How Passion Creates a Domino Effect: The Role of Interpersonal Uplifting in the FinLit World

Archived Blog Post

My name is Anthony Schilt, volunteer lead of public relations and communications at FinMango, a non-profit organization whose goal is to solve the problem of global income inequality through financial literacy. FinMango has a unique and riveting start-up story. Focusing on data, technology, and advocacy to solve the problem of financial exclusion, we help others realize their true potential by igniting a world of opportunity. 

Instead of talking about these key components in depth, – and how important each of them are, this blog will bring into focus what makes FinMango’s volunteers, internally known as “mangos,” so creative and passionate.  

My journey with FinMango began in December 2019. One day in early December, I was casually scrolling through LinkedIn. I only had five connections (most of whom were family members), no practical experience related to my studies, and a lack of understanding for what career I wanted to pursue. I was looking at other people’s profiles, jealous of what I saw, until a certain brand caught my eye. The person I was stalking on LinkedIn was involved in FinMango. 

Have I heard about this somewhere before? After looking into FinMango’s page on LinkedIn, I knew almost immediately that I might have found “it.” I loved the cause, and was majoring in Finance; these two ‘pros’ were good enough for me. I was a freshman trying to build up my resume after all. So, I reached out to this person, scheduled a one-on-one, and planned to meet with them later that same day for an interview. 

On my way there, I was trembling; my hands were sweating and I was anxious about how I’d perform. I was, as they say, a hot mess. Ultimately, my nerves settled down due to my interviewer’s energetic persona. I admired his passion. He was a fellow student at OSU. I would later come to find out that this virtue – being passionate – was the foundation that FinMango thrived on.

Although I was noticeably nervous, he saw past that, and asked about my strengths and abilities. This meant a lot to me. It signaled the nurturing and supportive environment that fuels creativity inside our organization. After the interview, I was told that I would hear back soon from one of the leaders. Soon after, I had the opportunity to speak over the phone with Scott Glasgow, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of FinMango.

When Scott initially contacted me via text, I smiled. It was almost 2:00 A.M.; he was a night owl, just like me. Scott explained to me how he and the other night owls at FinMango are constantly communicating, working on progressive initiatives, or brainstorming about the next big thing. I knew that I would be one of them. I don’t know. It’s just something about the nighttime that gets me motivated to work. If that’s how the CEO operates, maybe I’m doing something right. 

We had spoken together over the phone that night, and just before we ended the call, I noticed that it had lasted over an hour. I was blown away; it felt like 15 minutes. At half-past, 3:00 AM, I was standing in front of the mirror with the biggest smile on my face I’ve had in awhile. I told myself not to get too excited, though, since I wasn’t officially a part of this just yet.

In the following days, Scott introduced me to Gemma Bosch Martinez, FinMango’s Chief Knowledge Officer. Gemma lives in Spain, a country I have always wanted to travel to, so I was ecstatic to speak with her about her experiences there. I love learning about Spanish language and culture, so having this global connection with someone immersed in the culture was really cool. 

One of my greatest “FinMemories,” in fact, was when I spoke with Gemma for the first time, and I found out that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was at conversational Spanish. It was hilarious, and a great learning experience. It was the small, seemingly insignificant moments like these that made the greatest memories at FinMango. Meeting all of these amazing leaders, students and bosses alike, combined with the opportunity to make an impact in the world, left me with profuse excitement. I was ready to get started.

Getting started:

I began working on my very first project, a collaboration with KUBUKA, an organization focused on developing vulnerable communities in Kenya and Zambia. After reading my instructions from Gemma, I had a feeling that this “getting-started project” wasn’t exactly about getting started. Instead, it was about providing a positive economic impact right away. I got a feel for the work I would be doing beforehand, and appreciated that greatly. I was intimidated, but I was more so eager to learn, and that eagerness overtook the intimidation I felt. 

So, what was my task? — To co-create an educational presentation tool (with resources) that would take place over three weeks. The program taught 100 children and adults about Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship. Wow. 

While I worked on the project, I struggled, as I expected, but I asked questions and was able to overcome those struggles. Since many projects fail at non-profit organizations, I was congratulated for having a successful first project — something not many mangos have the opportunity to experience. 

I was overjoyed to receive such feedback on my work. The team was impressed with the content I produced, and the program was implemented in Zambia later that month (pictured below). This accomplishment spurred self-confidence that I had been lacking, and helped me understand how I can combat my depression and anxiety by helping others and making an impact.

Operation Extravaganza:

I was promoted to “Creative Marketing Intern” after this project. The first initiative I took part in during my internship – The FinMango Extravaganza – became an integral part of FinMango’s story. The Extravaganza, hosted virtually in May 2020, was a 24-hour live webinar that took place over Zoom, and featured 50+ successful keynote speakers. I was co-coordinator of technology for the event, alongside Uday Patel and Kishan Patel. For the first 12 hours, covering the United States, Uday, Kishan, and I hosted the webinar nonstop. But nothing great lasts forever, right? 

When logistical problems arose,  our team had to combat them efficiently—failure was simply not an option. One of our issues was actually having too many people, as ironic as that sounds. A celebrity, who will remain unnamed, posted our event link, which led to an overwhelming influx of Zoom viewers. When hundreds of people joined, they saw our CEO speaking. In a matter of seconds, everyone changed their name to “Scott Glasgow,” or “Scott Glasgow #2, or #3”  and so on, which was quite funny for onlookers, but a disaster for the three of us manning technology! Once we figured out the technical issues, however, we had a smooth rhythm. Of course, we still had our laughs at the hundreds of Scott Glasgows joining our webinar. 

It would be impudent not to highlight how the logistics were pulled-off; I want to underscore the intricate efforts of two mangos in particular: Uday Patel, a sophomore at The Ohio State University studying information systems management, and Kishan Patel, a junior at The Ohio State University studying Finance.

I was lucky enough to play the role for Uday that Ben, my interviewer for FinMango, played for me. In late February of 2020, I had a conversation with Uday about FinMango’s mission and why he should be excited. After our conversation, he had a similar realization — he immediately saw the intrinsic value of being a “mango.” Two weeks later, Uday spoke with Kishan Patel about FinMango and its goals. Kishan became a marketing and technology intern in early April. And so starts the ultra critical uplifting domino-effect.

Extravaganza was launched the month after Uday and Kishan were onboarded. They adapted to a mammoth challenge immediately, learning along the way to overcome every obstacle we faced! The FinMango leadership was in awe of our accomplishments. What was significant about this experience, though, was that I had unknowingly found my niche, as did Uday and Kishan. Personally, I found out how rewarding it was to build a team, communicate, and uplift in a way that led us all to success. Uday and Kishan found that they wanted to pursue technology and data-focused volunteering, which they have made tremendous strides in: they learned the logistics of Google Cloud, Google Data Studio, and Tableau, while simultaneously inputting data for the K-12 covid data initiative within FinMango’s Data Project. Now, like me, Uday and Kishan are “mango fellows,” a status given to those who demonstrate proven commitment to FinMango and its cause over time. 

Once Extravaganza was over, the weight of the moment hit; our leaders shed tears. A group of student mangos pulled off something this great with one secret weapon – passion. 

Our team mapped out this idea, planned accordingly, assembled a group of over 50 professionals and keynote speakers, and accidentally broke the world record for the world’s longest Zoom call. Little did we know that the Extravaganza event set the stage for everything FinMango will accomplish later on. It also subconsciously worked wonders for everyone’s personal and professional development. 

How we “mango” during the pandemic:

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of billions around the globe. Just about everyone has been affected by the virus in one way or another. It breaks my heart to think about the lives lost and impacted, and I wish the best to those affected by the virus in health, financially, or otherwise.

Instead of standing idly by on the sidelines, we knew we had to do something. FinMango made the humanitarian cause surrounding COVID-19 a short-term priority alongside our long-term goal of diminishing financial exclusion. When we launched the FinMango Data Project, I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous. However, Now was the time to make an impact on real people, as real lives are at stake. This urgency keeps our mangos sharp and focused when they conduct this work.

Two main initiatives are at the heart of FinMango’s Data Project:

  1. FinMango’s contributions to the Google COVID-19 Open Data Project

  2. “thecovidmonitor.com” – Researching COVID-19 outbreaks data in K-12 schools across the United States, and providing real-time accurate reporting and transparency

I took charge of managing social media for @TheCOVIDMonitor on Twitter and Instagram; a seemingly easy task. I have the pleasure of reading through countless tweets, replies and comments from people looking for a rise out of FinMango. I have even received some questionable direct messages on my personal accounts. I actually love everything about this; at FinMango, haters are, in fact, our motivators.

Alongside my responsibilities for our Data Project, I was responsible for all applicant hiring. I am especially careful when seeking out potential mangos. I ensure they (1) are genuinely interested, (2) understand our mission and why it is an issue, and (3) are likely to positively contribute to our greater cause. Many students ask me about FinMango so they can put it on their resume; the fact of the matter is, at FinMango, we don’t make room for those who don’t make room for us. Oh, and we also don’t make room for those who don’t wear masks and practice social distancing.

Over the Fall, I sought to speak to other students on campus at the Ohio State University about both the COVID pandemic and financial exclusion crisis. I found my passion for our mission almost one year ago, and maybe that’s why I have the ability to get others to FinMango like I do. Being immersed in such a supportive, progressive environment at FinMango has only benefited me positively. 

So, from mid-August to the end of October, I have been successful in seeking out, interviewing and onboarding five outstanding new mangoes. These talented individuals include: (1) Kevin D’Souza, who is naturally attentive to detail and always performs beyond expectations. (2) Bryce Chappelear, who input essential K-12 covid data at the last-minute per our CEO’s request and successfully saved the day. (3) Esha Sharma, who has an innate ability to multitask, pioneering FinMango’s first ever internally produced merchandise collection. (4) Dylan Forman and (5) Sam Holtzapple, who have only been involved for a few weeks’ time, have already collaborated with me in producing several videos that have been published since on our website. I could not have been happier with these wonderful mangos, who have also come to be some of my best friends.