"We love the NEFE program, but we wanted to customize it a little and do something all our own," said TCUF Executive Director Courtney Nickles. "Our mission is empowering people to improve their financial well being, but Texas is a large state, and we knew our staff here couldn't do that alone, so we launched the NEFE Project Network in 2007, and it has grown beyond what we ever expected."
Composed of TCUF staff, credit union professionals, Texas AgriLife Extension educators and individuals who are passionate about financial education, the network was created to help promote and deliver the new NEFE financial planning program through internal and external marketing, through hands-on classroom instruction and by training other individuals. Nickles said that while there are officially three conference calls held per year and one annual meeting, the network has a life of its own.
"When we started this we were thinking how great it would be if we could have 50 people in the network. Well, now there are about 200 individuals in the network that serve as ambassadors," said Nickles. "Often with the schools it is about getting the information about the NEFE program to the right person in school districts, and the network helps make it happen."
She added that the network also helps smaller credit unions deliver financial education in their communities often by partnering them with other larger credit unions in the area to share their expertise at providing contacts and walking them through defining their goals.
According to Nickles, the TCUF program exceeded all benchmarks that were set at the beginning of 2008, including training over 3,750 individuals, including credit union employees, educators, high school students, nonprofit organizations and community representatives. Other 2008 highlights include 22 NEFE train the trainer sessions conducted throughout Texas, over 80,000 copies of the curriculum sent to Texas classrooms (the materials were presented at 10 different events) and more than 75 credit unions, 60 community organizations and 88 schools were trained on the program.
Looking ahead, Nickles says a name change is in the works for the network to better reflect the group's financial education efforts across all age groups beyond just NEFE.