G5: Big Problems Require Big Solutions: The Story of EARN (powered by the Stupski Foundation)
October 25, 2019 at 11:45 AM
Experience Level: Beginner
Track: Lean Impact, Nonprofit
One in two American families lives paycheck to paycheck, unable to cover a $400 expense without going into debt. Realizing that the size of the problem required a bold solution, San Francisco nonprofit EARN transformed from a direct service organization serving fewer than 1,000 people a year to a national fintech now connecting to over 160,000 working Americans. Using lean methodologies, EARN built SaverLife, one of the most successful savings platforms in the country and the only one exclusively focused on building financial stability for low-income Americans. But the path to scale was not easy. Turning a fifteen-year-old community-based organization into a fintech one came with many challenges, including the complexities of funding technology with philanthropy; measuring impact in a rapidly scaling environment; and overcoming cultural norms in the nonprofit sector that are often at odds with lean principles. This case study will outline the lessons learned throughout EARN’s journey and is recommended for those who are committed to retaining the deep community expertise of the nonprofit sector while leveraging the opportunities tech provides to take successful programs to scale.