People helping people. That’s the grassroots slogan that started the credit union movement in the early 1900s. And according to Ed Seidenberg, CEO and president of People’s Community Credit Union, it’s every bit as applicable today as it was 100 years ago.
Philanthropy, said Seidenberg, “is part of credit union culture.”
“We live here, we work here, we play here,” added Danette LaChapelle, senior vice president of marketing at iQ Credit Union. “That’s what separates us from the mega-banks.”
Eric Petracca is vice president of marketing at Lacamas Community Credit Union, and has worked in the financial industry for many years. He said that philanthropy at credit unions “feels very different from other financial institutions.”
Big or small, local credit unions spread their philanthropic dollars across a wide range of nonprofit organizations and events.
• LaChapelle said the iQ Foundation helps improve children’s lives by supporting organizations such as the Doernbecher Children's Hospital, the Children’s Justice Center, Educational Opportunities for Children and Families (EOCF) and SHARE. She said individual iQ branches also get involved in their immediate community, such as supporting local schools.
• According to Colleen Boccia, senior vice president of marketing at Columbia Community Credit Union, Columbia CU staff serve on the boards of several nonprofits, such as the Southwest Washington Humane Society, Identity Clark County and the Vancouver Downtown Association. Columbia also supports other organizations, such as Columbia River Mental Health, Community Services Northwest and Pink Power at Peacehealth Southwest Washington Medical Center.
• Petracca said Lacamas CU sponsors local events such as the Riverside Concert Series (including a Fourth of July fireworks display), provides scholarships to high school students and organizes a significant number of holiday dinner gift baskets each year.
• People’s Community CU, said Seidenberg, is a major sponsor of the Clark County Fair and the Boys and Girls Club of southwest Washington, contributed to the opening of the new Vancouver Community Library, donates to Doernbecher and supports an internship program for local youth.
• The Longshoremen’s Local 4 Federal Credit Union, according to CEO DeLin Drake, also supports Doernbecher, as well as collects Christmas gifts and food for local families.
The common factor of these examples of credit union philanthropy is their focus on keeping dollars local.
“Community is where we live, where we do business and where our members live,” said Seidenberg. “We have an obligation to ‘pay it forward’ to our community.”
Drake added that “Our members feel like they are fortunate and want to be able to help people that aren’t as fortunate. They feel good about being able to support the sick and underprivileged children of the community.”
The executives of these local credit unions said they also provide free services to their members. For example, Drake said her institution encourages members to participate in programs sponsored by the Southwest Washington Chapter of Credit Unions, such as the upcoming Shred Day in October, which helps prevent identity theft and fraud.
Boccia said that Columbia CU offers classes that “help members be prosperous and make good decisions.”
“If people are worried about their finances, they can’t proactively manage other issues,” said Boccia.
Seidenberg and Petracca echoed the belief that for credit unions, the commitment to philanthropy comes from the heart, not from a mandate such as the Community Reinvestment Act.
“If you want to be part of something, it’s not just about the bottom line,” said Petracca. “[Philanthropy] becomes part of the way we do business. It’s something we want to do, not something we have to do.”