The National Credit Union Foundation has achieved one of its long-term fund raising goals, developing a mechanism that individuals can use to support NCUF programs.
The foundation has long relied on investments from credit unions and some credit union leagues in a program called the Community Investment Fund to fund its different programs. The foundation invested money it took into the CIF in safe investments like long-term certificates of deposit and then shared the interest with the investors. The mechanism worked well for many years, but the current lower interest environment only heightened the foundation's desire to expand its donor base.
"We have spoken about this before," explained National Foundation executive director Bucky Sebastian. "The CIF worked and works very well, but we need to expand and broaden our base of support-primarily to get more people involved," he said, calling the foundation announcement last week a first step.
The mechanism allows perspective donors to set up recurring donations in any amount through direct debits from their checking accounts or credit cards. Checking account donations can be made by ACH transactions debited directly from the account or through a debit card.
"We wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to support our critical programs and grants," Sebastian said. "Once they fill out a quick form, donors can continually help consumers reach financial freedom in a convenient way. It's a low-maintenance way of giving with a high impact."
The foundation said eighty cents of every dollar goes to support the foundation's strategic programs and grants, which help credit unions provide widespread financial education, create greater access to affordable financial services and empower more consumers to save, build assets and own homes.
But Sebastian noted that the foundation still faces significant obstacles as it strives to turn a funding option into real funds. One of the largest is increasing the foundation's profile, first among credit unions and credit union leagues and then among individual credit union members.
"The foundation has not done a great job of telling it's story and letting people know all of the good things it has helped accomplish," Sebastian said. "We will have to get better at that if we want to come to people and ask for their support."
But Sebastian is also optimistic about the new funding mechanism's ability to tap into small donations, a potentially very lucrative and reliable source of funds.
"We know there are a lot of different calls on people's discretionary income these days," Sebastian said. "But even if we just get a dollar a month from as many people as possible, that is a very good start."
Sebastian pointed out that the foundation has precedent for this sort of giving. The $22 billion State Employees Credit Union has offered its members a chance to make donations of $1 per month from their checking accounts to fund the programs of its own foundation and, back when he ran the GTE Federal Credit Union in Florida, Sebastian said the credit had also used a program small donations to fund charitable efforts.