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Credit unions’ budget crunch, hitting credit unions more sharply after the NCUA’s assessment, is now taking its toll on charities, financial education and lobbying.An industry sampling shows funding cutbacks has led, for example, to a 10-12% reduction in Children’s Miracle Network CU contributions, not to mention cancelation of golf tournaments, league dinners and receptions supporting a variety of events including state PACs.Most recently, First Carolina Corp. scrapped its annual golf tournament in June that in the past has raised $120,000 for CU charities in North and South Carolina on grounds “the sponsorship dollars may not be available at our member credit unions and business partners.”First Carolina said it’s enjoyed hosting the annual event, but economic conditions coupled with the NCUA assessment have forced calling off the June 14 tournament, which would have supported such charities as women’s shelters and homeless groups.Tina Lozano, executive director of the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation of the California/Nevada Credit Union League, said its income from contributions and the NCUF Community Investment Fund is down 30% for the year, so “there will be less money available for community service grants to support youth education.”Because of cost factors in obtaining sponsorships, she said, “We will not be holding one of our biggest fundraising events, the annual August golf tournament,” held at Monarch Beach resort at Dana Point.And Georgia Central Corp. cut back on hosting and entertainment expenses during the annual conference of Georgia Credit Union Affiliates in Savannah by replacing the annual member appreciation dinner with a dessert reception. It also canceled a two-hour product reception for members.In addition, Georgia Central is moving its annual ALM conference from the Hilton Head golf resort in North Carolina to a more economical site at a downtown Atlanta hotel.“We’re trying to manage our expenses while we try to keep prices down for our members,” explained Amy Fuller, senior vice president/chief financial officer.Elsewhere, Mid-Atlantic Corporate FCU, which has sponsored golf tournaments, league banquets and breakfasts, said it was also forced to curtail entertainment. Mid-Atlantic Corporate has told the Credit Union Association of New York it can no longer finance a special PAC reception.Diane LaVigna Wixted, executive director of the New York Credit Union Foundation, said in light of expected deficits, its grant-making activities to support youth financial fitness programs and a “Smart Money” campaign have been on hold through June 30.A separate “Kids Cash Kit,” for youngsters up to age 12, may have to be cut entirely if it can’t find another vendor, she said.In addition to literacy grants, also due for budget shortfalls, foundation officials said, is funding to help defray expenses for executives at small CUs to attend professional seminars and educational conferences.Children’s Miracle Network is forecasting a drop in CU donations from the $9.3 million level last year due in part to lower participation by CUs in West Coast events, including the annual California/Nevada wine auction.However, CO-OP Financial Services said it “is more committed than ever” to its “Million Match” program announced last year, in which the firm will match CU donations to CMN. Already, 132 CUs have pledged $860,000, an increase from the 71 credit unions a year ago.The National Credit Union Foundation said it, too, has engaged in budget cutting following “the significant reduction” in Community Investment Fund dividends affected by the steep cuts in interest rates.The NCUF said that its board at an April 16 meeting drafted a revised budget to trim REAL Solutions expenses by $200,000 and pursue electronic delivery of REAL Solutions. The REAL Solutions project now reaches 1,200 CUs in 34 leagues.“So we have accelerated our plan to post more ‘virtual solutions,’” according to the NCUF Web site (www.realsolutions.coop). The Impact Center site features podcasts, toolkits, blogs, monographs and many other resources to help credit unions offer sustainable products and services,” said NCUF.Despite the economizing on conferences and travel, trade group representatives warned that excessive cuts can, in the long run, hurt industry performance by taking away vital information-sharing and cooperative vehicles.“I’m a huge fan of the digital lifestyle and Webinars are great tools, but I don’t ever see the Internet displacing the value of face-to-face meetings allowing attendees to share experiences, consult with vendors and gain access to handout material,” said William Rogers, head of a St. Louis consulting firm serving trade groups.Though the golf course, pool and nightlife are magnets, the industry conference also provides attendees the benefit of concentrating on key issues “with zero office distractions,” said Rogers.There is also the public relations fallout from CUs cutting back on airline, travel and hotel expenses in cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix, which are dependent upon convention and tourist income and have a large CU membership, said Rogers. CUNA and CUES echoed this point this spring.In a statement last month, CUES stressed that it strongly supports the people who work in the business travel industry, representing 2.4 million jobs nationwide, warning that cutting conferences “hurts communities that depend on business travel, including credit unions and their members.”“Business travel has gotten a black eye from the media recently,” complained Carla Altepeter, CUES chairman and president/CEO of CitizensFirst CU, Oshkosh, Wis. “At CUES, we support the people whose livelihoods depend on meeting travel and remind the movement of the importance of education.”Rogers said some CU groups and vendors are moving ahead with Las Vegas and Southwest conferences. The annual Firefighters’ National Credit Union Summit will be held Oct. 4-7 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas and is already ahead on advance reservations, said Rogers.Also on the Las Vegas calendar, said Rogers, is the CU Tech-Talk Security Conference June 3-5 at Lake Las Vegas.“Because the Impact Center is designed as an open-source, multimedia site, we are able to share best practices from REAL Solutions credit unions and make them accessible to all credit unions,” said Steve Delfin, NCUF executive director.Regulators are cutting back too. The North Carolina Credit Union Commission said its regular meeting at the Pinehurst Resort June 16 has been canceled “in the wake of travel restrictions enacted by the state in order to conserve money during the recession.” The next commission meeting will be in Raleigh at an undetermined date. –[email protected]

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