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Doorways to Dreams Fund (D2D)

Q&A with Joanna Smith-Ramani and Courtney Flynn of D2D.

What kinds of work does D2D do? How do you go about pursuing your mission?

Since 2000, D2D has sought to improve the financial lives of working people by creating and developing ideas for innovative financial products, services and related public policies.  We test these ideas to see which ones resonate with low and moderate-income consumers, and then we pursue strategies to scale the ones that show promise. We scale our ideas by drawing upon the strengths of the private, public and social sectors to incubate and produce innovations for some 70 million U.S. households living on modest wages.

Joanna Smith-Ramani

How and how long have you been involved with NCTC? Why are you involved?

D2D’s been involved with NCTC for many years because of its reputation as an organization with high quality, passionate members that share our mission of helping provide financial security to working Americans. It was and continues to be critical in our tax time savings work, being an effective convener that connects us with other practitioners nationally. We work so closely with NCTC that some of D2D’s own staff had been involved with the organization previously.  D2D’s Director of Scale Strategies, Joanna Smith-Ramani, had served as a committee member and also as a NCTC Steering Committee member for 2 years.

What kind of campaigns is D2D working on or planning for next year?

At the beginning of 2012, the U.S. Treasury announced it might do away with the option to purchase Series I Savings Bonds with a refund on form 8888.  As part of our tax time savings work, we’ve launched the Keep Bonds Easy campaign to convince the U.S. Treasury to uphold the current split-refund infrastructure that allows working Americans to save at tax time.  On KeepBondsEasy.org, one can learn about the history and impact of the Tax Time Savings Bond policy that implemented the split-refund infrastructure.  If it makes good sense to Keep Bonds Easy, please consider signing the online petition or writing to your representatives.  Be sure to check out sample social media posts if you feel like spreading the word!

In 2013, D2D & the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) will have hopefully facilitated the launch of several mobile apps by way of the FinCapDev Competition, a contest intended to motivate techies and financial service professionals to ideate and scale apps designed to give working Americans better and timelier access to financial products and services.   

What do you see as the biggest future challenge for your organization? 

Though the fast-paced, highly-competitive mobile market may be intimidating for a small nonprofit, D2D’s dedicated to exploring ways mobile technologies can bring innovation to the financial services world.  We want to make sure that we are taking advantage of mobile trend data by identifying and innovating functions that could benefit financially vulnerable families.

Are there any new projects you're excited about?

This tax season D2D will run a Tax Time Savings Sweepstakes to encourage Americans to save by marrying our knowledge and experience with tax time savings and prize-linked savings.  Prize-linked savings is based off of the idea that people can be motivated to save if they perceive the experience to be fun and sometimes, instantly gratifying.  We think this will be a fun project that hopefully many NCTC members can participate in.

What's the best part about your job?

D2D works hard to make financial innovation take many forms – split-refund infrastructure, prize-linked savings accounts, financial education games, and more.  The best part of my job is being able to work with a diverse set of partner organizations including small nonprofits, large national nonprofits, private sector, and government to make big things happen.

How did D2D start? Has the mission/work changed much? 

D2D was co-founded in the late 1990s by Peter Tufano, a tenured professor at Harvard’s Business School, who led D2D’s first product development effort: a web-based infrastructure designed to support a national tax time savings program with reach, scale, and efficiency.

From the lessons of this first effort, D2D developed an approach to innovation that marries private sector capabilities and scope with nonprofit ideals. D2D aims to make the “mass market” viable and attractive to serve by designing appealing financial products that break down traditional barriers to access and participation. At the core of this approach is innovation, such as a reduction in the cost to serve working families, imaginative new products and delivery channels, subtle changes in public policy, and new tools to help inform and incentivize consumers.

Now a decade into our work, D2D has had a record of success in driving innovation that achieves impact through cross-sector partnerships that harness the power of the market. We have helped change the financial services landscape and impacted tens of thousands of consumers’ lives.  We’re constantly refining our innovation process, but our mission hasn’t changed. 

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