Building strong communities through corporate social responsibility

Building strong communities through corporate social responsibility

Focus giving on diversity, equity, and inclusion to increase impact.

December 10, 2018

December is a popular time for giving. This time of year, we tend to become more aware of those in need, and it’s a great time to reflect on how we give to our communities year-round.

As an employee of CUNA Mutual Group, I am proud and humbled by the generosity of the people I work with every day, and I’m proud of the company I work for. Time and time again, I see that when we lift others up, we lift ourselves up.

Our company has a long history of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate giving —we recently celebrated 50 years of the CUNA Mutual Group Foundation—and one thing we’ve learned is the needs of yesterday aren’t necessarily the needs of tomorrow. We need to shift.

Over the past three years, our organization has increased its focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. By filtering our work through this lens, we’ve seen positive—and often unexpected—outcomes. The same is true for CSR and how we serve the non-profit community.

Our purpose is to help people achieve financial security. But without access to the basics like food, affordable housing, and educational opportunities, people can’t feel financially secure.

If we are to live our purpose, we must elevate people in our communities to a place where they can achieve and maintain financial security—and we can do that by partnering with organizations that help people access those basic needs and build skills to create stability.

Being more intentional with our charitable efforts and ensuring a better financial future is accessible to everyone can be beneficial—not only for the organizations that receive our support, but also for our community, and for us.

Here are a few advantages we’ve seen from more purposeful giving:

  • Increased employee engagement. A purpose-driven environment builds a culture where employees feel represented and connected to their organization.
  • Increased ability to attract and retain a diverse talent pool. When our actions and our environment mirror the customers, consumers, and communities we serve, we attract a broader candidate pool.
  • Positive economic influence. Financially insecure people aren’t always able to contribute to their local economies, often living paycheck to paycheck. However, when we elevate them financially, they can begin their own journey toward financial security. They can join a credit union and start to grow wealth. They can build credit and apply for loans. They can start saving. They can start protecting their wealth and their loved ones. And, ultimately, they can become supportive members of their own communities.
  • Sustainable operations. Improving our bottom line is never our foundation’s primary goal. However, we’ve found that by supporting our community and providing financial solutions that allow people to achieve financial security, our operations stay strong so we can sustain our efforts in the long run.

Sometimes, one drop creates a ripple that is felt far and wide. Credit unions know this well, being among the first to make financial resources—and hope—accessible and available to all people in their communities.

Could a small but intentional shift in your philanthropic efforts help you reap unexpected rewards as well? It’s worth taking a look.

When we all play our part in building strong communities, everyone can thrive.

CEDRIC ELLIS is president of the CUNA Mutual Group Foundation and executive vice president of enterprise services at CUNA Mutual Group.