Few things are as stressful and as damaging as the cycle of debt. Nearly 60% of Albertans are within $200 of not being able to cover their expenses each month and a shocking number of people don’t have rainy day savings funds. So what happens when your car breaks down or when you lose your job? What about if a pet gets sick, or a loved one needs your full-time care? Any of these unexpected expenses can come out of the blue and would leave many Albertans in debt.

November is Financial Literacy Month in Alberta. In November 2016, with the help and support of a group of concerned citizens and community groups, we launched the Unexpected Expenses campaign. The project received support from the Alberta Government, City of Calgary, City of Edmonton, ATB Financial, First Calgary Financial, Fiasco Gelato, United Way, Enough for All, Money Mentors, SAIT, Bow Valley College, and more.

One of the most amazing parts of the project is that is was generously funded by community members set on improving Albertan’s relationship with money and to help them prepare for future obstacles. In fact, most of the funds came from a sole philanthropist who had a strong passion to eliminate or reduce the usage of payday lending. The project wasn’t affiliated or funded by any banks.

Our team engaged with Albertans for a month-long awareness campaign. We asked people to share their #unexpectedexpenses story on social media for a chance to win a daily prize of $500. These funds were added to a savings account in order to help individuals build their rainy day fund. That’s 30 Albertan’s with $500 in emergency savings in their bank, and thousands more that were reminded of all of the obstacles life can throw your way.

A panel comprised of several of our team members would discuss the submitted cases and select an individual to receive the $500 rainy day fund. This project was heart-wrenching. We received stories covering everything from health issues, car accidents, struggling single parents, spouses building massive secret debt, veterinarian bills, bankruptcy, natural disasters, funeral costs, unexpected travel, and people who had gotten themselves in trouble with payday lenders. It was no easy task to select one story every day, given the vast quantity and scope of the submissions, with an average of 25-50 unique stories daily.

Unexpected Expenses Campaign Goal

The primary goal of the project was to educate individuals of the importance of setting aside money for these rainy day funds, as well as to help get them started. Our focus was on helping educate Albertan’s about all of the amazing financial resources and programs available across Alberta. We built a website that housed a list of many of these resources covering topics ranging from budgeting help, RESP childhood education planning, free financial coaching and workshops, government programs, student resources, rebuilding bad credit history, alternative loans, saving for emergencies, and credit counseling services.

Our team worked hard to build a community around the campaign on social media, through our website and blog stories, as well as through print and digital advertising. We also worked alongside public relations experts to increase news coverage, engage with local influences, and to host a press conference in Edmonton.

Impact Over 1 Month

* 30 Emergency funds were given away across Alberta ($500 each)

* 1,245,000 impressions, 1787 link clicks and 476 posts on social media

* 7100 website page views (educational content)

* 4117 engagements on social media (likes, reactions, comments, shares)

* 833 contest entries

* 7 News outlets covered stories

Campaign Resources & Credible Financial Literacy

– The website unexpectedexpenses.ca

– Social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

– Postcards and advertisements. (see below)

– News & Media (Global News, Calgary Herald, CBC Calgary, Calgary Chamber, Edmonton Journal, 660 News, Edmonton Sun, etc.)