As Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of this global media platform, I was delighted to have the opportunity recently to interview Joel Greenberg, Executive Director of Navicore Solutions, whose Mission it is to “strengthen the well-being of individuals and families through education, guidance, advocacy, and support.” Founded in 1991, Navicore has grown to become one of the largest nonprofit financial education providers in the US, providing compassionate financial counseling to consumers nationwide in the areas of personal finance, consumer credit, student loans, foreclosure prevention and housing, and bankruptcy counseling and education. Learn more about Navicore below ⤵︎
We’d like to hear about your professional journey before Navicore Solutions.
When I graduated from High School in Brooklyn, NY, I knew that my calling was to work in accounting and finance. I was accepted into the Bernard M. Baruch School of Business, City University of New York. I put my education on hold and enlisted in the US Air Force in 1966. When I was discharged in 1970, I returned to work at Meinhard Commercial (a factor) supervising an accounts receivable team and re-enrolled in the City University system at night. Later that year, I left Meinhard and began working for Times Square Stores Corp. as a junior accountant. After 10 years I rose to the position of corporate controller and received my bachelor’s degree from Queens College (CUNY) majoring in Accounting. In 1980, I left TSS Corp. for a VP Finance position at Odd Lot Stores Corp. I left that position in 1981 for a VP of Finance position at Apex Technical School. In 1991, I left Apex and co-founded Garden State Consumer Credit Counseling (Navicore Solutions). During my years at TSS and Apex, I found great satisfaction helping others make better financial decisions regarding investments, insurance, savings, budgeting, and credit. I used that passion to guide Navicore’s mission and services.
Tell us about Navicore Solutions and the inspiration behind it.
Navicore Solutions was first and foremost a vehicle for providing good sense personal finance guidance to individuals in need, much as I had been doing for the employees at the firms where I previously worked. We learned about the Consumer Credit Counseling sector, and how it could be used as a tool to further help those individuals. We also learned that the way credit counseling was being provided to those individuals in need was not effective, so we applied a true customer service approach. We ensured timely service, streamlined the process, and provided the individual with a resolution that they developed with our guidance, rather than one that we simply dictated to them. Within one year of providing our services, our agency had more clients than any of the 3 other agencies in the state, all of which had been providing services for at least a decade before we started.
What’s unique about your nonprofit?
Traditional non-profit organizations depend heavily, if not exclusively, on grant income. We have been able to develop many programs that help individuals facing a financial crisis where much of the program services are underwritten by third-party organizations. Within our sector, we have always seen quality and consistency as the core of our services, and this is the primary reason why every third-party evaluation consistently gives us the highest scores. We are also among the most innovative agencies in the country and have led several major efforts in the housing counseling, credit card resolution, and student loan counseling areas.
When did your nonprofit launch and what’s been your biggest challenge?
We began in April 1991 and our biggest challenge was breaking into the Consumer Credit Counseling sector. It was tightly controlled by the national association and credit card banks.
During our first two years, we faced increasing pressure to stop providing our services. The banks placed penalties against our clients to increase that pressure.
In 1993 we started a competing national association of independent agencies and subsequently initiated a lawsuit against the original national association and the credit card banks. In 1995 we won that case. The results put all independent agencies on an even playing field with the old line agencies. The second biggest challenge was dealing with the wind-down from the great recession where we increased our space and staff (from 100 employees to 340 employees) in 2007-2008 to deal with the increased needs of the consumer public. Then in 2012, as the economy began to improve and the needs for our services decreased, we began the process of reducing space and staff to the current right-sized level of 110 to 120.
Any noteworthy surprises or ‘A-ha’ Moments along the way?
The biggest surprise was the lack of interest on behalf of the creditors/servicers in dealing with the student loan crisis. We know there is a great need for our services, but once an individual has obligated themselves to a large student loan debt, there is little we can do to help them alleviate the problem. As a result, there is little interest on behalf of the public to seek our education assistance and guidance.
How would you describe your typical day?
My typical day begins with several hours gathering the previous day’s information, entering it into my spreadsheets, comparing results to our budgets and analyzing our trends. I tightly manage our Treasury functions ensuring that we have sufficient operating cash to satisfy our needs. I review daily incoming mail summaries and plot our revenue and expense changes on a detailed cash flow worksheet leading to further analysis of trends and deviations from budget. I discuss all of these results with our COO on a daily basis, and I also receive updates on program initiatives. Weekly, I meet with my senior staff (COO, CFO, Facilities Manager, Vice President of Counseling & Education) where everyone shares information about their areas of responsibility.
What about your “social impact/outcomes?”
We take frequent surveys of clients and third-party “partners” to ensure that we are meeting our goals. We also use the analysis of our results to determine if we are achieving our expected outcomes and we will drill down to determine the cause for any results below expectations.
What’s the next big thing/challenge for Navicore Solutions?
We are nearing the end of a ten-year effort to implement a new concept in managing distressed credit card debt that will be a non-profit alternative to the disastrous results of debt settlement.
As a nonprofit leader, what’s non-negotiable for you?
Providing services that benefit the people we serve. If our clients do not receive a true benefit, then we are not doing our job.
How can our readers learn more about Navicore Solutions?
Go to Navicore Solutions to learn more about our programs, our educational initiatives, our mission and more.