Updated: April 2021

Community Education Project—Our Model

Consumer Action empowers low- and moderate-income and limited-English-speaking consumers nationwide to financially prosper through education and advocacy. In partnership with public and private entities, Consumer Action creates widely respected, impactful educational projects promoting informed participation in the marketplace by people of color, low-income and rural consumers, recent immigrants, seniors and other underserved consumers.

Founded in 1971, San Francisco-based Consumer Action, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, is regarded by advocates and community educators nationwide for its decades of dedication to unbiased, multilingual education, provided at no charge to consumers and community groups.

With its special focus on serving underserved consumers, Consumer Action maintains strong ties to a national network of more than 6,000 community-based organizations. Our network is the largest and most diverse of its kind, and allows us to continue to work to improve financial literacy at the community level.

Consumer Action’s community-based education delivery model includes the following elements:

  • Producing, translating and distributing fact sheets (i.e., brochures, pamphlets) on a wide range of consumer issues, including banking, credit and credit reporting, insurance, housing, ID theft and scams, telecommunications, internet security and data privacy, health care, student loans, money management, financial services, and more. The fact sheets we create are written clearly and simply, translated into the languages used in the community, and distributed to consumers who are not reached by traditional efforts. Most of the publications are offered in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. In fact, Consumer Action is recognized as the primary source of multilingual consumer education materials used at the community level. (Consumer Action retains editorial control over its publications.) In addition to being available to individual consumers on our website (www.consumer-action.org), the materials are distributed through our 6,000-member CBO network. CBO staff disseminate the publications to their clients either in hard copy format, in counseling sessions, workshop settings and office displays, or via a link to the publication webpage.
  • Providing complementary materials for community organization staff, including backgrounders written in Q&A format (also useful for consumers who want to explore the topic in greater detail on their own) and, in some cases, PowerPoint workshop presentations, curricula and worksheets for educators who deliver the information in a group setting (class or workshop).
  • Training CBO staff on timely consumer issues and the use of our materials to educate their clients and community members. Until early 2020 (and the nationwide pandemic-related travel ban), Consumer Action staff traveled nationwide as many as a dozen times each year to host regional train-the-trainer meetings and roundtables, which brought together CBO staff from a multi-state region to be trained by Consumer Action outreach staff. In the first half of 2020, we moved our trainings online. In the May 2020-May 2021 period, we conducted 15 free webinars, attended by more than 4,000 CBO staff. The new format has enabled us to reach a much wider audience: Our October 2020 webinar on questions and answers about the CDC’s order to halt evictions during the coronavirus pandemic garnered 750 registrations, representing 49 states—a reach that is logistically infeasible for in-person events.
  • Supporting community educators in their efforts through a toll-free number in our San Francisco office and a listserv that notifies CBO staff of new publications and alerts them to critical consumer news.
  • Promoting educational projects and partnerships in the multilingual media via press releases, PSAs, VNRs, ANRs and satellite media tours. Our media spokespersons conduct interviews in Chinese, English and Spanish. Consumer Action’s media outreach allows us to deliver key educational messages to millions of consumers that we would not reach otherwise.
  • Maintaining a robust, multilingual website that draws more than a million visitors each year. Consumer-Action.org features more than 300 fact sheets and other materials we’ve produced, as well as current and past issues of our three newsletters: Consumer Action News, the INSIDER, and SCAM GRAM. Our family of "subsites" offer visitors topic-specific information on housing, privacy, insurance, wireless education and financial literacy.
  • Awarding mini-grants to CBOs in support of effective, local consumer education. Between March 2012 and March 2021 alone, Consumer Action awarded nearly $500,000 to dozens of CBOs in grants of between $3,500 and $10,000. Recently, our mini-grants have been awarded as part of our effort to introduce FinTech tools to low- and moderate-income CBO clients improve their financial health through technology.
  • Providing consumer information and referrals, in English, Spanish and Chinese, via our consumer complaint hotline (phone and webmail). Our counselors answer questions on a wide range of consumer topics, explain consumers’ rights, and provide referrals to appropriate agencies.

Our partners

Consumer Action works in educational partnerships with all segments of the community, including government agencies (such as HUD, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, EPA, FDIC and the Federal Reserve), major corporations (including AT&T, Capital One, Humana, PacifiCare, Microsoft, MCI, Sprint, Verizon, Washington Mutual, Bank of America and American Express); community-based organizations (including the national networks of county extension services and Consumer Credit Counseling Service); faith-based organizations and churches; as well as thousands of agencies serving people of color, seniors, people with disabilities and recent immigrants.

Our goal

Consumer Action seeks to expand and support its educational work in the community by partnering with additional public and private entities. For more information, please contact Executive Director Ken McEldowney by email or at 510-333-4886.

 

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