Why social impact remains essential for credit unions and today’s world

The data has proven challenging, if not troubling: three billion people around the world are underbanked or fully unbanked. That’s 40 percent of the world population. In America alone, 39 percent of individuals would fail to come up with $1,000 to cover an unexpected emergency expense.

The good news is there are now at least three billion cell phone users around the world that can offer financial services a direct line to reach, partner, and work with such member-first financial cooperatives like credit unions. Unprecedented access like that gives those members a lifeline to weather those difficult life moments and unexpected emergencies.

The power of this new era in technology also represents an opportunity for social impact to be a dominant cause through the credit union movement. “No distance is insurmountable,” Accion’s Michael Schlein once said. “No transaction size is too small, and we have the data to find people we didn’t have before.” That data, and other available metrics, can help measure social impact by tracking the outcomes of strategies in new ways by focusing on how credit unions impact people and their communities.

The incoming board chair for the Credit Union National Association (CUNATony Budet encouraged people to focus on the impact they have on people rather than their cooperatives’ balance sheets. “Did you put 100 families in homes through which they are better positioned to build financial wealth?”, he asked. “This is not semantics. Our language, our stories matter, and our metrics matter. We’re in the people business, so our metrics must focus first on the human impact, rather than financial impact.”


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