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WINDSOR, Ontario, Canada – People always talk about win-win situations, but Windsor Family Credit Union (WFCU) came up with a great win-win situation. When they offered to help local organizations they ended up with a lot more than goodwill. They found major growth. In an interview with Credit Union Times, President and CEO Martin Komsa explained how it was done. The board of directors and senior management of WFCU decided they wanted to be the best credit union in Ontario. To do that, they realized they needed to offer more than just financial products and services. Although much lip service has been given in the past by organizations on giving back to the community, the folks at Windsor Family wanted to take real steps to make this area of 350,000 people a better place to live and work. Windsor Family CU has 20,000 members, four offices, 85 employees and assets of Canadian $250 million. The CU also did something that was unheard of at the time. It hired a community relations person to help WFCU reach out to community groups. Although part of this was to offer financial management assistance, more practical help was also needed. What evolved was a multi-step program that includes all credit union employees. Helping youth became a major priority for WFCU, and the method the credit union chose to use was educational scholarships and sponsorships totalling $12,000 that is divided between six organizations. This includes hockey, golf, and bowling associations for the young. As much a part of their job as balancing at the end of the day or serving members at the window, employees attend over 70 different community events from sports tournaments to telethons. They serve at soup kitchens and participate in fundraisers for good causes. At least 5,000 hours are logged each year by employees helping the community. Each retail branch of WFCU has a meeting room that they make available for other non-profit groups to hold meetings. According to Komsa, these are free of charge and the credit union provides beverages. The first organization to take advantage of this was a kids hockey team. Each year, WFCU allocates $25,000 after tax profit dollars to different non-profits in the areas of medical illnesses, disabilities, information services and community support. They ask for tenders and usually they get anywhere from 50 to 60 requests for funds. A committee made up of the board, management and staff review all requests and make the final decisions. Past winners of these grants include the Boy Scouts, the Aids Committee of Windsor, a hospice, a teen health centre and a women’s incentive center, among other groups, Komsa said. Criteria have been established, he added, but the decision is often hard to make between these very worthy projects. Another way WFCU is investing in the future of the community is through a co-op education program. High school and university students work at the credit union for credits. They have had about 25 students who get real life experience, as well as earn a salary. Windsor Family is also about to launch a multi-year giving program to any organization which wants to construct a building. They expect the first request to come in within the next month. An alliance program helps all members with their personal financing by helping them make better buying decisions on needed items.Several companies offer substantial discounts to Windsor Credit Union members who show their membership card. The participating companies win with additional business while members save money. So far five alliances have been formed, including an auto repair service and a tire company. What has all this brought the credit union? Back in 1995, Windsor Family CU had approximately $1 million in deposits from community organizations in 200 accounts. In 2001, they have over $18 million with over 600 accounts, thanks to their very defined community investment program. – [email protected]

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