Credit unions give millions of dollars every year to local and national charities, which is great and does a ton of good in communities around the country.
To help guide their charitable giving, many credit unions have a donation policy (usually posted on their website for inquiring organizations). Most that I’ve seen are pretty basic and center around a rule that says the credit union will only make donations to “organizations, programs, or events that will benefit the communities where the credit union does business.”
Pretty basic isn’t it? It is also so broad that I can see almost any cause being solicited to credit unions by crafty writers in communities everywhere. Also, how do you choose what organizations are funded when you have multiple ones asking for money? With such general guidelines, it’s really hard to choose one over the other.
Thus, you can make more of an impact with a charitable giving policy that reflects your credit union’s mission. Yes, concern for community is a cooperative principle, but it’s one of seven. At every credit union’s core, is the guiding philosophy to help improve their members’ financial lives. That’s what credit unions do, every day, everywhere.
Let’s quickly look at REI (a cooperative too by the way). Since they are an outdoor clothing and equipment retailer, their charitable donations mainly go to…you guessed it, the outdoors. From their website: “Each year, REI donates millions of dollars to support conservation efforts nationwide and sends dedicated teams of volunteers—members, customers and REI employees—to build trails, clean up beaches, restore local habitats and more….”
Makes sense doesn’t it? It’s a mutually beneficial relationship in many ways. REI’s members visit the outdoors and they shop at REI because they need things to do so. REI conserves the outdoors because it drives their business.
Your members are at your credit union because you are a trusted financial partner. You’re looking out for their financial well-being so consider focusing your charitable giving and make those dollars go even farther. For example, there are a myriad of financial education and literacy funding opportunities. Also, look at the areas of counseling, training, housing, employment, etc. (and list by funding priority in your policy if possible).
Don’t wait for organizations to come to you either. Do some research. Ask community partners. Ask your members. Also, leverage tools like Guidestar and BBB Wise Giving Alliance when looking to make a donation to charitable organizations. It’s good practice as well to review your policy and donations annually to ensure they are a good fit and making a difference.
“Give a bowl of rice to a man and you will feed him for a day. Teach him how to grow his own rice and you will save his life.” – Confucius