Opportunity exists for many credit unions to adopt the community development mission, says Pablo DeFilippi, director of membership for the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.
“This is real—it works and it fuels growth,” says DeFilippi, pointing to examples like Freedom First Federal Credit Union in Roanoke, Va.
DeFilippi says credit unions making the transition to a community development financial institution should:
►Adjust mindsets. The staff, board, and members need time to get used to the change.
►Understand the market. It’s not business as usual. Credit unions will need to learn and understand new communities and products. Mistakes will happen—learn from them and don’t give up.
►Reach out for assistance. Many credit unions go into this thinking they have to create something, and they get overwhelmed. Organizations like the Federation can help connect the credit union with existing products and solutions to serve low-income communities.
The end goal is to build something that will last, says DeFilippi.
“Serving low-income consumers is not a charitable activity. It’s a business that can be propelled and developed with outside resources,” he says. “But it has to work for your credit union. If it’s not sustainable, it will disappear if outside funding goes away. Our responsibility is to build something that endures.”