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The Future of Pro Bono Financial Planning Is Digital

Everyone should have access to a great financial planner, regardless of what their bank balance is. 

I started working in fintech over 15 years ago because I wanted to make this happen. During that time, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to realize this is by scaling pro bono financial planning. And the way to do that is by bringing it online to dramatically expand who has access to this amazing service. 

That’s why I’m thrilled to announce that Advisers Give Back, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that I helped found, has partnered with two leading FinTech firms, @Steady and @EarnUp, who combined serve over 3,000,000 predominantly low- and moderate-income individuals.

The full press release is here, including a couple of great quotes from their co-founders. And to learn more about how Advisers Give Back is scaling pro bono financial planning and benefitting the profession through the platform we developed with @Dan Ariely and his team, visit:

I know, from my experience operating Advisers Give Back and working alongside pro bono leaders, that the challenges with traditional pro bono financial planning are significant:

  • It takes a tremendous amount of effort to put on a pro bono event.
  • Events are neither convenient for the adviser nor the client.
  • Events are not designed to measure the impact of the advice provided.

As great and necessary as in-person events are, they have significant limitations, even when we’re not in a global pandemic. As Financial Planning Association (FPA) chapters have tried to pivot to virtual meetings, I have heard from people who are intimately involved with these efforts that set up and maintenance is a huge amount of work for a volunteer organization and possibly not sustainable for the long term. 

Then there’s the issue of finding pro bono clients. How realistic is it for FPA chapters, or individual firms for that matter, to create ongoing marketing campaigns to inform people of pro bono services?  And finding pro bono clients is clearly the hardest part of the whole equation. Perhaps the main reason why pro bono financial planning hasn’t had such a widespread impact yet is that the efforts to let people know about this amazing service are diffused and largely offline. Without sophisticated, ongoing promotion and an easy-to-use virtual platform, pro bono’s impact will continue to be limited.

Consider pro bono financial planning’s potential:

90,000 CFP® professionals x 25 hours/year of pro bono service (50 30-minute meetings) = 4.5M pro bono client engagements/year.

In 2020, approximately 8,000 pro bono clients met with CFP® professionals affiliated with the FPA.

By contrasting the potential impact with the actual impact, in no way am I trying to minimize the tremendously valuable pro bono financial planning assistance that’s been given and continues to be offered. I know how much hard work is involved to reach even 8,000 people.

The point is that in order to move boldly towards realizing the vision of providing everyone with access to a great financial planner, there needs to be a platform-to-platform solution that takes advantage of what technology does best: scale. For FinTech platforms, Advisers Give Back’s platform provides an easy way to refer pro bono clients through a simple co-branded landing page, such as this one ( or through a deeper integration using our REST API

A FinTech partnership model that seamlessly passes pro bono clients from one platform to another platform enables scale. Millions of low and moderate-income Americans are already using apps to help them pay off debt, build savings and repair credit. These are all people who can benefit tremendously from talking from a trustworthy pro bono financial planner. 

We know, from a recently concluded randomized controlled trial on the platform with Duke’s Center for Advanced Hindsight, that a single mid-sized FinTech partner with 400,000 users can easily drive over 1,000 sign ups each month. As we continue to build out our platform and add more partners, we will steadily help scale pro bono financial planning. 

Learn more about how Advisers Give Back’s mission to close the racial and gender wealth gaps, while helping to advance the financial planning profession: