National Foundation Faces Changing Charitable Landscape, Delfin Says
Delfin previously announced that he had resigned from as executive director of the foundation, effective Dec. 31 in order to take a job as CEO of America's Charities.
"I think there are a number of different things that are coming together that will favor the National Credit Union Foundation and its programs over the next three to five years," Delfin said, during a final interview with Credit Union Times as executive director. "I am very proud of the foundation and its board that the organization is positioned in a way that will enable it to take advantage of the new opportunities."
One of the biggest changes taking place in the broader philanthropic landscape involves a move from the general in charitable giving to the specific. According to surveys conducted by philanthropic organizations and foundations, American's are changing why they donate to charitable organizations as well as which organizations they support.
A generation ago Americans donated to a charitable or nonprofit organization because they endorsed an organization's effort or cause. Now, they are more likely to donate because it will help them fulfill what they see as their own personal, specific agenda or mission.
On the one hand this could be seen as a more self-centered form of giving, Delfin acknowledged, but on the other hand financial support given from that motivation tends to be stickier or more lasting than the other kind.
"There is an increased emphasis on the personal in charitable giving now and on the question of impact than years ago," Delfin explained. People who donate want to know how much impact their donations have and, if possible, to see the faces and learn about the lives of the people they help.
Another shift in philanthropic patterns is a move among many charities away from relying primarily on large grant makers, such as foundations and trusts, to recruiting a broader base of smaller donors. Delfin pointed out that one of the things that has come to light during this recession is that charitable efforts that built their fundraising around grants from foundations and trusts are, in general, suffering more than those that built fundraising on smaller donations from more donors.
"When the large donors got into trouble and cut back on their giving, those charities suffered. But organizations which have had a larger base of smaller donors, while still struggling, have not been struggling as much," Delfin noted.
These two emerging developments could impact the work of credit unions and the NCUF, Delfin observed, principally by feeding into two already existing trends. First, there is a move among larger credit unions to start their own charitable foundations, often funded by small donations from individual credit union members and CU staff. Second, donated funds are used to help capitalize products and services aimed at lower income members and communities.
Delfin noted the success of the State Employees' Credit Union in North Carolina with its foundation. SECU funds the foundation with a contribution of $1 per checking account per month from almost all of its members who have checking accounts. Members can opt out of the donation, but in practice, very few do because the credit union makes sure that the projects and charitable investments it makes are all in communities where its members live, thus meeting many members desire to see local impacts from their donations.
Delfin declined to name names but said he and other senior foundation staff had been consulting with several large credit unions seeking to set up and fund their own foundations, in part to gain and leverage funds to start up programs aimed a lower income communities and members.
He also noted that that other, other organizations, have adopted the credit union philosophy of offering members the products and services they need in an affordable and sustainable ways. Not for profit, not for charity but for service, Delfin said, underpins a number of popular social investment and charitable-giving efforts. One example is the Web site Kiva.org, where visitors to the Web site can invest in the entrepreneurial efforts of lower income people all over the world, including the U.S. The micro-finance loans are repaid, and investors can either take their money back with a small amount of interest when the loans are repaid or roll the investments over to invest in another effort.
It would not be too much to imagine, Delfin said, that a credit union could start a foundation and use money donated to it as leverage to attract funds from other sources to help fund micro-finance lending, financial education programs, individual development accounts or other products and services aimed at helping lower income members and communities come into the financial system. And unlike previous efforts that principally saw themselves as charities, the new focus would be on funding investments in these products and services.
Delfin also noted that the future could find a broader and deeper role for Development Educators, the graduates of the foundation's Credit Union Development Education Program. The goal might be having at least one person who had been through the program on the board of directors of every credit union of over $500 million in assets. This even though the program's current sessions are over-subscribed and the foundation has not yet found sponsors to support adding additional sessions.
"I think if anything that has been proven in the last five years it is that the foundation shouldn't shrink from establishing big goals and working towards those," Delfin said.
"When we first announced that we were starting the Real Solutions program, I had a number of people come to me to predict it would never work, we wouldn't get more than eight credit unions to sign up, much less leagues, and that credit unions would never do this. Well, the foundation did it, and I don't see any reason why the foundation could not set and achieve other big goals," Delfin said.