If you’re reading this, the concept of a credit union supporting their members is unsurprising. It’s what they do, right? By pooling their finances, it enables more competitive rates on lending, lower fees on checking, and a more personal experience. That’s the basis of a savings cooperative, or credit union. And we’re done. Well, this was a nice and short post. I’ll see you next week!

Hold on for just a moment.

Sure, credit unions support the obvious services, but did you know there is an entire world behind the veneer? Organizations supporting credit unions in their own efforts. These are their stories.  (Imagine the Law and Order “bum bum” in there!)

Much of this post derives from my time at the CUNA GAC or follow-on conversations with people I met. Never know what you’ll learn when surrounded by 5,000 credit union staff, vendors, and evangelists!

Tale 1: Ending the Student Loan/Debt Cycle

Too many young people know this story: get accepted to an awesome college, scrounge for all the possible scholarships, and still have $10,000 a year to cover. Enter student loans. They’re a necessary evil for millions of young learners, and can become a noose throughout their early professional years.

How can credit unions help? Say hello to CU Student Choice, an organization working with many CUs to change the picture. By enabling private lending for student loans, they can offer lower rates and more attractive repayment strategies, while maintaining the grade and enrollment requirements seen in Federal programs. Oh, and you’re creating a credit union member early on…can we say for life? I had the privilege of learning from their team in person, and you should have seen them when I finally “got it”.  Their excitement and passion was palpable.

Learn more at CU Student Choice.

Tale 2: Financial Education…no, really

CUNA is more than a lobbying and governing group for the credit union industry. They also support a cause-based non-profit called National Credit Union Foundation, known in the industry as the Foundation. I recently had the privilege to speak with their Director of Communications Christopher Morris. Their mission is to give credit unions tools to help their members become financially free. How? Ask a school-aged child if they’ve seen BizKids. Chances are they have. Produced with $14 million in support from The Foundation and 300 credit unions, it’s an Emmy-award winning series teaching financial education in a fun and engaging way. Let’s be honest. Kids don’t learn much about finances, and when they do, it’s from credit card companies sending pre-approval notices when they turn 18. Not the first lesson I had in mind.

BizKids is watched by millions of students in schools across the country. And it’s only one of the Foundation’s programs. They also award charitable grants to credit unions. A recent fundraiser encouraged pledges from CU staff to participate in a Jeans Day to launch National Financial Literacy Month. While financial results have not yet arrived, hundreds of credit unions particated and many jeans were worn!

“Credit unions have existed for over 100 years to help people others would or could not,” Morris explained. The Foundation can and does. Three times a year, they invite 42 credit union staff (international included!) for a week-long development training. Participants come out with more than a newfound appreciation for shared history; they acquire strategies to refocus their own credit union’s initiatives to better serve their members.

To learn more about National Credit Union Foundation, how your credit union can apply for grants, and apply for the Development Training, visit them today.

Tales to continue…with respect to your time. A future post will highlight more of what makes the entire credit union industry unique. Did you know they partner with other cooperatives? Spoilers!