NCUF Restructures to Weather Economic Storm and Develop Funding Plan
o NCUF restructures to counter financial losses.
o Organization lost more than $473,000 in 2009.
o Reorganization includes layoffs and personnel moves.
The National Credit Union Foundation has significantly restructured its operations as it tries to stop losing money in the short term and come up with another long-term funding strategy.
The foundation has enhanced the role of managing administrative director Tom Candell, promoting him to be deputy executive director, chief operating officer and chief financial officer. It has also eliminated some positions and moved others from offices in Washington to offices at its headquarters in Madison, Wis.
"Tom has done an outstanding job during his tenure with the foundation," said NCUF executive director Bucky Sebastian. "The additional responsibilities inherent in this new position will enable us to more fully utilize Tom's wide-ranging talents and capabilities. This in turn will allow me to place more of my emphasis on outreach to the foundation's donor base, which is my No. 1 priority."
Candell will be responsible for coordinating the foundation's day-to-day operations, including fundraising administration, event management, REAL Solutions, innovation grants, investment management, disaster relief and communications. Candell served as interim executive director after former director Steve Delfin left in January.
The communication and marketing coordinating position, currently held by Jill Stevenson, and the REAL Solutions program manager will both move from Washington to Madison and report to Candell, who intimated that the NCUF will benefit from a lower salary scale in Madison compared to Washington, but declined to comment specifically on individual salary cuts or departures.
The foundation has also shifted responsibility for the program planning and strategic direction in the credit union development education program to its volunteer leadership, saying it would only continue to provide "logistical and administrative" support to the program.
This effectively eliminated the position of national program manager for the CUDE program, a position Tom Decker has held since early 2006.
NCUF leaders acknowledged the restructuring was painful but emphasized that the foundation's sliding financial position required the changes.
Sebastian explained that NCUF had to change some of the ways it is structured both to conserve its own resources and to buy some additional time to develop new fundraising strategies.
"The [community investment fund] was a genius method of raising funds," Sebastian said. "But in the current interest rate environment, its facility in that regard looks like it will remain significantly limited, and we need to confront that."
Financial documents indicate NCUF's expenses exceeded its income in 2009 by $474,000. The foundation spent $730,000 on the Real Solutions program, which only brought in $59,000, and spent $412,000 on the development education program, which only brought in $115,000.
"Many people are familiar with our annual Herb Wegner dinner that we hold every February and many people, like I did, consider it a moneymaker for the foundation," Sebastian said. "But the reality is that the Wegner dinner cost the foundation $229,000 this past year. We need to do something about that."
Sebastian said he believes that for the first time in history, the NCUF actually shrank in 2009 from more than $5.6 million in assets to $5.3 million, a drop that represents both the current situation with interest rates as well as the foundation's need to work on some very long-term issues.
"I hate to admit it, but I don't believe that we are really well known and understood even among credit unions," Sebastian said. "We have to really work on introducing ourselves to more credit unions and helping them to understand our work and why it's important so that we can have a firmer foundation on which to build any future fundraising effort."
Sebastian said he occasionally runs into credit union leaders who understand the old credit union slogan of "not for profit, not for charity but for service" to mean their credit union shouldn't extend charitable efforts into their communities. But Sebastian countered that the familiar slogan was meant to urge credit unions to serve the needs of individual members in a fair and upright way, not taking them for too much money or extending them credit at terms that hurt other members. It doesn't mean that credit unions shouldn't support charities, Sebastian said, particularly those that seek to develop products and services that might one day be extended to credit union members across the country.
"The thing about service is that service costs," Sebastian said. "It costs money to develop the products and services that credit union members in the future will need, it costs money to test them in the field-but that sort of work is extremely important."