Amplifying Credit Unions’ Community Impact Through Resources & Expertise

As not-for-profit cooperatives, credit unions are uniquely positioned to provide the financial solutions their consumers and communities need so that they may prosper and thrive. When credit unions leverage the Northwest Credit Union Foundation’s resources and expertise, they can further amplify their community impact.

Focusing on economic empowerment, asset building, and cooperative development throughout Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, NWCUF works to expand and deepen credit unions’ community impact.

“When three or four credit unions get together around a concept, such as access to housing, financial inclusion, or small business support, the Foundation serves as a vital partner that helps them pilot and scale their potential solutions,” said NWCUF Executive Director, Sharee Adkins. “Credit unions are built for this — to adapt financial solutions that meet the needs of their members and communities so that they may lead fulfilling lives.”

With the right economic opportunities, the ability to withstand financial shock, and access to affordable financial products and services, Northwesterners lead happier, healthier lives, Adkins said.

“The Credit Union Movement is focused on financial health, and the Foundation shares that mission,” Adkins said. “This is an essential part of our well-being as people, families, and communities.”

Collaboration Accelerates Solutions

Last year, credit unions collaborated like never before to help their members and communities. They led the way in finding the right products and services at the right time.

“Northwest credit unions came together to solve problems, creating a network that spanned the region,” Adkins said. “The pandemic put a spotlight on the essential need for financial inclusion and health. By working together, they magnified their impact.”

Early on in 2020, credit unions saw many people struggling to keep food on the table and the lights on — particularly low-wage workers and ITIN borrowers. They answered that urgent need by working with the Foundation to launch the Emergency Loan Program. The program provided zero-percent, small-dollar loans to people impacted by the pandemic. NWCUF assisted credit unions by maintaining loan loss reserve funds, which were provided through philanthropic and credit union contributions. More than $550,000 was deployed to Northwest residents as a result.

“The Emergency Loan Program is just one great example of how collaboration came full-circle,” Adkins said. “Credit unions saw a need, donors supported it by working with the Foundation, and together, we partnered with credit unions across the region to make it happen. That’s the kind of synergy NWCUF plans to pursue even further this year.”

A newly launched program, the Rural Access to Financial Services Initiative, is an opportunity for the Foundation to expand its focus on financial health. Serving as an incubator for innovative ideas, the initiative provides an opportunity for credit unions and partners to come together to explore their communities’ challenges and develop programs, products, and services that will increase access and affordability to financial services in rural Northwest areas.

“The initiative will serve as a catalyst for credit unions, helping them take ideas and turn them into action,” Adkins said. “Credit unions are finding so many innovative ways to bring financial services to their communities. The Foundation is here to partner with them — to devise solutions and provide feedback,resources, and funding that will amplify their good work.”

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