Credit unions have been doing an extraordinary job assisting their members during one of the toughest times in recent history. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, your foundations have been helping credit unions and their communities in almost every capacity, and we wanted to give you a sneak peek into a collaborative effort which has enhanced our ability to serve you.
State credit union foundations are part of a vibrant group, called the SCUF Network, where your leaders regularly collaborate on a whole host of programs, fundraising and resources. Since the pandemic began in the spring, we have been connecting regularly on Zoom calls, which are full of rich discussion in addition to our day-to-day collaboration via our online community. As you can imagine, these conversations focus on how and what we could do to help our credit unions, staff and individuals while fulfilling our individual missions.
Making Grants to Support CUs & Communities
Many state foundations are offering grants to support credit unions in their area. At the Illinois Credit Union Foundation, we are providing over $238,000 in funds for COVID-19 Grants for small CUs, offering financial counselor certification, and hosting training sessions on remote/virtual financial education. The Michigan Credit Union Foundation has already distributed over $100,000 in Community Crisis Support Grants, for initiatives that included financial education for students, financial support for a women’s shelter, delivering food to residents in food deserts and emergency gear for frontline workers, and others. The Minnesota Credit Union Foundation has also established a $65,000 grant pool to support their small credit unions with pandemic-related expenses.
Similarly, the Heartland Credit Union Charitable Foundation is supporting credit unions through financial wellness and community development grants for member credit unions, as well as over $100,000 in pandemic relief grants to small credit unions to help with expenses related to COVID-19. The New Jersey and Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundations are offered a special COVID-19 grant program for twenty-two credit unions to assist with office needs related to adapting physical office or workforce to serve members during the pandemic. The Mountain West Credit Union Foundation is granting over $250,000 to assist affected communities in Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming. The funds will provide relief for food insecurity, community stabilization, and mental health services.
Providing Financial Assistance to Individual Members, CU Staff & Local Business Owners
To assist Iowans during the pandemic, the Iowa Credit Union Foundation launched a new Emergency Relief Fund, which provides assistance with one-time, $500 grants to small business owners and individuals who are experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic. Over $700,000 was raised for this effort and over 11,000 grant applications have been received.
The Carolinas Credit Union Foundation is supporting CU employees in the Carolinas through its COVID-19 Relief Grants, with over $400,000 available to disburse. The grants of up to $1,000 are to help with essential living expenses for credit union employees experiencing significant financial hardships due to loss of household income or increase in expenses related to the pandemic.
Additionally, to reach those most deeply impacted by COVID-19 — low-wage and non-citizen workers — the Northwest Credit Union Foundation partnered with credit unions and private philanthropy to launch a zero-interest emergency loan program. Private funders are working with NWCUF to provide the financial backstop for credit unions offering the product in regions across Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.
The Southeast Credit Union Foundation invited CUs in their region to join their unique #CreditUnionsCareChallenge. To take part, credit unions commit a minimum of $25 per employee, which the staff member will use to carry out a good deed while supporting a local restaurant or business. SECUF then matches the funds, doubling the community impact.
Launching Virtual Financial Education Training and Offering Counseling Resources
Once the pandemic became more widespread, the Richard Myles Johnson (RMJ) Foundation, a state foundation for credit unions in California and Nevada, got to work on a remote version of their popular Bite of Reality experiential learning program for teens, which they are now offering free of charge to credit unions. The Credit Union League of Connecticut’s foundation, Credit Unions Building Financial Independence (CUBFI), found a creative solution to continue to provide financial education to high schools by making a virtual version of their popular Financial Reality Fairs which also leverage the RMJ Foundation’s Bite of Reality app. CUBFI reached over 300 students in a few weeks and invited other state foundations to observe the virtual fairs.
The Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation launched a Pandemic Response Strategy, which includes a variety of financial counseling resources for CU staff including offering the Financial Counseling Certification Program (FiCEP) for free, a toolkit for current counselors, as well as free counseling for staff themselves. Cornerstone is also working with three financial capability providers to offer affordable e-learning platforms to credit unions.
National Resources, Training, Videos & More
The National CU Foundation developed a comprehensive COVID-19 Resource webpage for the credit union movement that focuses on financial wellbeing, empathetic leadership and cooperative values. This includes the eSchool we partnered with CUNA on around putting empathy into action during the pandemic, our “Together Tuesdays” video series, numerous articles, videos and much more.
Naturally, we can’t include everything your Foundations are doing, but these highlights do paint an amazing picture of cooperation, impact and personification of “people helping people.” Please, feel free to reach out to us or to your state foundation to learn more about the great work being done during this crisis!
Co-authored by Melanie Murphy, Chair of the State CU Foundation Network and Executive Director of the Illinois CU Foundation