As credit unions compete in the ever-growing field of financial services, they mustn’t lose sight of what sets them apart, and it’s not rates, fees, or mobile banking. Credit unions are cooperatives that, by definition, represent the interests of members united to serve a common purpose. In the case of credit unions, this purpose involves improving the lives of members, communities, and employees. Purpose is what sets credit unions apart.
Research from Harvard Business school and PR and marketing firm Edelman shows purpose-driven organizations attract employees as well as consumers. Credit unions across the country are leading with purpose to positively impact the lives of their members, communities, and employees — here are three stories to serve as inspiration for all.
This is one of three spotlights on credit union impact. Read more about member impact and employee impact.
Going Against Gentrification
Although the dividing line between what is Seattle's north and south sides is somewhat subjective, the differences, especially as they related to diversity, are clear, says Verity Credit Union ($763.1M, Seattle, WA) COO Justin Martin.
In 2010, the 98118 zip code on Seattle’s south side was the most diverse in the city, according to U.S. Census data. But a light rail station that opened in the zip code in 2009 contributed to a decline in diversity, and by 2020, Census data indicated the zip code was the fourth-most diverse in the Seattle area.
“With the light rail comes development,” Martin says. “With development tends to come gentrification and displacement. The cost of living goes up. All these things can have negative effects on the people who have historically lived in a place and made it a vibrant community.”
In 2019, Verity committed to building a branch as part of a mixed-use development project in Seattle’s south side, then jumped at the chance to finance a limited equity housing project in the hopes the model could serve as the future of affordable housing.
Read more in “Equity Housing Bridges A North-South Divide.”
To learn how Five Seattle credit unions are contributing the final piece of financing for an affordable housing project to serve the city’s residents, read “Seattle Credit Unions Invest Together In Affordable Housing.”
Better Neighborhoods One Affordable House At A Time
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, State Employees’ Credit Union ($51.0B, Raleigh, NC) created a CUSO that uses the resources and ethos of the nation’s second-largest credit union to turn foreclosures into single-family rentals and owner-occupied homes.
The property management CUSO is named SECU*RE, and its mission is to rehab SECU’s real estate owned (REO) properties and rent or sell them. The result is less loss to the credit union itself and, just as critically, more affordable housing and less neighborhood decay in the communities in which those houses are located.
As of Jan. 1, 2020, SECU*RE owned 1,546 properties with a market value of $221 million. As of July 1, it was managing 1,302 occupied rental units.
SECU’s creative rethinking of REOs has created better housing opportunities across the Tarheel State and protected the credit union’s investment in those properties.
Read more in “Rehab, Rent, Sell: A 3-Part Strategy To Fight Foreclosures.”
Support For Small Communities
Since 2015, SECU’s SECU Foundationhas connected college students with leaders in rural communities.
That’s when the foundation created an internship program that places rising sophomore and junior students at 15 North Carolina state universities with local leaders to obtain real-world work experience while giving back to communities. The SECU Public Fellows Intern Program also helps curb the brain drain that occurs when college graduates move from rural areas to larger metropolises.
“The concept was to curb that drain,” says Jama Campbell, senior vice president and executive director of SECU Foundation, the philanthropic arm of State Employees’ Credit Union. “Let’s get college kids interested in working for nonprofits or government entities in their hometowns or other small, rural communities in North Carolina.”
In 2018, the foundation partnered with a nonprofit to extend local government opportunities to recent graduates and for three years has placed high-achieving program participants into community government roles to plug the brain drain.
Read more in “Fellows Step Into Local Leadership Roles.”
Want more stories of credit union impact? CreditUnions.com has them! Click here to see a selection of stories that highlight strategies, initiatives, products, and services of credit unions making a positive impact for the members and communities they serve.