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Empowering Bay Area Communities: BMO and United Way Join Forces to Combat Financial Hardship

In the heart of the Bay Area, one-in-four households struggle to make basic ends meet. This financial instability hinders the pursuit of prosperous lives. United Way Bay Area (UWBA) has long been at the forefront, dedicated to dismantling barriers and providing essential resources for neighbors grappling to secure their financial well-being. Through their SparkPoint centers, UWBA has championed the cause, driven by community needs, factual insights, and a network of purpose-driven collaborations. 

In a significant move toward improving community welfare, BMO is committing $3 million to fund the expansion of the SparkPoint program.  

The contribution will facilitate the establishment of two new SparkPoint Centers, with one launching at San Francisco State University in the first year of the partnership and an additional site planned for year three. Over the course of four years, this investment is projected to serve over 48,000 individuals, offering more than 60,000 units of service and enrolling 9,200 individuals in long-term financial or career coaching programs. 

A member of the Sparkpoint team works with a client to help address their needs

The SparkPoint program has been a beacon of hope for more than a decade, serving as a vital resource for individuals and families facing financial challenges. By offering a spectrum of services—from financial coaching to career guidance and addressing basic needs—the program has witnessed remarkable outcomes. The average SparkPoint client has seen a $10,000 increase in annual income, a $6,220 boost in savings, and a 107-point improvement in their credit score. 

Independent research found that the positive association between SparkPoint and student achievement was even greater for students who participated in SparkPoint financial coaching sessions. In fact, those that participated in at least two financial coaching sessions in 2019-20 were 67% more likely to remain enrolled, graduate, or transfer than similar students who did not receive such services. 

Kelly Batson, Chief Community Impact Officer at United Way Bay Area (UWBA), encapsulates the mission behind the SparkPoint initiative, stating, “In almost 15 years since the launch of the first SparkPoint in Oakland, UWBA has been guided by the community we serve, driven by the data, and inspired by our partnerships with mission-driven organizations. Through our SparkPoint initiative, we are committed to providing our Bay Area neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet with the tools and the resources they need to achieve their financial goals.” 

A member of the Sparkpoint team works with a client to help address their needs

The SparkPoint program, embedded within the communities it serves, is tailored to address local needs, ensuring that services are not only comprehensive but also responsive to the specific challenges faced by residents. 

  • Camila, a SparkPoint client, shares, “This place was so helpful for me, and if it was not for them, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have accomplished everything that I have accomplished… if it was not for you guys, I would not be where I am today.” 
  • LeTrianna S., another beneficiary, expresses gratitude, “The credit assistance that SparkPoint provides, in my opinion, is priceless. I am thankful to have been introduced to financial literacy while completing my studies.” 

Our Purpose to Boldly Grow the Good – for a thriving economy and an inclusive society – fits perfectly with the core tenets of SparkPoint. By joining forces with United Way Bay Area, we are not just making a financial investment but affirming our dedication to creating a brighter future for all. 

“BMO is proud to grow our United Way partnership in the Bay Area. Together, we’re working to provide essential tools and resources for our neighbors to achieve financial stability. The joining of forces between BMO and United Way Bay Area is about much more than financial support. It’s a testament to the shared belief that thriving communities are the cornerstone of a prosperous society. By aligning our values and missions, BMO and United Way Bay Area are fostering a legacy of empowerment and resilience.” 

– Kimberley Goode
Chief Communications and Social Impact Officer, BMO

This philanthropic partnership isn’t just a one-time effort. Our engagement extends beyond financial contributions, offering opportunities for employee engagement through volunteerism, creating a lasting impact in the communities they serve. 

The enthusiasm expressed by Kelly Batson echoes the collective excitement to harness this partnership’s potential to better serve communities in need. “With the 24th UWBA SparkPoint Center preparing to launch, we are so excited to join forces with BMO to maximize impact for Bay Area families.”

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