Thanksgiving is a time for reflection, and for giving back. One Iowa credit union has taken the movement’s mantra of “people helping people” to heart through a program that empowers people of limited means to save toward the purchase of a wealth-building asset and achieve self-sufficiency.
Dupaco Community Credit Union ($1.3B, Dubuque, IA) established the Dupaco MoneyMatch program with the support and funding of both the Iowa Credit Union Foundation and the Dupaco R.W. Hoefer Foundation. The credit union helps participants in the program set up a special savings account called an individual development account, or IDA. The cooperative works with participants to establish a specific funding goal and supports them through regular financial education and coaching. Through partnership with the two foundations, savings are matched dollar for dollar up to an individual’s savings goal.
“We have dubbed the Dupaco MoneyMatch, ‘the account that matches your effort,’” says Michelle Becwar, lead education impact architect for Dupaco. “It’s an asset-building tool designed to help low-income families save toward wealth-building assets such as a home, starting a small business, paying for education, or purchasing a vehicle.”
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Dupaco has provided nearly $45,000 in matching funds to individuals in the program since it began in 2009. There currently are 21 active MoneyMatch accounts with a total balance of about $9,500, or about $450 each on average. Becwar notes that the larger balances belong to the members nearing the end of the program while the smaller balances belong to those just starting out.
Dupaco’s MoneyMatch program helped Dubuque’s Delora Beal buy a car, easing the stress of her daily commute to work and enabling her to apply for a position that requires more extensive travel.
Over the course of a year, Beal deposited $50 from each paycheck into her Dupaco IDA, ultimately socking away a total of $1,900, which the Iowa Credit Union Foundation matched 100%. These funds, coupled with an auto loan from Dupaco, allowed her to purchase a 2004 Dodge Intrepid.
“For many people, purchasing a vehicle may allow them to strive for better career opportunities and higher income,” Becwar says. “In this case, the company really liked Delora, really wanted to help her, but the position required her to be able to travel. She systematically saved money and the Dupaco MoneyMatch matched her savings account. She was able to purchase a vehicle and she actually did receive the promotion.”
A Focus On Financial Education
In her role as lead education impact architect, Becwar manages the credit union’s educational outreach efforts and partnerships. Dupaco has long focused on delivering in-person financial education seminars to its members and the local community. Recently, the cooperative has expanded its educational program to include on-demand content and webinars.
“We’re working on developing different educational content that our members can access themselves, whether it’s through our website or other online channels,” Becwar says. “As our membership has grown, we wanted to find a way for members to access educational content on their time versus trying to fit it into when an in-person seminar was running.”
And by partnering with foundations that have a similar mission — such as the Dupaco R.W. Hoefer Foundation and the Iowa Credit Union Foundation — Dupaco is able to meet its own financial educational goals much more efficiently.
Four years ago, the credit union established the Dupaco R.W. Hoefer Foundation to honor longtime Dupaco Community Credit Union president and CEO, Robert W. “Bob” Hoefer. Its mission is to provide personal financial assistance and coaching to help Dupaco members and the general public develop financial stability.
A 501(c)3 organization, the foundation accepts tax-deductible donations from Dupaco employees and members, as well as individuals, corporations, and other entities. The foundation’s board of directors approves grants twice a year based primarily on need.
According to its website, the Iowa Credit Union Foundation (ICUF) was founded in 1995 with a mission “to help Iowans build wealth, responsibility and independence, with the vision to eliminate poverty in the state of Iowa.”
The support of partner organizations is a major asset in sustaining accounts and other initiatives that have a lasting impact on not only a credit union’s membership but also its community. And Becwar has some advice for credit unions that are looking to start their own IDA program.
“Put your members’ best interest first,” she says. “Build off your own culture, your own foundation, and just start.
It isn’t only about matching funds for one asset; it’s about providing the individual with the knowledge and skills to better their financial position at every stage of their life.
Partnerships Create A Multiplier Effect
“If you’re looking to partner with organizations, choose one that has a support network built in,” Becwar advises.
Dupaco partners with several Dubuque-based community organizations, including the HEART Bridge program alliance and the Circles Initiative.
Through the HEART Bridge, Dupaco Community Credit Union and the Dupaco R.W. Hoefer Foundation annually contribute direct matching contributions totaling more than $10,000 as well as staff expertise and operational support to the Housing Education and Rehabilitation Training (HEART) Program.
The HEART Program was established 12 years ago by non-profit organization Four Mounds, whose mission is to preserve and educate, to teach trade skills to at-risk Dubuque-area high schoolers. The new HEART Bridge partnership enhances the existing program through hands-on learning, financial education, and savings goals modeled on Dupaco’s IDA program.
The Circles Initiative is a national movement that helps families escape the cycle of poverty by connecting them with volunteers and community leaders.
“The Circles Initiative has a support network built into their organization,” Becwar says. “They’re able to help the members who are involved in the Dupaco MoneyMatch at a level that we can’t, so it’s a great partnership that way.”
Ermina Soler was employed as a coach with the Dubuque chapter of the Circles Initiative when she first heard about Dupaco’s MoneyMatch program and learned she qualified for the program herself. Dupaco representatives helped her enroll and set up an IDA to save toward her first home. She saved $4,000 and — with the dollar-for-dollar match and a mortgage loan from Dupaco — purchased a three-bedroom home, becoming the first homeowner in her immediate family.
“People helping people, we live it every day,” Becwar says. “It’s motivating because you start with one person and it builds.”
For Dupaco, helping means addressing many components of financial wellness. And Becwar stresses the success of the MoneyMatch program is tied closely with the financial education component.
“It isn’t only about matching funds for one asset; it’s about providing the individual with the knowledge and skills to better their financial position at every stage of their life,” Becwar says. “The financial education is key to the success of the program. We tie all of these initiatives back to Dupaco’s mission: to improve our members’ financial positions.”
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Source: Callahan & Associates.