While researching ideas for a speech last month at the CUES Directors’ Conference, I was struck by the varied and exciting ways that credit unions have made an impact in their local communities. No longer content to work with just one member at a time, the credit unions in the case studies featured below are all looking to leverage other resources in the community to make an impact that will be felt for generations to come. These credit unions partnered with universities, local non-profits, small business incubators, food cooperatives, and others to show that "people helping people" can be a catalyst for growth and prosperity for entire communities.
Read on for inspiration that your credit union can leverage in 2015.
New Mexico Educators donated $3 million to the University of New Mexico (UNM) in support of Innovate ABQ, an initiative that marries the city and state’s capacity for research with its business community to create and develop companies, grow a culture of innovation, and attract workers and capital to the state. Innovate ABQ promises to take a Slow Money approach, which stresses the importance of long-term benefits and sustainable business plans over rapid ROI. It's a philosophy that mirrors financial cooperatives.
With roughly 11,600 members and two branches, Santa Cruz Community Credit Union is living proof that even small organizations can have a huge impact. The credit union has a thriving member business loan portfolio composed of loans reflecting the diverse needs of the community’s many startups and small-to-midsize businesses. In addition, it has a sister 501(c)(3) organization, Community Ventures, that helps businesses secure additional funding outside the credit unions’ scope and provides a wider range of consumer offerings, financial education, and practical assistance for underserved groups.
Partnerships with food cooperatives have become a sweet spot for credit unions, and a look at five strategies show how working with non-FI cooperatives can be a profitable investment in not only the community but also the credit union. This article showcases five partnerships with various forms and benefits — such as ATM locations, loan growth, joint marketing ventures, and credit card offers.
Often overlooked, local colleges and universities offer credit unions a ready source of available talent from students who need real-world experience. That talent typically comes in one of two forms: undergraduate internships or a graduate-level course in which students consult on specific projects. This feature provides tactical advice from both a credit union that has gone this route and MBA professors who set up the partnerships.
Looking north across the Canadian border for inspiration, I found the story of Ontario’s Northern Credit Union, which uses crowdfunding to serve needs that exist beyond what the financial cooperative can accomplish through its own direct business lending. As part of its $2.8 million infrastructure and brand reinvention, Northern created a website — TrueNorthStrong.ca — that funnels community donations directly to local organizations and businesses. In many cases, the credit union also matches the funds collected.
This article highlights three ways credit unions are partnering with third parties to help the small business market. DCU set up a shared workspace in downtown Boston, the DCU Center of Excellence in Financial Services; Hope Credit Union partnered with the University of Arkansas to open a branch at an off-site incubator and helped create the Fast Track curriculum for the incubator; and Redwood CU committed up to $1 million to qualified graduates of CAP Sonoma's 18-week financial education program.