Impact Strategies From May 2022

Rates alone won’t cut it. To remain relevant today, tomorrow, and for years to come, credit unions must make an impact in the lives of their members and communities. These stories featured in the past month of CreditUnions.com show how.

 

 

CreditUnions.com has the inspiration leaders need to improve their credit union's impact. Check out stories below featured recently that highlight strategies, initiatives, products, and services of credit unions making a positive impact for the members and communities they serve.

Brother, Can You Spare A Dollar?

In 2004, North Carolinians witnessed the birth of a philanthropic organization that has had a profound impact on the lives of millions: the SECU Foundation from State Employees’ Credit Union ($53.1B, Raleigh, NC). During the course of the past 18 years, the foundation and its impact have grown, but it has remained laser-focused on four key areas: education, health care, housing, and human services.

“Credit unions have historically been the ones that are boots on the ground and making a positive difference in our communities in a big way,” says Leigh Brady, SECU’s chief operating officer. “Our foundation formalizes our philanthropic efforts and our ability to make those big differences.”

Read more in “What A Difference A Dollar Makes.” 

Diving Into Downtown

A partnership involving Lake Trust Credit Union ($2.5B, Brighton, MI) not only allows budding entrepreneurs to test new business ideas but also provides a retail space where those projects can thrive.

In late 2021, Lake Trust partnered with Downtown Lansing, Inc. — an economic development group headquartered in the capital city’s central business district — to create the Downtown Lansing Middle Village Micro Market. The pairing makes sense. The credit union is certified as a Community Development Financial Institution and also was headquartered downtown until its 2015 move to nearby Brighton. It opened a new branch near the Lansing city center during the summer of 2021.

The roots of the partnership date back to early 2021, when Downtown Lansing leaders came up with the idea for an incubator space where new businesses can test their viability. The organization secured an 1,800-square-foot space during the fall, and the space now serves as an incubator atmosphere for startups as well as shop space for more seasoned retailers.

“We believe in community wellbeing and financial wellbeing,” says Theresa Dubiel, Lake Trust’s senior vice president of member experience and business development. “The opportunity to have a space that is rent-free to provide an opportunity to explore and find your place is what this program is all about.”

Read more in “Lake Trust Nurtures Local Entrepreneurs.” 

DC Credit Union Delivers On Youth Programming

Over the course of nearly a dozen years, a financial education program from DC Credit Union ($82.6M, Washington, DC) has impacted the lives of thousands of youngsters in the nation’s capital.

Launched in 2010, DC Credit Union’s Summer Youth Employment Program was designed to provide banking services for teenagers holding down their first jobs — primarily those between the ages of 16 and 18 — but the initiative proved so popular that after its first year the credit union expanded the age range from 14 to 24.

The program is part of a partnership with Bank On DC, and organizers at the credit union envisioned it as a way to not only help DC teens — and later young adults — develop savings accounts and financial literacy but also expose them to the benefits of credit union membership.

“We needed to engage and keep the attention of our new young members,” says LaTesha Wheeler, the credit union’s youth outreach coordinator. “We found that once you lose their attention and interest, it’s like starting all over again.”

Read more in “DC Credit Union’s Decade Of Changing Young Lives.” 

A Shift To Purpose

Credit unions wrapped up 2021 in historic fashion, reaching a series of milestones that reflect their focus on serving members. Among the many notable metrics, the industry recorded a 5.4 million annual increase in membership, opened a record 4.5 million share draft accounts, originated a record $795 billion in loans to members, and crossed $2 trillion in assets.

As 2022 nears the halfway point, the balance sheet is well positioned to build on that momentum with ample liquidity, asset quality at historically strong levels, an industrywide net worth ratio exceeding 10%, and the highest industry ROA in nearly 20 years.

Given the challenges the pandemic has presented during the past two years, these results are particularly outstanding. Credit union staff and members had to quickly adopt new ways of doing business when the pandemic emerged. Today, the country has navigated through the delta and omicron surges, and mask mandates are being lifted in areas that once had some of the tightest restrictions. A more normal way of life seems to be returning; however, the pandemic has taught us to be prepared for changing conditions.

Read more in this commentary from Jay Johnson, chief collaboration officer at Callahan & Associates, “Credit Unions Are Prioritizing Purpose As The Pandemic Wanes.” 

New Opportunities In A Post-COVID World

The COVID-19 pandemic was an unexpected catalyst for change at the SECU Foundation, allowing the nonprofit to expand its sphere of influence while also changing its operations model to gain some efficiencies.

“We’re forever changed because the grantees we’re here to support have had to do their work very differently and manage their nonprofits very differently,” says Jama Campbell, the foundation’s executive director.

Before COVID-19, the foundation had already started focusing more on programmatic funding, but the pandemic accelerated those efforts, says Scott Southern, vice president, director of grants administration. For example, the pandemic offered new opportunities for collaborations with groups the foundation hadn’t previously worked with, such as a $2.5 million grant for the North Carolina Healthcare Foundation that helped meet needs related to personal protective equipment, mental health services for healthcare employees, and more.

Read more in “How COVID-19 Pushed The SECU Foundation Beyond Its Comfort Zone.”

Beyond The Office Walls

AmeriCU Credit Union ($2.6B, Rome, NY) was founded on Griffiss Air Force Base in 1950. At that time, it served only civilian members. Today — after two mergers, three name changes, and a charter conversion — the credit union serves members of the armed forces, veterans, and their families as well as Department of Defense employees and retirees.

According to its website, AmeriCU strives to provide “convenience, services, and value.” As part of its Enhanced Military Benefits program, it offers one-day early advanced pay for direct deposits, ATM fee rebates, pre-approvals on credit cards or personal lines of credit, special loan programs and discounts, and fraud alerts. But that’s not all. The cooperative’s Fort Drum team also attends middle-of-the-night homecomings and shows up for military spouses and children in other ways as well.

Read more in “Supporting The Military Is More Than A Job At AmeriCU.” 

Unlikely Allies In Los Angeles

An unlikely trio has teamed up in Los Angeles to help struggling retailers adapt to the ever-changing post-pandemic business environment. The triple combination of USC Credit Union, Ally Bank, and Citibank have provided more than $125,000 so far to help students with scholarships and aid struggling businesses evolve in a new and ever-changing environment. The combination of resources for a common good has given way to a new hybrid way of giving — called the Allied Impact Fund.

In early 2020, USC Credit Union ($767.7M, Los Angeles, CA) began an internal conversation about establishing a foundation as a more efficient way to raise funds and contribute to community groups beyond providing scholarships. As the grips of the pandemic set in, however, the credit union rethought its intent and how it could serve its struggling community in a more meaningful way than simply doling out dollars.

“Covid or not, we are all in a time of rebuilding,” says Rocio Flores, chief social impact officer at USC and leader of the Allied Impact Fund. “The world of community-based organizations, helping people stand on their own, is where we can help.”

Read more in “USC Credit Union Teams Up For Community Impact.”

What Does The Data Say?

Peoples Advantage Federal Credit Union ($92.3M, Petersburg, VA) is more effectively meeting its mission as a community development financial institution thanks to a deeper dive into data analytics.

The credit union completed a core conversion in October 2020, automating a data analysis process that was previously managed through manual extracts and separate uploads to an analytics platform. Although PAFCU still uses the same analytics platform, the core conversion automated the uploading process. The end result, says CEO Amanda Habansky, is that rather than focusing on a time-consuming process of pulling data, staff and management can focus on what that data tells them.

For example, to maintain CDFI certification, the credit union must ensure membership and lending are targeting designated CDFI census tracts. The data lets the team do this.

“For us, it was kind of like hope and pray that when the certification time comes we have the right strategy and the right target,” Habansky says of the old method. “Now we can look at our membership and our loan origination month over month and know exactly where they are.”

Read more in “Data Analytics Delivers On A CDFI Mandate.” 

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