1. Training and events (select "training and events")
2. "CDFI Certification: A building block for CU Growth," a free white paper. Select "stay informed," "CUNA initiatives," and then "community credit unions."
National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions:
Fairfax (Va.) County FCU
For Fairfax (Va.) County Federal Credit Union, a CDFI certification seemed a natural fit. “We realized we could get recognition and grants for work we’d already been doing,” says Joe Thomas, president/CEO of the $280 million asset credit union.
The credit union is located in one of the wealthiest counties in the country, just outside Washington, D.C., but 72% of its members are low-income. Thus, the credit union has NCUA’s low-income designation, as well as the CDFI certification.
It obtained CDFI certification in 2009, after several years of reaching out to the growing local Hispanic community. “They needed a safe place to put their money,” Thomas says, “and an introduction to financial services.”
The credit union hired bilingual staff, incorporated bilingual technology into its branch services, and partnered with local Spanish-speaking media outlets to promote the credit union. Word spread and serving the needs of Hispanic members “just became part of what we do here,” Thomas says.
A grant from the National Credit Union Foundation furthered that outreach work, and a $1.5 million CDFI grant received in 2011 enabled the credit union to do even more. With the grant dollars, the credit union made affordable first mortgages to Hispanic members. While some of these members may have been able to get bank financing, Thomas notes, they would have paid higher interest rates and more points up front because of limited down payment amounts, past credit troubles, or other factors.
“We worked with individuals to make the loans possible,” he says. “We got the payments where they needed to be so people wouldn’t have to struggle to meet them.” In all, the credit union dispersed about 30 purchase mortgages within a one-year period.
Since obtaining the CDFI grant, the credit union has grown total assets by $33.7 million and loans by $50.7 million, with 77% of loans held by low-income members, as of year-end 2013.
When initially pursuing CDFI certification, Thomas recommends credit unions seek outside help from someone who knows the process and can guide you through it. The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions helped Fairfax County Federal.
Besides benefiting members directly, CDFI certification enables credit unions to work with other local partners to improve their communities. “The CDFI certification gives you credibility in your community with people who may not be familiar with how credit unions operate,” Thomas says.
For instance, when he meets with representatives from other local programs that must partner with CDFIs to carry out their work, they’re often surprised to find out Fairfax County Federal is a CDFI.
“They tell me they looked for months trying to find a CDFI institution to work with on a project,” Thomas says, “but they only looked at banks. They’d never thought of a credit union.”