We founded Propel out of a deep desire to improve services for families often overlooked by consumer technology. Our business model aligns purpose and profit by connecting EBT participants to money-saving and income-generating opportunities. Some partners pay for these services and others are in-kind. Whether paid or unpaid, we vet all partners. We select partners who provide tangible positive value to SNAP participants, who can help us responsibly and intentionally provide SNAP participants with tools to improve their financial health.
In this post, we share our framework for selecting partners.
We never share or sell EBT transaction data or personal information about our users.
We never store users’ personally identifying information like EBT card numbers, usernames, PINs, passwords, SSNs, or any other information used to create or sign into an account. (For more detailed information, see How Fresh EBT protects personal information.)
We abide by standard advertising practices modeled after protocols in place for other public advertising platforms like public transit systems. These include never advertising firearms, tobacco products or alcohol. We do not allow any information that is obscene, discriminatory, fraudulent, misleading, or deceptive. We do not allow ads that route users to websites that violate any of these terms. We screen all partners to ensure that they are not predatory and that they act in good faith.
Beyond the basics: adhering to a social mission.
SNAP participants use Fresh EBT on a regular basis, including at the most vulnerable, financially insecure times of the month. Compelled by a commitment to both do good and do no harm, we must go further than the basics.
Fresh EBT is not an open advertising platform. Every piece of content shared via Fresh EBT is reviewed, selected, and written by a human on our staff. Every partner is reviewed to ensure the partner acts in good faith, provides value to the user, and provides a high-quality user experience.
Screen 1: Does the potential partner always act in good faith?
To act in good faith toward Fresh EBT users means delivering the promised value and savings as stated, never acting predatory in any way, and providing clear terms of service.
To apply this screen to our prospective partners, our team will often talk to field experts to ensure the company is who they say they are, read customer reviews, and purchase and use the product when applicable.
Screen 2: Does the service or opportunity provide tangible value to users?
Fresh EBT exists to support EBT cardholders in exercising agency to improve their financial health. Fresh EBT supports users in these goals with budgeting tools and support, opportunities to save money, and opportunities to earn additional income. We strive to make the value to users as tangible as possible.
Examples include products that:
- Allow users to save immediately on groceries (e.g., coupons, FINI grant programs at farmers markets, and grocery stores).
- Provide opportunities to save money on basic services (e.g., discounted broadband, Lifeline phone service), often because of clients’ status as SNAP participants.
- Connect users to jobs and opportunities to earn money (e.g., direct employers, gig platforms, skills-development nonprofits, and social enterprise companies).
- Help users save and earn (e.g., low-cost recipes, free events).
Screen 3: Are the services accessible on a phone?
Customer experience matters. We commit to providing content to users that’s not only trustworthy and relevant but also easy to access on a phone.
We screen for this by testing every website we share on Fresh EBT ourselves to ensure the information displays correctly on all devices. We also test calls to action (e.g. clip a coupon, apply for a job, learn more here) to confirm they are easy to complete on a phone.
For example, when we first started sharing job opportunities on Fresh EBT we quickly found that a number of employment applications are difficult to complete on a phone. Before sharing, we go through the flow of completing the job application. For applications that are easier to complete on desktop, we offer a “send to myself” option. However, knowing that low-income Americans are almost three times as likely to apply for a job on their phone as the average smartphone user, we also regularly provide feedback to partners on how to improve their application flow. And, we prioritize employment partners who provide a high-quality experience.
A work in progress.
Unlike other advertising channels, Propel not only vets all partners, paid and unpaid, for-profit and not-for-profit, but we also self-source content to fill in the gaps. We ask SNAP participants and Fresh EBT users what information they are seeking. We survey industry experts and partners to stay on top of trends and opportunity areas. And if paying partners do not fill these gaps, we will often curate relevant content ourselves — everything from information about discounts for EBT cardholders at museums to free resume writing and job coaching support at a local job center to healthy recipes for the budget-conscious. We also share seasonally relevant content such as free tax prep support during tax season and summer meal sites during the summer months.
Just as we have designed Fresh EBT to be responsive to consumer needs, we are constantly tweaking our partner framework to ensure the best outcomes for SNAP participants using Fresh EBT. We rely on ongoing input from Fresh EBT users as well as our partners and industry experts to get it right. We welcome your feedback and input. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Propel, the company behind Fresh EBT, is a team of technologists, advocates, and engineers motivated by the desire to use technology to create social impact at scale. We built Fresh EBT — a free mobile app — to create a beautiful and easy digital experience for SNAP participants because we believe that low-income Americans deserve world-class attention to design and usability in the products they use.