Hyland Questions Charity's Role in Credit Union Strategy: Onsite Coverage
NEW ORLEANS — Credit unions should consider how well their support for charitable causes fits with their overall missions, attendees were told at a session at the CO-OP Financial Services’ THINK 14 conference.
Gigi Hyland, executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation and former NCUA board member, kicked off the discussion by urging the executives attending a Monday session at the New Orleans conference to use their philanthropic efforts to build awareness about their existence in their communities..
“You are walking the walk,” Hyland said. “You are meeting your members’ needs for safe, affordable and common sense financial products and services. But that part about talking the talk and telling people what you’re doing, that's not going as well.”
In order for credit unions to help people afford life, people need to know credit unions are an option, Hyland argued. They need to create awareness within their community of who they are and what they do.
And she delivered statistics drawn from the 2012 U.S. Financial Capability Study to show how important increasing an awareness of credit unions has become. Fully 19% of consumers surveyed in the study indicated they regularly spend more than they earn; 26% have overdue medical debt and 56% said they don't have any or enough emergency savings.
“These are more than statistics,” she said. “These are our neighbors, families, friends and co-workers. These are ourselves,” she said.
As part of a solution to this dilemma, Hyland urged credit unions to begin to make their philanthropy serve both a charitable cause and support the aim of helping more people in their communities learn about them.
Even the venerable Credit Unions for Kids effort, which she stressed she supports, can lack the feature of directing attention back to the core mission of credit unions in their communities.
As good and as compelling as it is to help sick children, Hyland proposed, that effort doesn't necessarily relate to credit unions’ core mission and doesn’t necessarily direct the public's mind to think about how credit unions could help them.
Other charitable efforts that might do that could include forming partnerships with other non-profits or local governments, including farmers markets, food banks and other cooperatives.
Efforts could be targeted at improving financial literacy through presentations of the Biz Kid$ program, the award-winning, credit-union created video program that introduces financial topics and entrepreneurship to children aged 8 to 16, she said.
Other possibilities might include partnering with a local organization to raise awareness of financial issues through a reality fair, a public event where participants spend some time trying to live as a lower-income person or family. Or a credit union could partner with a local grade school to offer parents of very young children seminars on what they can do to start saving for their child’s education.
“When you think about your credit union’s philanthropic efforts, think about how they connect to improving consumers’ financial lives, to credit unions’ dedication to financial well-being,” Hyland said “Leverage what you do best – consumer finance – into philanthropy that focuses on strengthening the financial well-being of everyone in your community.”
Two executives from other organizations which help organizations better target their philanthropic efforts largely agreed with Hyland, and suggested that credit unions take steps to involve their staff and supporters more fully in the charitable effort to help build awareness of the organization.
Philips McCarty, principal with the Good Scout Group, a consultancy which helps for-profit and not-for-profit firms enhance their charitable work, and Clark Sweat, chief corporate partnerships officer with Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, spoke about the compelling nature of the health care for kids efforts.
“It’s a hands-down winner with the public,” Sweat said. “In surveys, the public reports that helping sick kids is one of their highest priorities when it comes to charitable giving.”
Areas where credit unions in particular might be able to better blend their mission and their charitable efforts might involve ideas to how to help parents of sick children pay for the costs of different parts of their family's life as they work through the care of their child, the executives said.