Credit unions have a long history of being committed to helping young people succeed and providing financial literacy education to the communities they serve. Therefore, playing an instrumental part in the development and support of Biz Kid$, a national financial education initiative based on an Emmy Award-winning public television series about kids, money, and business, seemed only natural for America’s Credit Unions.
Biz Kid$ is the first national public television series promoting financial education for elementary and middle school students. The program focuses on financial literacy and entrepreneurship. The series encourages school aged students to take charge of their futures by learning about money and business. By featuring real-life kids who have started successful businesses, each half-hour episode teaches viewers about fiscal responsibility, career possibilities, and community involvement. Biz Kid$ is helping the next generations of consumers realize that they are the catalysts in creating their own financial futures.
Biz Kid$, an Extension of People Helping People
As explained by Danielle Brown, Biz Kid$ Program Coordinator for the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) (Madison, WI), the Biz Kid$ message of financial responsibility and awareness meshed well with the credit union philosophy, even from its onset.
The Biz Kid$ producers, best known for creating and producing Bill Nye the Science Guy, are based out of Seattle, Washington, and were interested in producing a children’s show on financial literacy. Their vision was for Biz Kid$ to do for financial education what Bill Nye did for science. They met with representatives from the Washington Credit Union Foundation, and realizing a common mission, formed the Biz Kid$ partnership in early 2006 between Biz Kid$ LLC (producers) and America’s credit unions. The Washington Credit Union Foundation began serving as the Biz Kid$ project managers.
NCUF got involved with Biz Kid$ in 2007 when they began underwriting the program, and since then, have contributed more than $3.8 million in underwriting grants to Biz Kid$. During that time, NCUF had also been instrumental in supporting the promotion of the program and its outreach resources through conferences and its website. The Washington Credit Union Foundation served as Biz Kid$ Project Manager until June 2011, when the NCUF assumed the fundraising, outreach and administrative responsibilities for Biz Kid$ to ensure the program gains the maximum support from the credit union system.
Today, the Biz Kid$ initiative includes a TV series, free classroom curriculum, outreach activities, an interactive website and a monthly on-line newsletter targeting kids age 9-16 years old. Brown says that Biz Kid$ is much more than a hit TV series. “Biz Kid$ is also a popular financial education curriculum - all 65 episodes of Biz Kid$ come with lesson plans, teaching materials, and activities that meet national financial literacy standards.”
In addition, all 65 episodes produced include an underwriting credit for America’s Credit Unions at the beginning and conclusion of the show, as does all the downloadable collateral materials. “This helps draw the brand link between credit unions and the national underwriting sponsorship of Biz Kid$,” explains Brown.
On a Mission to Spread Fun Financial Literacy
According to NCUF, Biz Kid$ is designed to engage young people with fun, fast-paced programming that will help them develop life skills in financial literacy and entrepreneurship. To accomplish this goal, each episode focuses on a specific learning objective. Episode themes relate to the following: Biz Kid$ Basics, Careers, Credit & Debit, Entrepreneurship, Financial Markets & The Economy, Financial Planning, Personal Finances, and Savings & Investing.
Brown describes the Biz Kid$ strategy as one that uses the power of television to teach millions of kids how to make and manage their money. Using a mix of off-beat illustrations, unique characters, animation, hip music and guest appearances, the goal is to show them how they can thrive if they just have some basic financial knowledge. “What makes Biz Kid$ so great is that the kids watching the show see themselves being successful in the different scenarios, and the “biz kid$” are positive role models - they are cool and hip but financially savvy,” explains Brown.
Biz Kid$ Smashes Ratings & Gains Fans
Brown says that Biz Kid$ has the highest recorded carriage of any children’s programming ever carried on public television, with a viewing audience of more than 1.2 million per episode. The show has aired on over 338 public television stations, reaching 98% of the country. Since the series launch, it has aired in all of the top 75 markets in the country.
It is no wonder, credit unions and credit union associations around the country want to be part of the Biz Kid$ movement!
The New York Credit Union Foundation (NYCUF) (Albany, NY) got in on the ground floor of the program and is still underwriting today. Allison Barna, Director of NYCUF/Community Development, says that Biz Kid$ simply made sense – it fit in with the NYCUF’s mission and vision. “As a Foundation, we strive to help New York’s credit unions to be a financial resource in their communities to empower their members (and communities) to become economically self-sufficient, and Biz Kid$ helps to provide that opportunity.”
Biz Kid$ fits in with the NYCUF’s overall financial literacy initiative by engaging children as well as adults. “If it can get them thinking and talking about the importance of savings, budgeting and responsible money decisions, that is a huge step toward financial empowerment,” explains Barna.
As one the Foundation’s five financial education programs, Biz Kid$ is promoted on their website as well as through conferences and other events. They also supply some of their credit unions with boxed sets. “By supporting and providing our credit unions the opportunity to support Biz Kid$, we are helping to reinforce the idea that we, as a movement, care about financial literacy,” says Barna.
According to Haley DaVee, VP Governmental and Public Affairs for the Kansas Credit Union Association (Topeka, KS), as part of their mission of “people helping people,” KCUA and Kansas credit unions have a long-held commitment to personal financial literacy - both for their members and their communities.
“There is no doubt that the need for financial literacy is great - particularly as Americans struggle to recover from the recent economic recession,” comments DaVee. From offering individual financial counseling to members to presenting programs at local schools, KCUA and Kansas credit unions today are engaged on multiple levels and with multiple partners to increase the financial capability of Kansans. Biz Kid$ is an important partner in their efforts. KCUA has provided multiple underwriting sponsorships to fund the production of Biz Kid$ with plans to continue this sponsorship in 2012 as the production of Season 5 continues.
KCUA promotes Biz Kid$ as a key financial literacy resource on their website and encourages their member credit unions to use it in their own financial literacy outreach efforts. “Several Kansas credit unions support the programming in their local markets by providing local sponsorships,” explains DaVee. “We also promote the program to many stakeholders who are interested in financial literacy including financial literacy coalitions, teachers, legislators, and others.”
In addition to airing thousands of times in Kansas since its creation, the KCUA views Biz Kid$ as an amazing tool both in reaching students with interactive and compelling materials and in providing resources to help parents and teachers reinforce the messages. “It is a great and natural fit in KCUA’s overall financial literacy initiative,” contends DaVee.
Freedom Credit Union’s (Warminster, PA) ongoing commitment to providing financial education to youths in and around their 5-county area of service is the impetus for becoming a Biz Kid$ underwriter from the program’s beginning. “By sponsoring Biz Kid$ for a fifth year, Freedom aims to raise awareness of the tremendous resources and benefits we offer for young people,” says Dana Feeney, Marketing Coordinator.
In addition to Freedom’s 10 week springtime sponsorship, the credit union will also have a web ad on Newsworks.org from April 16th to May 13th.
“We believe that Freedom and Biz Kid$ share a common vision about financial literacy— to give kids real, helpful resources and advice for how to manage and budget their money— so the sponsorship is a natural fit,” comments Feeney.
In addition to the credit unions and associations, those directly affected by the program’s teachings hold it in high esteem. When asked by the NCUF about their experience with Biz Kid$, these parents and students came back with rave reviews.
“I liked it when they interviewed kids from all over the United States,” said Tommy Webster, an 11-year-old who watches Biz Kid$ regularly on the series’ flagship station, WXXI in Rochester, N.Y. “I learned how I could save money and spend it the right way without blowing it!”
“My oldest son, who is 13, is saving money for the first time,” reported Cynthia Carrasco, a Biz Kid$ viewer in Tulsa, Okla. “I believe my son is going to grow up to be a better man because of Biz Kid$. You have been an inspiration to us all.”
“Participating in the show changed my life,” concluded 13-year-old Ben Weymiller, the first social entrepreneur profiled in a Biz Kid$ episode. “If it had not been for Biz Kid$, I probably would have enjoyed my first project and then stopped. Since being on the show I have raised more money for the hospital, volunteered my time at a hospital fundraiser, volunteer tutored kids in math, and currently I’m raising money to sponsor a tree at the next hospital holiday fundraiser. Through Biz Kid$, I learned that my opportunities to make a difference are just beginning.”
Joining the Biz Kid$ Revolution
According to the NCUF, a coalition of over 290 credit unions and affiliates from across the country have pooled their resources together and helped exclusively fund Biz Kid$. Just over $13 million has been raised towards the show’s production, curriculum development and outreach over the past five years.
Like the credit unions mentioned here, any CU can get involved with Biz Kid$! If you are a credit union member or employee who feels your CU would benefit from becoming a Biz Kid$ sponsor, visit www.ncuf.coop and simply pass along the information to your credit union’s marketing department.
When credit unions support a program like Biz Kid$, it is a win-win situation. Young people are being provided with financial literacy education they need, credit unions are doing a great thing for their members, and the program is receiving the support it needs to continue improving and providing that quality education.
"Biz Kid$ is one of the most innovative ways to reach out to young people to teach them about finances - this program has all the magical elements needed to create enthusiasm about financial literacy,” says Brown. “Biz Kid$ has been a large investment for the credit union system, and has paid off by promoting our core values not only to our members, but to the general public.”
If you want to be part of a financial institution that invests time and resources into ensuring the financial literacy of the next generation, find a credit union and join today!By Cyndi Cohen