Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: foundation

A Mission You Can Bank On

Originally published on

A recent post, Giving Back Has ROI, Too, linked your charitable efforts with your growth strategy. You can do the most for all parties when your “good” aligns with your mission. It keeps everyone more engaged, provides the best opportunities for cross-promotion, and clearly defines your purpose in the community.

Already well-aligned with the areas of community you support? That’s great! You can go even further.

Your product lineup is boring. It’s the same as every other credit union and bank. Checking, savings, lending, and maybe investments. On their own, these provide no differentiation or excitement. However, what if you designed these offerings to directly benefit those you help? A successful strategy can help gain new (profitable) members while making a difference beyond contributions.

A previous post dove into this concept with two interviews. One was of a credit union in California, CCCU. The other, Vancity, out of Canada. Both integrated their giving into their products. The former supported local students with scholarships, using funding from interchange fees. The latter donated a portion of their profits from their credit cards. Both times, members have a direct hand in the positive impacts of their credit union. In fact, if not for the members’ actions, these contributions would never have occurred.

Here’s another way to integrate closely with your core mission. A credit union local to me, Grow Financial, uses a leaf as their logo. This was not a random choice by the board. It was selected for two reasons (of which I’ve learned). The first you’d expect: I want my money somewhere it can “Grow”, and leaves are a tangible symbol of growth. The second is for their environmental focus. Grow’s headquarters is LEED certified (uses less resources to run, built with local materials, maintains high indoor air quality, etc.). They support environmental charities. Being “green” is who they are.

How about you? What’s your raison d’etre? Now it’s time to brainstorm how you can merge that into your “boring” banking solutions. Maybe that means working with one in your community (or a variety if serving large areas). Maybe that means starting your own! Besides making a positive impact, it can rally existing members and attract new ones!

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Irony Alert! And some truly good news. 

Credit Union Times got the scoop. Let’s get that out of the way. In fact, I’ll even link to their story. You’re going to want the details.

So what happened?

The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (NFCDCU) received a $10 million pledge from Bank of America for their National Federation’s Community Development Investment Program (NFCDIF). Besides a great need for shorter names and acronyms, this pledge will support the launch of a “secondary capital loan product and funding investments for high performing credit unions.”

Congratulations to the first three credit unions chosen:

  • Freedom First Federal Credit Union, Roanoke, VA
  • IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union, Moline, Ill
  • Suncoast Credit Union, Tampa, FL

It’s great to see money going to support individuals otherwise unbanked, and not by choice. The efforts of community development credit unions sits at the root of what the industry represents. I look forward to hearing about the successes driven by these devoted institutions.

And now, the irony.

Time and again, credit unions seem to feel like banks have to lose for them to win. A famous quote by Steve Jobs summed it up: “We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose.” Bank of America is really big. They have resources few, if any, credit unions can imagine. But, they’re also invested in community efforts with similar aplomb. Today, we see a demonstration of that capacity. To finance serving the most deeply underserved, the credit union industry must accept contributions from Bank of America. And it will be celebrated.

Just don’t go bashing them tomorrow. At least not their community efforts.

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