For NGOs using “mobile money” and cash transfer interventions, mobile financial literacy training can boost return on investment

Men buy mobile phone cards in Ghana

Recently, the Gates Foundation invested millions to develop an online payment platform specifically addressing the needs of refugees and the poor.  Meanwhile, a growing number of NGOs are experimenting with direct cash transfers as an intervention for everything from food security to tuberculosis treatment, emergency response and more.   

All of these interventions rely on end users making informed decisions about how to use the finances at their disposal.  Fortunately, NGOs and nonprofits can leverage the same mobile technology used for digital financial services to provide financial literacy training for their clientele.

Having worked with NGOs, banks and microfinance institutions in over 50 countries, our recommendations for organizations delivering financial literacy training include:
  • Curate existing / free materials to the greatest extent possible before creating new content.  Financial literacy is a popular subject, and it’s possible to find plenty of great material in a number of languages with a few hours of Googling.  Unless your target audience has truly unique needs or language barriers, providing a well-chosen collection of videos and articles, perhaps with a bit of introductory commentary, is an inexpensive way to grow your audience’s financial knowledge.

  • Use bandwidth-friendly multimedia for learners with regular literacy issues.  Multimedia content is a great option for people who might not be able to read.  While video and conventional e-learning modules might be too bandwidth-intensive for audiences with limited connectivity, audio podcasts and simple infographics rendered as GIF animations offer effective, bandwidth-friendly alternatives.  You can also get around bandwidth issues by making content downloadable (and, when possible, transferring it via USB instead of asking learners to download from the Internet).

  • Offer mobile-friendly coaching and peer support via apps like WeChat and Facebook.  While SMS is also a possibility, most of the NGOs we’ve worked with found the pricing structure of local SMS providers to be less than ideal for their budget and clientele.  

If your organization is dealing with these issues, or any other learning-related challenges, feel free to contact Sonata Learning for a consultation.


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