There’s No Wrong Way To Make An Impact

Three simple steps to make a difference and measure your credit union’s impact.

More and more, credit unions are using impact to highlight their mission and underscore their relevance in the communities they serve; they are using impact to tell their story. But measuring impact can be a daunting task. Where does one start? How can one be sure they are measuring the right things? What’s the next step after measuring and tracking performance? How can credit unions use this data to expand their positive impact on employees, members, communities, and the environment?

Here are three steps your credit union can take today to start defining and measuring its own impact.

1. Reframe Your Mindset

In working with credit unions that participate in Callahan & Associates’ Impact Network, I’ve seen people repeatedly express feelings similar to impostor syndrome. Coined by Suzanne Imes, PhD, impostor syndrome occurs when individuals — often high achievers — doubt their talents and fear being exposed as a fraud.
When it comes to credit union impact, impostor syndrome can take many forms. See if any of these sound familiar:

  • “We don’t have the ability to give away millions of dollars to our community, we probably don’t have much impact.”
  • “We’re much smaller in asset size than other credit unions, so we probably have less impact than larger credit unions.”
  • “I’m just a board member/senior leader/middle manager. What could I possibly do to make an impact?”

The truth is, all credit unions have an impact on employees, members, communities, and the environment just by nature of the credit union mission. If you have any doubt about whether your credit union is able to make an impact, revisit the eight cooperative principles. As you read through, reflect on the ways your institution embodies these principles.

2. Identify Needs To Maximize Impact

Not knowing where to start can often be a function of decision fatigue; when there are so many places that deserve attention, how does one know how to prioritize efforts? A needs assessment is great place to start.

What do your employees need to become thriving members of the community? Maybe your credit union could offer employees the chance to develop professionally and grow within the organization. Maybe your credit union could offer a flexible work schedule to help employees attend college or care for loved ones.

What do your members need to become thriving members of the community? Maybe your credit union could devise more member-centric policies, even if they might be unorthodox. Maybe your credit union could find ways to serve the financial needs of all members, even if they don’t have a social security number.

What do your communities and your larger environment need? Maybe your credit union can provide volunteer assistance beyond the holiday season. Maybe your credit union can offer loan programs that have a positive environmental impact, such as for solar panels or electric vehicles. How and where your credit union starts should depend on the needs of your community. has the inspiration you need to improve your credit union’s impact. Check out stories that highlight strategies, initiatives, products, and services of credit unions making a positive impact on the members and communities they serve. Read more today.

3. Don’t Go It Alone

Implementing impact strategies can be an overwhelming task, especially when placed on top of daily duties and responsibilities. Consider who you might be able to partner with to not only share the load but also ensure momentum and continuity. Internally, this might look like developing an impact team to share the responsibilities of needs assessments, strategy implementation, data collection, and storytelling. Find others who are passionate about the impact team’s mission. Creating a culture of impact is key to ensuring success.

External partnerships might mean working with other organizations that specialize in your credit union’s areas of focus. For example, local, county, and state governments collect and provide high-level data on issues that affect the underserved; these reports can help your credit union assess the needs of its community. The National Urban League offers a host of programs and initiatives that credit unions can support or replicate in their own communities, such as those focused on financial empowerment, healthcare access, housing security, and more.

When it comes to industry partnerships, Callahan & Associates can help take the stress out of data collection, allowing you to focus on telling your story to internal stakeholders and the community at large. Many state leagues also offer ways to further your impact — the CUFinHealth initiative, co-hosted by the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues and the National Credit Union Foundation, is one example. Our industry is a collaborative one; use that to your advantage in your impact implementation strategy.

Just as no two credit unions are exactly alike, no two impact strategies will be alike. There are countless ways your institution can make a difference — the important thing is to just get started. As the old saying goes, “there’s only one way to eat an elephant — one bite at a time!”

October 15, 2022

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