SEATTLE (11/19/14)--Equality Washington, the Seattle-based initiative to open a credit union for the LGBTQ community, launched a $50,000 crowdfunding campaign Monday.
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The deadline for the fundraising goal is Dec. 17. The group plans to open Equality CU in the first half of next year, according the Northwest Credit Union Association (Anthem Nov. 18).
"The reinvestment that most financial institutions put back into the gay and lesbian community is really not comprehensive," Phillip Endicott, Equality Washington's founder and president, told News Now. "There's never been a bank or a credit union that focused exclusively on the LGBTQ community. We've found that there's a lot of support from people who have fought years and years for marriage equality, civil rights and health rights. It's an extremely loyal community."
The fundraising campaign is hosted on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo. Donations received will support the group's work to charter and found Equality CU, helping to pay for fundamentals such as the cost of attorneys and accountants, and for strategic initiatives such as outreach to potential members, partnership building and crafting a business plan.
Equality Washington has been working toward the chartering process for about eight months, according to Endicott. The group has formed a steering committee comprised of Seattle-area business leaders, including representatives from the financial services industry.
The group recently received its 501(c)(3) status from the Internal Revenue Service. Donations to the campaign are tax deductible. The credit union's field of membership will be open to anyone who lives, works or worships in the state of Washington, according to Endicott.
The credit union is seeking a state charter, Endicott said. The last credit union chartered by the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions Division of Credit Unions was TULIP Cooperative CU, Olympia, Wash., with $3 million in assets, which was chartered in October 2003.
Equality Washington recently conducted a survey of potential members through targeted distribution to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) and progressive organizations. Of those who responded, 82% said they would open accounts in the first year. Respondents also cited reinvestment in the community as the most important reason to open an account, and ownership of the credit union by its members as the second most important reason.
"Washington state has a great credit union tradition," Endicott said. "We want to be part of that tradition."
Equality Washington is in discussions with several local credit unions, exploring partnerships to expedite and support the chartering and founding process. Possibilities include merging with an existing credit union and being incubated or mentored by a larger credit union.