Three Steps to Creating Impact and Assets Through an IDA Program
Last week I shared information about Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), matched savings programs that are a great tool for building wealth in your community, while improving your service, investment, and lending performance on your next CRA Exam. Today I will take a deeper dive into how to create an IDA program in partnership with and for your local community.

Step 1: Partner, Partner, Partner
Good programs don’t happen by themselves! A strong partnership with a trusted nonprofit partner can make all the difference to your community and your CRA performance. Look for one or more nonprofit partners who can identify qualified participants and manage the participants’ progress. Together you can develop the program requirements, including clearly defining the roles of each partner, savings requirements and matches, and the financial literacy education you offer.
The greatest benefit of an IDA program is the financial literacy component, so you will not want to skimp on that! You can tailor the education component to best compliment your program’s purpose. An IDA program for homeowners often provides homebuyer education, while a program for small-business capitalization might include a module on bookkeeping and cashflow.
From early development of your IDA program, through its implementation you will create multiple service opportunities for your employees; program development, financial literacy trainers, and program monitoring.

Step 2: Fund the Match
A key component of an IDA program is the match. Matching funds can come from federal government sources, such as Office of Community Services and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, state funds, or private funders. Matching funds can even come from your financial institution and will be considered a CRA eligible investment.
When you develop your program with your nonprofit partners, you’ll want to consider your funding sources and any restrictions there might be around match rate, the minimum or maximum match, and the funding purpose. Many programs match funds at the end of a certain program period, determined by a date, a savings goal, or another milestone, and apply the matching funds directly to the asset purchase. For example, and IDA for education may provide a match based on an account balance on let’s say, August 1st in the form of a transfer to a named college or trade school. Other programs may provide the match directly to the participant.

Prosperity Now Map

Prosperity Now has a searchable tool to find IDA programs in your community to learn how others are structuring their programs and how to avoid duplicating efforts.


Step 3: Support Your Program Participants

The IDA program is just the first step for your program participants. Show them how much you support their success by making your existing bank products available to them as well. Small business participants will be looking for small business loans and lines of credit. Potential homeowners may need mortgages. Student loans can be the difference between starting a program and graduating from that program. Layer your programs and products to create the best chance of success for your participants and create lifetime customers.

You don’t have to start big, you just have to take the first step! Start with a small pilot program with fewer than 10 participants and witness the impact in their lives and to your CRA program. Use those stories to inspire others…you may even inspire more matched funding sources!

Chances are if you are still reading this, you are committed to make a tangible difference in your community. You are ready to reinvest your time and resources. You have the tools and the inspiration! Now let’s get to work!

Yours in community development,



P.S. Did you see I have a free course for bankers who are new to CRA? Click the button below or share this article with a colleague that might have inherited their bank’s CRA program and are not sure where to start!

2021 CRA Fundamentals Free Course