Despite income and compliance hardships, the very small, faith-based credit unions in Illinois are embarking on a turnaround, according to the leader of an Illinois Credit Union League campaign to uplift their standing.
The Faith-Based Alliance has been striving the last year to vastly improve operating conditions of some 20 Illinois CUs, mostly in Chicago and with $500,000 to $3 million in assets.
For one thing, the Alliance coordinated by Joyce Jackson, a league field director, has been working to bring Camel 3-4 CUs “down to at least a 2” while also helping them gain low-income designation giving them ranking as NCUA community development financial institutions.
The network also has been supporting CUs as they cope with a very tough economy, considering “loans have dried up and investment income has gone down”, making it urgent they find ways to reduce expenses and bring in capital, said Jackson.
The regular “brainstorm” meetings of the Alliance, Jackson said, have been tailored to meet those goals, she said.
The sessions, made possible by a group scholarship awarded by the Illinois Credit Union Foundation, is also providing participants a chance “to improve the efficiency of their data processing systems, performance and record keeping,” said the league.
In addition the Alliance has been working with NCUA economic development specialist Malia Peel on the CDFI designations.
The work of the Illinois group, said Jackson, parallels a similar faith-based advocacy group in New York headed by Joy Cousminer, president/CEO of the $19 million Bethex FCU of the Bronx.
The Cousminer group, known as “We Care”, formed last year to help 30 New York-area CUs improve their financial health as they endure a decline in church support, succession problems and delinquencies, Cousiminer said.
“We’ve also made some real progress and it’s heartening to see so many of these groups like the one in Illinois continue to spring up,” she said.
The Illinois league said other upcoming Alliance initiatives include providing financial literacy training for board members, a "best practices" program and development of community partnerships.