June 17, 2024

Just Income Brings Operations In-House to Build Trust with Participants

Colin Guan

Partnerships Lead

Challenge: How to build trust with participants who are inherently distrustful of the banking system

Outcome: Just Income used GiveCard’s no-code platform to manage the program in-house, allowing them to properly engage with participants in person while delivering monthly payments automatically.

“When I reflect on the biggest difference between our previous disbursement experiences and our experience with you all… To me, it feels like [the difference is] being able to keep everything in-house.” - Lindsay Kallman, Executive Director, Community Spring

Just Income, a program of Gainesville, Florida and nonprofit Community Spring, revolutionizes the way guaranteed income in the form of direct cash assistance reaches individuals impacted by the justice system. Through their innovative approach and collaboration with GiveCard, they have not only streamlined their operations but have also fostered trust and empowerment within the community of justice-impacted individuals that they serve.

Accessibility through Prepaid Cards

Accessibility to payments was one of the most significant hurdles for Just Income. It was rare for participants to be able to link their bank accounts to an online service, and many individuals even lacked the resources to be able to set up bank accounts in the first place.

“Some people were even going to be excluded from getting a bank account [because they were not able to] verify their identity, or because they had some sort of foul in their financial track record.” - Kevin Scott, Program Director, Just Income

Just Income was able to issue payments over prepaid cards via GiveCard to completely circumvent this issue, and they were able to ensure that every single participant received the funds they were promised without any setbacks.

Building Trust

Just Income emphasizes the importance of maintaining relationships with their community. This approach was a cornerstone to trust-building, and also enabled Just Income to provide quick problem-solving and support to their recipients. This was a mission-critical piece of the puzzle, especially for a population wary of systemic failures.

“[We want to be] able to back [our programs] up with, ‘Hey, we've been there too’. The fact that this is continuing to come from people who really get it, who truly understand the challenges is something that… builds some credibility with folks and has been important in every phase. The amount of trauma that people carry related to the justice system or the probation system, people don't want to come anywhere near anything that has the word system in it because it has failed them. It has failed generations of their family. 

The very first payment we made in the pilot year, [we told him he was] going to get his first payment of $1000. And maybe 9:30, 10 o'clock in the morning he called me and said the money hadn't hit his account yet. He was [so ready to] look for the failure and that he’s been somehow taken advantage of in some way. The money did come on later… and over time, he really came to be super friendly. And after that he would sometimes call and just sort of bust jokes. When I ran into him at the local Home Depot, he was cordial and funny, but through his life experience he was so ready to be wronged or in some way. 

There's a lot to overcome. This system with GiveCard has smoothed out what were previously really rough points for us operationally. It’s also accessible. Even if I had been in prison for 30 years and I came out, I think I could wrap my head around just using a card that I can take and use in certain locations.” - Kevin Scott, Program Director, Just Income 

Bringing the Operation In House

Keeping operations in-house ensured that the Just Income team maintained constant control and proximity to the individuals they served. While the team acknowledged that outsourcing disbursements was an option, with GiveCard they were able to control the flow of money, card replacements, and all other aspects of the disbursement process themselves without putting too much additional burden on the program team.

It was crucial to maintain personal relationships that the program team had with their recipients, and that they are the ones fielding phone calls, solving problems, and addressing recipients when things went wrong. Through this setup, Just Income had the power to address challenges themselves, without having to rely on external teams who had no proximity to the recipients who Just Income worked with on a daily basis.

“We get to keep the relationships and that is so important. Being able to keep [the relationship] in-house, to be able to troubleshoot and solve people's problems because we have those relationships means everything. Also, when it comes to [our program director] mental health as it relates to being able to help people and streamline things, GiveCard has been life-changing for us.” - Lindsay Kallman, Executive Director, Community Spring

More Visibility Brings Learnings

The Just Income team encountered a very valuable learning experience while running the program as well. It was determined early on in the planning phase while running focus groups, that a large subset of their population was unbanked, and that it would be valuable to encourage banking. 

Two interesting insights were revealed after the program started:

  1. That GiveCard reports on spending data revealed a large portion of the funds were actually being withdrawn at ATMs, and 
  2. That it was actually confusing for their participants to use banking software, given that they had little to no experience engaging with those tools.

“We were trying to encourage not having your financial system be like a wad of cash under your mattress, you know what I mean? We even wanted to [provide access to physical banks]. Banks are a useful financial health tool, but I think that we were forcing it. There were many things, but the people who had the GiveCard felt like they could use a card as opposed to direct deposit, which was such an advantage. And I'm really glad that we made that switch and weren't continuing to try to force it.” - Lindsay Kallman, Executive Director, Community Spring

Unlocking Fundraising

In solidifying their payments and operations process, Just Income also realized some downstream benefits.

“I do think that every bit of brain space that we have… helps us to do more things like fundraising. Every second I'm not putting out fires with a disbursement issue is another second that we can focus on the bigger picture of things. And then I think about being able to go to potential funders. We have very strong existing partnerships and a very strong infrastructure. I think that actually goes a long way too. We are rock solid, and like GiveCard is actually a very big part of that.” - Kevin Scott, Program Director, Just Income

"There's a lot to overcome. This system with GiveCard has smoothed out what were previously really rough points for us operationally. It’s also accessible. Even if I had been in prison for 30 years and I came out, I think I could wrap my head around just using a card that I can take and use in certain locations.”

Kevin Scott, Program Director, Just Income