MADISON, Wis. – At a time when investing for strong returns are eagerly anticipated but often short, credit unions have continued to pool their money into what it takes to make development projects and community outreach programs happen. The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) recently adopted changes to its Community Investment Fund (CIF), which earmarks dollars for a variety of national and state level development initiatives, grant making and endowments and puts a higher emphasis on "charitable intent." Changes include the new 90-day account that allows a 50/50 split between the credit unions and NCUF replaces a similar account. A new 5-year fixed-rate certificate of deposit has also been added to the fund's offerings, which include 3-year fixed rate CD added earlier this year. For both new accounts, the distribution formula has been changed so that the first 2% will go back to the credit union, the second 2% to NCUF and any additional funds in a rate environment exceeding 4% will also return to the credit union investor. "Because of the recent drop in interest rates, I would say the investor's charitable intent has not been realized," said Bruce Wheeler, NCUF's director of donor public relations. "When we started CIF, no one ever thought interest rates would go where they have been. The old formula was created during a boom market." It was in late summer, that CIF's finance committee met to weigh options on how to meet the charitable intent of credit unions while navigating through a shaky economy. The Sept. 11 attacks only "quickened the process," Wheeler said. NCUF's committee had ideas on how these changes were going to happen, and it was mainly through the diligence and willingness of U.S. Central Credit Union, the corporate that issues the certificates, that implementation came quickly, Wheeler said. U.S. Central has agreed to waive all requirements, penalties and fees for credit unions moving funds from the old 90-day account into the new accounts. Credit unions have until Feb. 1 2002 to convert to the new options. "We are extremely grateful to U.S. Central because they did a lot of work to make this happen in a short amount of time," Wheeler said. "We came up with the idea and U.S. Central made it happen, getting on the horn to other credit unions who overwhelmingly have positively responded to the changes." Indeed, 100% of CIF's credit union participants in New York have already converted to the new options. Bucking the trend of individual credit unions investing in the fund, the Washington Credit Union Foundation and Oklahoma Credit Union League recently became among a handful to collectively invest. Currently, 275 credit unions in 26 states have invested more than $40 million in the CIF. Since 1980, the foundation has given more than $8.4 million in grants, including more than $1.5 million in disaster relief for victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, hurricanes Hugo and Mitch, the Northridge earthquake and other natural disasters. NCUF has also contributed more than $375,000 for National Model Programs and scholarships to CUNA Management Schools, Development Education Training and other credit union educational programs. Wheeler said the fund is nearing its $50 million goal for the year, and "if we exceed that, we'll aim even higher." – [email protected]

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