A Coteau Valley Federal Credit Union member had a credit report that included multiple small debts—each under $700—on his credit report.
After setting up payroll deduction, the man was able to save $25 per week to put toward the outstanding debts. Within 18 months, he’d paid off all the debts and his credit score went from 540 to 720.
“It was so easy for him because it wasn’t anything he had to change,” says Katie Bredvik, president/CEO at the $15 million asset credit union in Sisseton, S.D. “He just had to keep his $25 coming here and leave it. It’s great to get those members in here that see that and understand that we’re trying to help them.”
It’s an opportunity the four-person staff at Coteau Valley Federal experiences regularly. Located in the heart of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Reservation, about 85% of the credit union’s 2,000 members are Native Americans.
“They haven’t had the privilege of generations and generations of parents who have taught them to save money, or what CDs are, or that with loans you want low interest rates,” Bredvik says.
These moments of providing education and awareness are key to serving Native American members.
“That culture still primarily utilizes cash,” says Katie Nehl, communications manager at $1.2 billion asset First Community Credit Union in Jamestown, N.D. “Our staff prides themselves on making sure our members understand how they can build and repair their credit, what financial options are available to them, and how they can improve their financial well-being."
Not only does providing a clear, understandable explanation inform members, it goes a long way toward building trust and relationships with members.
“Once you get through to them, they’re never going to forget it,” Bredvik says. “It doesn’t matter what it is after that, they’re going to ask for you every single time. They’re loyal to a T.”
Those relationships and level of trust is further solidified by being present in the community, says Nehl.
First Community has several branches across North Dakota and Minnesota, including several that are located near the Spirit Lake and Turtle Mountain reservations in North Dakota. When not providing financial services, Nehl says First Community staff volunteer in the community, whether it’s participating in parades, volunteering with local organizations, or being involved in the school’s reading fair.
“It’s important to be in the communities we serve,” Nehl says. “Not just talking about financial education, but being there, getting to know the people you serve, and seeing what the communities are like.”