Neighborhood Trust

Helping low-wage workers find financial independence

User research
Communication design


Neighborhood Trust (NT) is a nonprofit financial institution that helps people with modest incomes achieve their financial goals. With its new program, Trusted Advisor, NT wanted the ability to reach a broader national audience by offering financial counseling to workers directly through their employers. Signing up employees was a bigger challenge than they had expected, however, so they partnered with Openbox to better understand the barriers to enrollment, and to design solutions to bring more people into the program.


Openbox created a multimedia workplace campaign to communicate the value of financial counseling and encourage employees to sign up.

Trust people, not institutions

Openbox spent four weeks on site with a range of small and large employers and their respective workers. Through interviews and informal conversations, we learned that many workers were skeptical—and sometimes fearful—of traditional banking. People told stories of being mistreated, misunderstood and ignored by banks. They felt their financial goals were too small to be taken seriously so they defaulted to the predatory practices of check cashing services, credit cards and local lenders, or relied on the advice of friends and family.

“My parents didn’t know about money and couldn’t guide me. I eventually learned from my ‘work family’.”

—Research participant, eligible low-income employee

Image courtesy of some plants.

Using design to amplify internal allies

On the employer side, our team learned that human resources staff feel a sense of purpose when they can offer employees more benefits and ways to be smarter with their money. So we created an Activation Toolkit for HR departments that positioned financial counseling as an employer-sanctioned benefit, not just a third-party offer.

Creating motivational messaging

When it comes to finances, we heard how it was all too easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged. With this in mind, we created a messaging strategy to counteract motivation killers in three ways: acknowledging hard work, celebrating small breakthroughs, and taking pride in having one’s own back.


The campaign launched in workplaces across the country, benefiting nearly 17,000 employees across 29 states. Neighborhood Trust has since partnered with new employers including Staples, Cafe Grumpy and the Madison Square Park Conservancy.