating college.
Ted Gonder receives a call from the White House informing him that the organization has been chosen as one of fifteen finalists out of over 1400 nominated for the White House Champions of Change award. To win the award, the organization rallies its community in a social media voting contest, receiving over 23,000 votes and reaching two million young people in six days. From the White House pulpit after meeting President Obama on stage, Moneythink co-founder Ted Gonder declares the organization's goal of achieving its mission of mainstreaming financial capability by 2030--18 years, the course of a generation. See President Obama address the White House Champions of Change above.
Moneythink is accepted into the University of Chicago Booth School of Business' Social New Venture Challenge competition, which tests and hones the organization's plans for institutionalization. Co-founders Shashin Chokshi and Ted Gonder work together to build a feasibility plan and business pitch that can raise the seed capital to support a small staff. Moneythink does not win, but does make it to the finals, which leads indirectly to acceptance into the Summer Accelerator Program through the Booth School of Business' Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship. Throughout this period, a few philanthropists and foundations pledge seed money to help the organization launch its central office. Moneythink also stands before the nation as a White House champion of change (see above), and CEO Ted Gonder writes article for the White House blog.
Ted Gonder becomes the organization's first executive director, and Chirag Sagar joins him as the organization's managing director. They work together to raise initial funds and convene the national network of chapter leaders for the organization's first annual Summer Leadership Institute. After the institute, right before the school year starts back up, Blackstone Charitable Foundation grants Moneythink $50,000 to hire a program director to oversee educational operations and standardize procedures across chapters with a focus on quality control and impact measurement.
Moneythink hires Joe Duran--a former teacher and Fortune 50 business analyst--as its first program director. The organization is also accepted into the competitive Civic Accelerator program through Points of Light, which helps Joe and Ted to clarify strategic priorities for 2014.
With Joe and Chirag aboard to manage operations, Ted convenes the organization's first formal board meeting between Greg Nance (co-founder), Shahsin Chokshi (co-founder), and Steven Biedermann (treasurer and long-time advisor). The organization forms a partnership with Teach for America, enabling new pathways to student access. Additionally, the organization's logo is featured on the NASDAQ billboard in the heart of Times' Square, NYC, a milestone validating that Moneythink has earned the buy-in of both Washington and Wall Street.
The Center for Financial Services Innovation awards Moneythink its first major multi-year grant to design a mobile application that enhances the impact of its existing mentoring programs. In a contest among 250 organizations by popular vote, Moneythink races to the top by mobilizing over 48,000 votes (>2x the amount received in the White House competition) for a $25,000 grant. At this point, Moneythink is now operating in 26 communities nationwide, reaching over 1,500 students weekly.
Moneythink convenes 60 college leaders from 30 communities nationwide for its second annual Summer Leadership Institute. Stories from students and volunteers in attendance bring the community to tears during one session - a sense of solidarity and community invigorates the room. Sarah Gordon, Vice President of Nonprofit Investments for the Center for Financial Services Innovation, joins the Moneythink board of directors.
School starts up again with Moneythink chapters in 30 communities nationwide. The organization hires Jennifer Shoop--an e-learning expert with a background in online courseware--as its Chief Innovation Officer to spearhead technology and impact strategy. Moneythink becomes the only nonprofit to win the top prize at MassChallenge, the world's largest business accelerator (1200+ contestants). The organization was also awarded the Hitachi Foundation's Yoshiyama Award for social entrepreneurship. The grants total $140,000, a catalytic sum for the organization as it prepares for 2014. In a November 2013 interview with Tom Sosnoff and Tony Battista of Tastytrade, Moneythink co-founder and CEO Ted Gonder shares inspiring stories that motivate Moneythink's work (above).
Generously funded by the Center for Financial Services Innovation, Moneythink collaborates with design giant IDEO.org to complete an immersive six-week research and design process in order to build a technology to supplement and enhance Moneythink's high-touch financial mentorship program. After weeks of interviews, observations, surveys, brainstorms, download session, concept mapping, wireframing, and prototyping, IDEO.org turns over a final set of designs to our tech partner, CauseLabs. Read more about this exciting adventure into user-centered design here.
Moneythink CEO Ted Gonder speaks about the importance of financial literacy to the millennial generation on PBS. Shortly thereafter, CauseLabs completes the development of the minimum viable product version of Moneythink Mobile and delivers it to the Google Play store. Moneythink pilots the technology in four Chicago-area schools currently served by our Northwestern University and University of Chicago chapters and learn a lot about what works and what needs improvement. The feedback is positive: students are especially drawn to the social nature of the app, dubbing Moneythink Mobile "the Instagram of Money." A subset of power users ask to continue to use the app even after the face-to-face program has ended. Moneythink gears up for a summer of improvements. Moneythink also welcomes Kristen Faiferlick as its Communications, Partnerships, and Resources Manager, who supercharges Moneythink's community-building and fundraising efforts within a matter of weeks. At the same time, Moneythink staff design a revised impact measurement framework and begin to refine the curriculum in order to map tightly to its new impact pillars: spending money mindfully, saving money, using financial products safely, and earning money.
It's a tech-heavy summer: Moneythink finalizes The Mint, its new online mentor training and credentialing experience; upgrades Moneythink Mobile based on learnings from the pilot; and builds an iOS app in parity with the Android app developed for the pilot. After finalizing its new Financial Capability Curriculum, Moneythink also designs a mobile-optimized micro-site to deliver the curriculum to mentors. At the same time, Moneythink ecstatically welcomes two new full-time team members: Kara Zucker, National Program Director, and Ben May, Clarksdale Program Manager. The recently expanded staff settle into their brand-new digs, a section of the the sleek Context Media offices in River North and enjoy the views. Moneythink chapter leaders convene in Chicago for the Summer Leadership Institute and welcome these new tech and program innovations with eagerness and unbridled excitement about the upcoming school year.
Stay tuned! Big things to come.
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