Spring 1987 // Volume 25 // Number 1 // Feature Articles // 1FEA2

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Money Sense - Using Enlisted Personnel as Master Volunteers


Gloria Runyan
Home Economist
Kern County
Cooperative Extension
University of California
Bakersfield, CA

Karen P. Schnittgrund
Consumer Economics/Management Specialist
Cooperative Extension
University of California
Riverside, CA


Although they work in the world's most sophisticated flight-testing program, enlisted personnel and their families at Edwards Air Force Base must deal with the same financial problems as those stationed elsewhere. But now they have extra help-anew Extension program called Money Sense.

How Money Sense Started

Money Sense was developed in response to a memorandum of understanding between the Cooperative Extension Service, USDA, and the Department of Defense. It encourages cooperation between the two agencies in "providing education assistance to military families in such areas as food and nutrition, financial and resource management, . . . and consumer education. " As a result, California Cooperative Extension designed Money Sense: A Master Money Management Program, which targeted the "new clientele "-enlisted military personnel at Edwards Air Force Base. With this new clientele, the master volunteer approach, which has been used successfully by Extension for years, was adopted. Enlisted personnel serving as volunteers were given needed information and training. After receiving instruction, each volunteer was expected to return 30 hours of community service by teaching a minimum of 10 clients. The approach created a teacher-multiplier effect, as well as a continuing source of teachers. This approach differed from that traditionally employed on other military bases. Customarily, other educational programs have been conducted either by Extension personnel teaching classes or working one-on-one with clientele. However, the long-term objective of Money Sense was to make it possible for the base to "take ownership " and maintain a volunteer program that could continually help enlisted personnel and their families with their financial problems. This concept was critical to the program's success.

Military Protocol

.University staff learned early that when cosponsoring programs with the military, following the proper protocol was necessary for success. The first step in initiating any program on a military base was to arrange a meeting with its commanding officer to gain approval and support for the program plus a signed agreement of understanding outlining Extension's role and the military's responsibility for the program.


Initially, a special program was offered to one squadron as a means of recruitment.

In this way, future participants gained an overview of the proposed program and learned some of the specifics of becoming a volunteer. Another recruitment technique that proved successful was using a consultation committee composed of spouses of enlisted personnel. This committee met as a focus group to discuss: "How can we increase participation in the Money Sense Program? " The consultation committee was the source of more than half of the volunteers subsequently recruited for the program. Some recruits felt that the term "volunteer " carried negative connotations, so another title was needed. Volunteers were called Money Sense Advisors.

Teaching Volunteers

During the course of instruction, Money Sense Advisors received many types of teaching materials. Training manuals were developed for the advisors along with handouts and exercises to use with clientele. The manuals included sections on becoming an advisor, values and goals, budgeting, consumer credit, savings and investments, making the most of your food dollar, planning meals, buying food, and counseling techniques. At the request of the advisors, sections were later added on writing checks and shopping for a car. Program content reflected the findings of the 1980 and 1982 Air Force Conference on Families in which money management ranked as the primary concern among military personnel. A survey conducted at Edwards Air Force Base during the spring of 1985 supported these findings. Three-hour instructional sessions were held for seven weeks where teaching materials on each topic were distributed. When working with clients, the advisors were cautioned to present only topics taught in the Money Sense program and refer questions outside the manual's subject-matter scope to professionals. In addition, the importance of keeping accurate and complete records of clientele progress was stressed.

Program Evaluation

A variety of evaluation methods were incorporated into the program. Each of the manual's six sections included a pre-post test, which was used by both advisors and clients. The advisors also took another pre-post test that measured attitudes and knowledge of money management and provided responses to questions about family characteristics and food intake. In addition, advisors used a prepost test with clients to evaluate the program as a whole. Finally, an evaluation specialist conducted a focus group interview with advisors and face-to-face interviews with various other key individuals. In the focus group interviews, Extension personnel explored how the program needed to be changed as well as how it had helped. The best indicator of success so far has come from the personnel at the family support center. Families that sought emergency financial assistance from the center were referred to a Money Sense Advisor. Of the 318 families referred, none has returned to the center with additional financial problems. This is in marked contrast to experience r before the program when recidivism was high. In addition, the advisors themselves were positive about how this program helped them to personally manage their resources wisely. One of the participants was delighted to tell her success story. After attending the sessions on budgeting and goal setting, she and her husband developed a plan to pay off $4,000-and it worked! Some of the participants felt their families were strengthened by the skills gained from the Money Sense training, and are now more in control of their own lives. Overall, the evaluations have shown significant interest in, support for, and behavior change as a result of the program. To determine whether the next generation of learners-those with whom the advisors worked-were similarly affected, we're currently conducting in-depth personal interviews.


At the end of instruction and the 30 hours community service requirement, advisors were awarded name tags and University of California certificates of completion. The first class of 15 advisors who completed both the instructional and community service portions of the program reached about 200 clients. Six of the original 21 advisors attended all of the classes, but failed to fulfill the community service requirement, but five other advisors not only are continuing to teach additional clients, but are also expanding their outreach to community groups. Money Sense is in its third year, and the program has reached over 300 clients. The level of support present on the base is gratifying. In the true spirit of Extension, Edwards Air Force Base is beginning to take ownership of the program and it's being extended to other military bases throughout California. Extension personnel will continue to serve as consultants at Edwards while introducing the program to civilian groups and other military bases in California. Although the original intent of the program was for use on military bases, the program materials were developed for use with any clientele. The concept of training volunteers who will in turn teach others isn't new to Extension. Master Gardener and the Master Food Shopper programs have been developed by other states. Money Sense differ from these in that its emphasis is on group teaching and the program's continuation after Extension's presence is gone.