In 2011, I worked with a microfinance group in Uganda (a SACCO, savings and credit cooperative) on ways to expand their working capital. Our solution was to mobilize savings, and to do that, we had to make savings easier and more affordable for our clientele, which consisted of rural and suburban customers.
We identified the barriers to saving as follows:
poor savings culture - public are not informed, public also do not trust banks
there is a perception that you have to be rich to save - people do not understand "incremental saving," or saving small amounts everyday
long distances to travel to banks to make deposits. If a customer wanted to make even a small deposit, it might be more expensive to travel to the bank than make the deposit itself!
Our group decided to provide interested clientele with savings literacy training and small, wooden lockboxes. These lockboxes would have a slot in top to insert coins and paper bills. The boxes could only be opened by our loan officer, who would come around once a week to houses, remove the savings deposit, and place the money in the client's account. Customers could only receive a lockbox after attending a 2-phase savings and financial literacy workshop.
This program boosted the MFI's working capital, allowing it to make more loans into the community. Ancillary effects to this program were widespread - interestingly enough, there was some social or peer effects that positively influenced savings deposits. When the loan officer came every week, there was some pressure to have at least something to give as a deposit. As a result, clients were more mindful of saving throughout the week.
Though it's not a silver bullet or a scalable solution, it did shed some interesting light on why people, especially in rural communities, don't save in traditional financial bodies.
Edit - Some questions were asked about more of the community effects around this intervention. I think that savings workshops and the act of giving a client the lockbox for free helped engender trust in the community. This was an area that had a high level of mistrust for MFI's and banks in general - a couple years before we started the project, there were two microfinance organizations that came in, and offered savings accounts with ludicrously high interest rates. Of course, once everyone came and made their deposits, these organizations simply took off with the money.
People were still wary of financial institutions a couple of years later. I think that after we overcame initial trust barriers, peer pressure from the community also helped to maintain savings culture among our clients - it was seen as a bit embarrassing not to give something into one's savings account.