USC Credit Union enlisted the help of Ally Bank and Citibank to launch a fund aimed specifically at helping struggling organizations making a difference in Los Angeles.
In its first year, the fund provided 18 $5,000 college scholarships as well as micro-grants to grassroots organizations.
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.”
According to the Los Angeles Business Federation, roughly 90% of businesses in LA County stated their revenue had been severely impacted by the end of 2020. Nearly half of Los Angeles area businesses were on track to lose 50% or more of their projected revenue that year. And according to CalMatters, a non-profit organization for policy and politics in California, more than 2.4 million people fell through the cracks of local Los Angeles programs aimed at helping gig workers. Unfortunately, these numbers don’t even include the undocumented workers who qualify for neither unemployment nor Coronavirus stimulus checks.
USC realized it needed to help in an unconventional way, and it looked for some unconventional partners. The credit union reached out to other financial institutions, including Ally Bank — the Sandy, UT-headquartered auto, mortgage, and credit card juggernaut — as well as the $1.6 billion Citibank, which has 275 branches in California alone, 127 of those in the Los Angeles basin.
“They wanted to get funds into the community, and we had the vehicle to make it happen,” Flores says. “It was so hyper-local for LA, and it was perfect timing.”
The Allied Impact Fund launched with money from the credit union as well as hefty contributions from Ally Bank and Citibank. The fund’s goal is to make long-term investments in East and South LA communities via financial tools, literacy, and accessibility.
“Ally gave a $10,000 charitable contribution in 2020 to invest in USC Credit Union Foundation’s Allied Impact Fund, which provides micro-grants to low- and moderate-income individuals and entrepreneurs,” says Jan Bergeson, Ally’s CRA officer.
Citibank made an initial donation of $25,000.
CU QUICK FACTS
USC CREDIT UNION
HQ: Los Angeles, CA
Data as of 03.31.22
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 7.1%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 3.8%
These donations combined with $90,000 of USC Credit Union’s own funds enabled the cooperative to not only provide 18 $5,000 college scholarships but also give money to grassroots organizations in the form of micro-grants.
The credit union wants to support organizations that struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic yet still are making a difference in LA. The Rightway Foundation is one such organization. It helps former foster youth obtain proper training for sustainable jobs. The organization also wants to help former foster youth secure temporary housing, and the funding it received from the Allied Impact Fund last year helped it begin that program and grow it into something that is now flourishing.
Other recipients last year include Street Vendors United, a collaborative organization that helps more than 100 local food vendors with sanitation training and regulatory guidance.
“All of these organizations were doing good work in our community,” Flores says. “They were already very bold in what they were doing to support others.”
For the Allied Impact Fund, this is just the beginning.
“There are so many organizations that align with what we believe in, and there’s a need for an alliance to bring community leaders together,” Flores says. “The power of collaboration is powerful. We want the credit union to be a partner they can count on.”
What began as a simple idea to funnel funds to those in need has grown into so much more. The fund has earned the respect of the partners , which set aside differences in business models to work toward a common good.
“The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the need for financial institutions of all sizes to work together to support our communities,” says Vera Moore, a community relations leader at Citi. “I’m proud to see Citi’s support could help the Allied Impact Fund provide local nonprofits and the communities they serve with immediate relief as well as longer-term economic recovery.”
With a sharp focus and specific goals, plus the combined power of banks and credit unions working together, the Allied Impact Fund is reaching new heights.
“We want to keep this going,” Flores says. “We’re looking at other organizations that align with the mission of the credit union to support the community so we can work together to build a better future.”
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