Why do credit unions exist? It’s simple, according to Jeanne Kucey, president/CEO of $171 million asset JetStream Federal Credit Union in Miami Lakes, Fla.
“We exist to serve the people in our community,” she says.
Credit unions’ social responsibility is good for business, but more important, it’s good for the soul of an organization. It encourages a spirit of camaraderie among employees, inspires members, and can even motivate community citizens to do some good of their own.
“Credit unions have a business to run, but they also have a special mission. When you can leverage those two effectively, magic happens to help people meet their financial goals and achieve financial freedom,” says Gigi Hyland, executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation.
Giving back makes sense. Credit unions wouldn’t exist without their communities—and bettering your communities enhances the credit union.
“We’re established by the community. They’re the ones who live around here and have grown our business, and they’ve given us so much that we need to start giving back,” says Dillon Tardif, marketing manager of $150 million asset Seasons Federal Credit Union in Middletown, Conn.
Here’s a look at how credit unions are putting their special mission into action.
Work with foundations
Credit unions are finding success working with organizations specifically dedicated to making a community impact.
Many credit unions work with a state credit union foundation, which coordinates with the National Credit Union Foundation.
The Foundation works on issues such as building financial capability among adult members and children, and it provides training for credit union employees with the Credit Union Development Education (DE) Program. The Foundation also develops toolkits, programs, and resources to pass along to state foundations, which then trickle down to credit unions on the local level.
“An amazing amount of synergy exists in the network between the state credit union foundations and the national foundation that really helps credit unions do outreach in the community,” says Hyland.
The Foundation also can amplify the impact.
Because credit unions are “sometimes humble and forget to share their impact,” says Hyland, the Foundation works to share stories about what credit unions are doing in their local communities.
To take what individual credit unions are doing and to roll that up into a compelling story about how credit unions impact their communities is powerful, says Hyland. “We can aggregate it and pass it along to our advocates when appropriate.”
SIDEBAR: Community CUs of the Year
Community efforts are “the right thing to do,” but they also can “bring back a return on investment.” This is a concept Hyland calls “strategic philanthropy.”
That’s true at CAP COM Federal Credit Union in Albany, N.Y., says Amanda Goyer, the credit union’s foundation and public relations administrator.
The credit union greatly improved business after starting its own foundation—CAP COM Cares Foundation— in 2003.
“Since its inception, CAP COM has grown from a $388 million asset organization to a $1.2 billion asset organization,” says Goyer. The credit union attributes much of its growth to starting the foundation.
The CAP COM Cares Foundation has done everything from delivering Thanksgiving meals to families in need to holding charity golf tournaments to delivering backpacks filled with school supplies to children at local shelters and schools.
“Setting up our foundation has helped CAP COM truly embody the credit union philosophy of people helping people. It gives employees and members an avenue to do good things for others, which improves both employee and member retention,” says Goyer. “The foundation also enables us to establish partnerships with other local organizations. This is essential as we believe that partnerships are the heartbeat of a better community.”
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