Financial well-being for all and the birth of a credit union

Co-authored by Andrea Molnau, Minnesota Credit Union Foundation

You don’t often see articles co-authored by the executive directors of your local state credit union foundation and the National Credit Union Foundation. That’s ironic considering the symbiotic relationship between our organizations. We meet every month to discuss topics of mutual interest. We hold a national conference to promote opportunities for collaboration and credit union philanthropy. We work seamlessly together when disaster strikes to help credit unions, their employees and volunteers continue serving members through ongoing fundraising, grant making, and resources.

Our two organizations embrace the cooperative principle of collaboration to improve financial well-being for all – and we are calling on our credit union peers to do the same.

Financial well-being for all is a current, national effort within our system to reframe our beloved “People helping People” motto into modern terms. Spearheaded by the National Credit Union Foundation with CUNA, the leagues, system partners and credit unions, this work aims to show how credit unions demonstrably improve the financial lives of all within their fields of membership.

Our nation needs this now more than ever before. We know that 66% of us (166 million people) are financially fragile. We know our employees, members and loved ones have trouble making ends meet. And we know people of color are disproportionately at risk.

There is a persistent and growing wealth gap between white people and Black, indigenous, and people of color, rooted in racism and exacerbated by the pandemic. This cannot continue.

The Association for Black Economic Power (ABEP), a Minneapolis nonprofit organization, was created to establish a Black-led credit union to address systemic financial challenges impacting Minneapolis residents, particularly people of color. As Debra Hurston, executive director of ABEP so eloquently stated, “Establishing the only Black-led, cooperative credit union in Minneapolis is an opportunity to effect positive change, empower growth and economic stability while directly addressing the core cause of systemic poverty on a variety of levels.”

The birth of a new credit union. Not an easy feat in today’s regulatory environment.

ABEP is currently raising capital for post-opening operating expenses for the new credit union. We write this article to urge you to come together as a credit union community to financially support this effort.

The Minnesota Credit Union Foundation has established a goal of raising $1 million with support from the Credit Union Community. To date, $850,000 has been raised by generous credit union contributions, support from CUNA Mutual Group, and individual donations.

Our movement comes together when there is a crisis – we’ve witnessed that generosity over and over again with the National Credit Union Foundation’s disaster relief program, CUAid. A hurricane or wildfire may not impact those in Minnesota, but we give. We give to help our credit union neighbors. We give to keep our movement strong.

In 2020, we experienced a very different sort of crisis in Minneapolis. A crisis that changed us, that challenged us. A crisis that birthed a credit union. Two years later we are very close to our goal. Your support of this initiative will not only help the community of Minneapolis, but it will shine a light on how our cooperative model can be a solution for change across the country.

If you look back at credit union history, we see example after example of communities who were disenfranchised by traditional banking providers and who came together to chart their own financial well-being through creation of a credit union. Consider the creation of the first credit union in the U.S., St. Mary’s Bank, an institution created expressly to provide access to affordable credit and promote thrift amongst the French-Canadian millworkers of Manchester, N.H. Look at pioneers like Louise Herring of Ohio who chartered over 500 credit unions in the 1930s and 40s.

Credit unions are institutions of empowerment. Credit unions are institutions of disruption – allowing those excluded to have an opportunity to learn, save, spend, borrow, and plan all with an aim of a better, healthier financial life. Credit unions are designed with the member at the center, not stockholders.

We are in a moment in history ripe with opportunities to truly live our cooperative values and be an avenue of financial democracy. This is one of those opportunities.

The Minnesota Credit Union Foundation  has established this special fund to receive donations from credit unions and other supporters. If you want to donate as an individual, contribute here. If you want to donate on behalf of  a credit union or service organization, please reach out to Andrea Molnau.

We are so much stronger together. Please consider a contribution to this effort. We’re proud to serve you, the credit union community, through our state and national philanthropic organizations. Thank you for your consideration.

Gigi Hyland

Gigi Hyland

Gigi Hyland serves as the Executive Director for the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF), the philanthropic and social responsibility leader of America's credit union movement. Prior to her work with ... Web: Details