We were joined for our webinar this week by two Student Money Mentors from King’s College London (KCL), and Gretta Gavin, who leads the Money Advice Services at King’s. Here are their inspiring and innovative tips for engaging students in financial awareness activities.
The Money Mentor Project at King’s College London
Gretta Gavin, Head of Money and Housing Advice at King’s College London, set up the Money Mentor Project after she and her team of Money Advisers recognised a gap in the information they were able to provide to students.
They noticed students often engaged better with student ambassadors than with staff. But when it came to money questions, the student ambassadors didn’t have the training they needed to answer.
There was also a growing demand for financial education among students. Gretta wanted to pro-actively fill this knowledge gap and break the taboo of talking about money, while also embracing the student voice and its diversity.
The Money Mentor Project was born, to give students the opportunity to:
- Act as a signpost for university support services and broader sources of financial assistance
- Share their personal experiences and financial ‘survival’ tips
- Help others make an informed choice about how to spend and prioritise money
- Make financial awareness campaigns relevant and engaging for all students
- Provide students with an opportunity to earn money whilst gaining valuable experience as a Money Mentor
The project also aspired to:
- Increase successful applications to university hardship funds
- Aid student retention and enhance the student experience
The project has now been running successfully for four years.
5 tips for engaging students in financial awareness activities
We heard from Beth Ward, a fourth-year medical student and Money Mentor at KCL, and Salma Hussein, President of KCL SU and former Money Mentor, about their top tips for engaging students in financial awareness.
1. Talk finances with prospective students
The Student Money Mentors at KCL play a key role in raising financial awareness throughout the entire student journey, including before students even start university.
The Money Mentors talk to prospective students about what student life is like and how to manage on a budget, navigate the city and public transport, food shopping and potential student discounts and freebies. The goal is that all students will start university feeling financially confident and informed.
To reach prospective students, the Money Mentors run stalls at open days, attend virtual fairs, Unibuddy events and widening participation projects. They work closely with King’s Student Funding and Residential Life Services at these events, often signposting students to these services depending on their query – and vice versa.
They also work with the university’s comms team to get relevant information to prospective students, and have an active social media presence on Instagram, which prospective students are welcome to follow too.
2. Use a variety of comms channels
The Money Mentors know that to engage students, you need to reach them where they are, via the channels they prefer to use. Given the Covid pandemic, along with students’ increasing use of technology, a strategy that has worked particularly well for the Money Mentors over the last year is using social media to deliver online campaigns.
The Money Mentors use social media to:
- Reach a wider audience of students with financial support and information
- Spread the word about the Money Mentor Project and the service it provides
- Hold online polls to gather students’ thoughts, tips and ideas
- Connect to third party organisations that also provide financial awareness activities for students, including Blackbullion
- Build relationships with other KCL advice teams, such as Resilife and Careers
As a result, the Money Mentors have seen a boost in their follower numbers from students on Instagram and Facebook. The most popular posts have all been on Instagram and have been about how to find work / make money and available funding for students.
The Money Mentors also attend both university and Students’ Union welcome events, and run on-campus activities throughout the academic year. This includes targeted workshops covering topics such as budgeting, banking, funding, having a new home, and where to get help.
Key to supporting the success of the Money Mentors Project is that it’s embedded as a core part of KCL’s Student Services. Advice and resources from the Money Mentors, along with signposting to their social media accounts, features in the information provided to students by the university’s advice and central communication teams.
3. Run financial awareness ‘campaign weeks’
The Money Mentors hold two dedicated financial awareness campaign weeks during each academic year. These are typically in November and February to coincide with Talk Money Week and National Student Money Week.
The campaigns are delivered online with electronic financial awareness resources. There are also on-campus events, where the Money Mentors have stalls with information and freebies for students.
They’ve found that informal conversation at the stalls with lots of chocolate, games and silliness, plus a clear theme for each campaign, works best to keep students’ interest high. The Money Mentors are also able to refer students to KCL’s Money and Housing Advice team where appropriate for specialist advice and assistance.
4. Create low cost, engaging activities
The Money Mentors have built up a playbook of activities that they run for students (often involving Blackbullion’s branded chocolate as an incentive!). While typically these are delivered on campus, they could be adapted to be online.
1. Hook a duck
Hook a duck is aimed at ‘myth busting’ misconceptions around budgeting and financial capability. The student hooks a duck to answer the question underneath. If the question is answered correctly, the student can have a go at the lucky dip to win some chocolate or the star prize.
2. Mental health and money
Together with KCL’s counselling and mental health provision, the Money Mentors ran a campaign where students were encouraged to write an anonymous ‘money confession’. They received lots of very honest replies, which gave the Money Mentors a good overview of what students were struggling with financially. This information was used to tailor their comms and resources.
3. Where I live
This campaign centres around student housing and the cost of living in London. On whiteboards, students wrote 1) where they live, 2) something they like about where they live, and 3) where it is in relation to campus. Through follow-up conversation, the Money Mentors collected data about how much students were spending on rent in different areas to get an up-to-date idea of living costs for KCL students.
4. Wheel of misfortune
To cover the important topic of scams, the Money Mentors ran an additional campaign week, involving online resources, workshops and on-campus activities. Students had to either follow King’s Money Mentors on Instagram or register for Blackbullion’s Financial Wellbeing Platform. They could then spin the ‘wheel of misfortune’ and answer a question about student scams to win a prize.
5. Adapt your approach
One of the key learnings for the Money Mentors when it comes to engaging students has been the need to be reactive in their approach by looking at data, talking to students, and adapting to what works best.
For example, to deliver their workshops, they have previously used a blend of online pre-recorded workshops, as well as on-campus events. They’ve found that while some students enjoy the community feel of attending an event, others prefer to watch the sessions in their own time.
The Money Mentors also run live online Q&A sessions to give students the opportunity to ask questions and feel part of a community. Students can be hesitant to speak at first, but it’s never long before they’re engaged and the conversation is flowing.
Core principles for impacting students’ financial wellbeing
While Covid has shifted all financial awareness campaigns online for now, the KCL Money Mentors have found that the core principles for impacting students’ financial wellbeing haven’t changed:
- Start financial conversations early in the student journey
- Meet students where they are
- Don’t overcomplicate campaigns
- Never be afraid to adjust your approach
- A bit of chocolate can sometimes help too!
When we set out on this project, one outcome that I did not anticipate was the benefit the project would have on the staff team. When your work is predominately helping students to resolve what can be quite distressing situations, having the opportunity to work with a group of enthusiastic students in a proactive way, which helps students avoid common pitfalls, is a welcome change to the constant fire-fighting that can be the norm for Advice Services. Campaign weeks, although stressful and time-consuming, are ultimately a lot of fun and rewarding. And over time, the Advice Team have learnt just as much from the Money Mentors as we provide training to them.