GREAT FALLS, Mont. (1/14/14)--A credit union based in Great Falls, Mont., saved its members a significant amount on loans while simultaneously expanding its loan portfolio and giving back to the community.
Russell County FCU said it has refinanced 607 loans, benefiting members by more than $1 million, and used the additional business to give $6,500 to community charities (Great Falls Tribune Jan. 10).
The effort, known as the Unity Project, started with the $61 million-asset credit union asking employees and members to talk about the program with friends and family who used lines of credit elsewhere. Each new referral between May and December, the credit union said, then voted for an organization eligible to receive a donation.
The Unity Project ended up raising $3,000 for Great Falls Public Schools Foundation Homeless Students Program, $1,500 for Kairos Youth Services, and $2,000 for the YWCA Mercy Home--a domestic abuse shelter for women and children.
Meanwhile, members who refinanced loans reported significant gains. One member, who refinanced a mortgage, two car loans and consolidated credit-card debt, reportedly is saving $80,071. Another saved $15,000 in interest charges after consolidating a loan taken out for a truck repair, according to the Great Falls Tribune report.
According to research from the Credit Union National Association, the combination of higher yields on savings, lower loan interest rates and lower fees translated into $5.8 billion worth of benefits to credit union members in 2012. Non-members benefit from credit unions' presence in the financial markets to the tune of $2.2 billion per year.
The Mercy Home told the Great Falls Tribune that it would spend most of the Russell Country donation on renovations. The public schools foundation said it was planning to spend at least $100 on clothes for a student who has been couch-surfing for two years.