SAN FRANCISCO -- The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions is no longer just for community development credit unions.
The Federation has been reaching out to larger credit unions to support its efforts.
Next up it is planning a Financial Literacy Best Practices Forum, to be held on Monday, October 29, at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
Federation board member Sandell McLaughlin said the free event will bring together credit union leaders and representatives from the California Credit Union League, Federal Reserve Bank, and local San Francisco municipal leaders, to share successful strategies used to attract and engage underserved populations.
Speakers, panels and audience members will be led by moderators to find common success characteristics all credit unions can apply to their programs, regardless of field of membership.
"You can create a fabulous program, but if nobody shows up, it won't do any good," said McLaughlin, who is also director of community development at $48 million Community Trust Credit Union, located in nearby Modesto, Calif.
"We want to identify what makes them successful, so as [asset protection
author] Lee Phillips so pointedly puts it, you can get 'the butts in the seats' and accomplish something."
A networking and roundtable luncheon will allow participants to break into smaller groups for discussions about serving specific populations, and to foster
"We have identified groups of vulnerable populations, people who tend to be financially exploited in one way or another," McLaughlin said.
She listed five main categories of financially underserved groups: immigrants, young adults, people with disabilities, the elderly, and
families who have been unbanked and/or in debt for generations.
"That's quite a large spectrum of individuals, so we also need to discuss what works for each of those populations," McLaughlin said.
Pablo DeFilippi, Federation associate director of membership, said the event is an opportunity for small and large credit unions to support
each other in existing and new financial education initiatives.
"The Federation has been reaching out to mainstream credit unions, because we realize that while community development credit unions have a developed, specialized skills, for the most part, they don't have the capacity to deliver that expertise," DeFilippi said. "The work they do is meaningful now, but it needs to be ramped up so more people can be reached."
Larger credit unions don't have to add underserved groups to their charters to contribute to financial literacy efforts in their communities, he said. Instead, they can partner up with a community development credit union and donate what small institutions need: money, equipment, facilities and staff.
McLaughlin said in her experience, small and large credit unions can accomplish quite a bit if they work together. In fact, Community Trust is currently partnering with some much larger neighbors to open a branch in impoverished East Palo Alto: $4.3 billion Patelco Credit Union, $826 million Stanford Federal Credit Union and $2 billion Addison Avenue Federal Credit Union.
"No bank wants to go in there, because it's not profitable, and everyone else is shying away from it because it has such a high crime rate; but of course, there are 15 payday lenders in a 2.5 mile radius. Where do you suppose those people are going for financial services?" McLaughlin said.
"Our partners are contributing below-market institutional CDs so we can have some money to lend. They're also providing back office assistance and lending us equipment, and they even signed an MOU to help us sustain profitability for three years," she said.
DeFilippi said his Federation is making more of an effort to partner with leagues and corporates, using their existing networking channels to bring together those searching for financial literacy partners. The upcoming forum is being promoted and supported by the California Credit Union League and WesCorp.
"We're working with the California league to formalize a network of credit unions in California that are focused on community development," DeFilippi said.
"The idea of the network is to promote cooperation between credit unions, and to involve groups we have not traditionally tapped into, like the league and WesCorp."
Walter Laskos, WesCorp's public relations director, said his corporate's involvement with the Federation grew stronger when he and DeFilippi attended the same development executive
"DEs understand there's a certain kind of bond established with your DE classmates, an affinity to help one another and work together," Laskos said. "On that basis, we were able to regenerate our relationship and bring it to the point where WesCorp became an official sponsor, at the sustainer level."
Laskos said WesCorp's involvement with the Federation also supports the corporate's initiative to assist small credit unions.