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BALTIMORE-Medical Area Federal Credit Union is out to prove that a little can go a long way. Despite MAFCU’s size at just $42 million in assets, it can compete with the big boys in the fight against predatory lending. “Whatever the resources that we have we do the best we can,” CEO Nicole James told attendees of the latest Partnering and Leadership Successes workshop. She stressed that the credit union’s philosophy is not to think `can’t’ but how can we start out? This has been applied to many areas of credit union business, including financial education. James encouraged credit unions to partner with organizations like-minded to achieve their goals. MAFCU started out small in its partnership with Consumer Credit Counseling Services, initially just doing referrals. Then, she asked CCCS to begin holding seminars. Now, the group comes into the credit union twice a month for financial education courses, for which MAFCU requested bilingual staff, and also trains MAFCU’s staff to discuss budgetary matters with their members. MAFCU has also partnered with Neustra Communidad Development Corp. to offer 10-hour first-time homebuyer classes. Ironically, James said the credit union had more success getting people in the door and to keep coming when they charged $20 for the course than offering it for free. She added that they also offer a scholarship if that $20 truly is prohibitive to the member. MAFCU also takes advantage of low-cost marketing and delivery channels. James said they use MAFCU’s newsletter not only for advertising but also to highlight success stories to encourage members to seek help. They also employ their Web site and branches. In addition, MAFCU uses its SEGs as ambassadors for their programs. James emphasized that this can go beyond human resources departments to marketing and communications departments and employee assistance programs. She pointed out that employers like this because employees with financial problems have been shown to have lower levels of productivity. -

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