What Has More Value: Quantitative Data Or Qualitative Conversation?

An impact benchmark is a worthwhile endeavor, but community impact doesn’t stop — or even start — with a number.

Roughly six months ago, Callahan & Associates began collecting community impact data to help quantify what we believe to be a fundamental fact about the movement — that credit unions can and do impact their communities in meaningful ways.

At that time, we wanted to provide credit unions with data to help them tell their story differently. We knew our initial efforts wouldn’t yield results with which we were completely satisfied, but we were confident we’d learn something and could determine whether we were on the right path.

To design our initial set, we scoured impact reports, surveyed the industry, and spoke with credit union executives across the country. Our goal during these months of research was to understand what community impact means to credit unions and then design a way to create an initial baseline.

What we didn’t expect was that the mere process of designing, vetting, and pulling community impact data would have the power to spur action. But it has.

Although creating an impact benchmark is a worthwhile endeavor, we realized we shouldn’t stop there and, frankly, we shouldn’t start there, either.

To harness the power of this data, to foster conversation, and to encourage collaboration, community-impact minded credit union executives need a network of likeminded leaders to learn from other’s successes and setbacks, work together on new initiatives, and motivate one other to keep moving forward.

That’s why Callahan is building the Impact Network, a group of impassioned credit unions that are helping define impact metrics and standards, sharing their perspectives and practices, and evolving the credit union story.

Credit unions are an invaluable asset to their members and communities. The goal of Callahan’s impact initiative is to empower credit unions to better articulate their value through a mission-focused lens with the help of new metrics and best practices.Join today.

When we asked these credit unions to define impact, they offered a range of perspectives, including:

  • The ability to dramatically improve the lives of individual members and the collective community through leveraging the power of the financial cooperative.
  • Improving the financial lives of our members to make our communities better places to live, work, and play.
  • A Force for Good that ensures that everything we do and offer works to provide a measurable positive difference in the lives of our members, our employees and the communities we operate in.
  • Making a (Positive) difference in the lives of our members, our employees, and our community, both now and in the future.

Credit unions serve their members based on their own distinct missions. What counts as impact for one SEG might not apply to another. However, during our research, themes did emerge around employees, members, communities, and the environment.

These four categories represent a common set of stakeholders across the industry, although the metrics under these categories vary widely. So, Callahan again surveyed credit union leaders and reviewed impact reports as well as impact pages in annual reports to find commonalities. Through this effort, we built a set of more than 100 metrics. From that, we identified a smaller set of metrics that offer a meaningful community impact benchmark without being prohibitively time-consuming to pull. This is the initial data Callahan collected.

In the process of collecting this data, we learned a lot from our impact network participants.

For example, credit unions can be incredibly humble. Several teams expressed interest in submitting data but worried their impact efforts weren’t far enough along and their results would reflect poorly on the credit union. This was never the case. Although some credit unions don’t track or focus on certain areas, there isn’t a single credit union that reported doing nothing.

Other credit unions were concerned they wouldn’t be able to pull the data. In this case, we learned the actual metrics aren’t difficult to pull, but they do come from multiple departments and databases. The logistics were more challenging than the actual data pull. In response, Callahan updated our system to accept metrics as they were available rather than requiring a full, complete submission all at once.

Help Measure Industry Impact

Callahan’s data impact survey is a collection of yes/no and quantitative questions that look into the impact a credit union has on employees, members, the community, and the environment. After donating your credit union’s data, you’ll receive access to our entire data set for analysis.

Learn More

But the most exciting thing we’ve learned from this data collection effort is that talking about and pulling these metrics has inspired credit union teams to think about success in new ways.

If they don’t participate in efforts Callahan is tracking, teams are asking if maybe they should. If not, what is the right way to measure this for their credit union? And because teams need to work together to pull the data, they are connecting and conversing in new ways about the data. More importantly, they’re connecting whythey’re pulling this data to why community impact is so crucial to the future of the credit union industry.

If you’re interested in joining Callahan and your credit union peers on this journey, you can download the impact data template right here from CreditUnions.com. Complete the Excel template using your credit union’s data. If you have questions, you can refer to this data dictionary Finally, email the completed file to Callahan & Associates at impact@callahan.com. If you do decide to do this, welcome! We’re excited to have you join our network.

In the following weeks, Callahan & Associates is publishing a series of blogs sharing high-level findings derived from the impact data we have collected to date. Detailed analysis is only available to credit unions who submit their own data this is a give to get data set. Join us and discover new ways to measure and celebrate the value of your community impact.

October 25, 2021

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