When economic times are tough, credit union leadership are likely to look for areas to cut expenses and often, charitable giving can be on the chopping block. In my experience, however, the difficult economy presents an opportunity for credit unions to step up and truly exemplify the credit union philosophy of “people helping people.”
When the needs in the communities we serve increase, credit unions need to show their employees, members and community that we are here to help others beyond just their financial needs. By doing so, I believe you’ll find the benefits to your employees and the community are well worth the effort.
We recognize that the past few years have been challenging for many people – including our own employees – but we still felt it was important to engage our employees in our annual United Way campaign. Ent has participated in fundraising for our local United Way agencies for more than 15 years and we rely solely on our employees to meet our campaign goal. Year after year, despite the economic conditions, Ent employees have met or exceeded our goals with each campaign. In fact, Ent’s 600 employees have raised more than $100,000 for each of the past five years.
I believe our successful fundraising stems from choosing the right recipient. We’ve found that employees are more inclined to donate if they know their money is making an impact in their very own neighborhoods. When their dollars go directly to help the local community, they can feel a sense of pride to have helped fulfill the needs they see every day.
The manner in which you collect donations is also important. Employees need an easy way to give. Ent allows employees to opt in to payroll deductions, give a lump sum or even donate paid time off to contribute. We also hold internal fundraising events like jeans days, bake sales and online auctions, which bring in significant dollars. Having multiple options to participate gives employees of all levels a way to contribute based on what makes sense for them. This multifaceted approach makes for a successful campaign.
In addition to engaging employees, it’s also important to show our membership that the credit union cares about the communities we serve and invite them to participate. Ent annually provides service center collection boxes for member and employee donations to local food banks. We also encourage members to join with employees in raising funds for and participating in a spring cause event, such as the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk.
Ent also focuses on helping those in need in our immediate service area through a robust philanthropy program consisting of donations, sponsorships and organizational participation. Concentrating our efforts on local giving supports our community charter and brand most effectively and directly benefits the members we serve. We have found that people want to belong to a credit union that cares for their friends and neighbors.
Charitable giving is a key part of our operating philosophy and is entwined in the Ent culture. Credit unions exist to help people, and we believe this extends beyond providing financial services. By fully supporting the credit union mission through charitable giving – especially to organizations in the communities we serve – we show our employees and members that we care about the success of the community as a whole.
Barbara Winter is executive vice president of organizational resources at Ent Federal Credit Union.
Contact 800-525-9623 ext. 6660 or BWinter@ent.com