He attributes part of the growth to "our collaboration with the U.S. Council of Mayors this year, [which] was a huge event for us," Paré says. "We submitted a formal resolution calling for similar clinics across the country and the U.S. Council of Mayors approved our resolution and submitted it to Congress for a formal vote. This will help to allow other elected officials in other cities to get the word out about the workshops. Our advisors devote a day of their time to help with any kind of financial question. If it is something they cannot handle, they refer the person to the proper place.
"We encourage participants to bring all of their financial papers with them so we can see what their challenges are," Paré adds. "But we did not want any of the advisors involved who had any product to sell. We want them to be there to give of themselves and their skills, not to use the day as a marketing tool."
The events that have been held so far have drawn a variety of participants, from welfare recipients to the middle class. It was at one of these events that California Controller Chiang announced the holders of lost bank accounts.

"Contributing pro bono time for people who cannot afford our services is a profound opportunity for us to help reduce the level of poverty," Paré explains. "It also shows the public we are a legitimate profession, because, unfortunately, there are some very smart people out there trying to rob the unsuspecting, and they can taint the whole profession."

For example, Davis knew of unsuspecting single mothers struggling to make ends meet that had been sold life insurance policies on small children, losing income sorely needed for more useful purchases.

Gregg Lynn, a realtor and EARN real estate auxiliary co-founder, says, "I have seen peoples' lives changed in a way that they feel empowered [when they learn to control their own finances]. It's a little bit at first, but it's a sense of pride, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of ownership, and that grows."

Project Read, a not-for-profit literacy organization in North San Mateo County, Calif., that helps adults with reading and writing, is now also giving financial planners an avenue for providing pro bono assistance to those who cannot afford the usual planners' fees. With grants from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Project Read's literacy program was expanded to include "Your Money/Your Life" after Project Read managers realized people with literacy problems often have financial difficulties as well. Davis plays a role here, too.
"We show people how not to live paycheck to paycheck, but to save and live on a budget," she says. "We give them knowledge. I had one woman come to me through this program who needed her credit score, but was afraid to ask for it because she did not know how to read it. Once we help someone, it has a ripple effect."

Vivian Padua, an administrative staff member at Project Read, has become one of those involved with helping people solve their financial problems. She finds the work so rewarding she is getting additional financial training and plans to become a full-time volunteer financial coach when she retires from her administrative position.

"I had a woman who had been involved with the literacy program for years, but we realized she also had financial problems," Padua says of Benita (who asked that her last name not be used). Benita was being pursued by the IRS even though she thought she was paying off her bill from the government.

"We finally found out that Benita just ignored the first few IRS letters because they were too confusing," Padua says. "Then she thought she was paying off the bill, but her wages were still being garnished and she could not understand why. We helped her solve the problem and it gave her a new sense of confidence. We never tell people what they 'should' do, but we help them, and, like Benita, they come away with a new 'can-do' attitude."

Because she wanted to help low-income people, but came from a different background from most financial planning professionals and did not have wealthy clients to pay her fees, Davis says she considers herself lucky to have been able to find backers for her various efforts. Her work in the financial field is being recognized at the FPA's annual convention in October in Denver, at which she will be named one of the 2010 Heart of Financial Planning Award winners.

The awards recognize individual professionals, not necessarily just financial planners, "who engage in extraordinary work, contributing and giving back to the financial planning community and public through financial planning. Recipients embody the spirit of financial planning and also represent FPA's core values [of] competence, integrity, relationships and stewardship," the FPA says.
Financial professionals who want to give their time also have to make a living, but giving back is of the utmost importance to many, they say.