How One Museum Leveraged The Affiliate Network To Scale Their Education Program


Museum of American Finance


Educational Programming 
Innovation & Resilience

The Opportunity

Everyone needs financial literacy. As part of their education programs the Museum of American Finance (MOAF) had been running the Museum of Finance Academy (MFA) for 12 years with success. The program has evolved but has always focused on providing high school students with the financial literacy skills to make empowered and smart decisions over their lifetimes. As the program evolved, their program and curriculum grew stronger but they were facing a challenge familiar to many institutions offering high-quality educational programming: it was hard to recruit students. Even with strong school and non-profit partnerships, it was difficult to identify students who had the time with scheduling conflicts of school, sports and extracurriculars.
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The Vision

The education team knew two things: their program was strong and there were high school students who would be eager to take advantage of the opportunity to build financial literacy skills and potentially earn scholarship money. The lightbulb? Those students don’t have to only be in New York!

MOAF could leverage relationships with museums and youth organizations around the country and open up the student recruitment pool. Most importantly, they could expand the reach and impact of this successful program.

The Team

The Museum of American Finance has a small team focused on this program but they knew that it had a massive network in their corner: Smithsonian Affiliations. Once they activated this network, the doors started to open. So who was on 
the team?
  • Linda Rapacki: Managing Director of Business Operations, Visitor Services and Education since January 2008. Linda leads a small but mighty team that is focused on action. She knows how to get things done with the resources she has. And when she encounters a problem, she finds the solution or the person who has the solution. Which brings us to the next key member of this collaboration!
  • Jennifer Brundage: National Outreach Manager at the Smithsonian Institution. Jennifer has been a key member of the Smithsonian Affiliations team for over 16 years. She is an expert at cultivating partnerships + collaborations focused on educational outreach (as well as many other things). She was the perfect person to help Linda and the MOAF team make 
this happen.
  • Chris Meyers and Larry Schuffman are the program lecturers.
Together the team set out to transition this program from a local offering to a national opportunity.
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The Process


What is the Museum of American Finance Academy (MFA)?

The MFA is a free, five-session personal finance certificate course for 11th and 12th graders with the goal of teaching students to aspire to financial independence through developing an appreciation for savings, establishing financial goals, and learning to avoid scams.

The 75 minute sessions are held on Tuesdays after school for five consecutive weeks. These sessions were originally held on-site but when they were preparing to transition to a national program, they embraced changes initially made during the pandemic like virtual lessons and a virtual tour of the finance district.
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Building a recruitment plan for a national offering might have been daunting but MOAF leadership leveraged their knowledge of peer institutions and their relationship with Smithsonian Affiliations to create a targeted outreach campaign. Jennifer Brundage worked internally with her colleagues at Affiliations to create a list of institutions that might have programmatic alignment or simply be interested in sharing the offering with their members and partners. MOAF leadership took it from there by reaching out directly to the directors of those institutions and sharing the opportunity. 
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This approach yielded phenomenal results as several affiliates seized the opportunity. Students from as far away from New York as Florida and Nebraska enrolled. Four of these students were top performers and received scholarships ranging from $500 to $1,000. The program. The Museum is thrilled and is running the program again this spring. 
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The Challenges

The biggest challenge to recruit students was overcome with the magic of the Smithsonian network. However, the completion rate of students is 70%. It is not that the class is too challenging but rather that all the competing time commitments make it difficult for high school students to fully engage. Their challenge is to engage that remaining 30% so that we have more students finish the course.
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The Toolkit

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Smithsonian Affiliations Supports

Every Affiliate has a dedicated National Outreach Manager that is eager to be a sounding board, thought partner, and resource. In this instance, MOAF leveraged its relationship with Jennifer to build a strong foundation for national recruitment, a foundation they can build on moving forward. The students learn basic lifelong lessons and many have reached back out to Linda over the years to thank her and the Museum for these building blocks and skills they have used over and over. They have basic guidance so that when they open accounts, credit cards, take car loans or any other aspect of finance they are better equipped at decision making.
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Museum Finance Academy

Get inspired by the Museum of American Finance’s program model by exploring the website and reviewing their materials online! If you have any students in your community who you think might be interested, reach out to Linda Rapacki at to learn more!

We’d love to hear from you!

Do you have a powerful story of successful community engagement or hiring and onboarding? Do you want to connect and learn more about community engagement resources and supports?

Reach out to your National Outreach Manager. They’d love to connect and share ideas!
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