Credit unions first appeared in the United States back in the 19th century and they have always been champions of community-focused banking. At the core of every credit unions’ mission is a fundamental commitment to serve their members as well as the regions, cities, communities and neighborhoods where they operate. One particularly effective way for a credit union to formalize their efforts at social responsibility is by establishing a nonprofit foundation. It’s a powerful tool that can sharpen the credit union’s philanthropic aspirations and increase engagement. The relationship between credit union brand and nonprofit is symbiotic. The nonprofit has an established support system while the credit union gains a measure of authenticity and goodwill.

Sheila Balzer, a partner and credit union expert with SingerLewak, likes the sharp focus a foundation offers. “Every altruistic endeavor, from setting up scholarships to volunteering at food banks, is good and impactful,” she says. “Doing it through a foundation centralizes those efforts, puts it into a package that can have parameters and a more customized plan.”

Foundations can concentrate on a specific cause. Financial education is a cornerstone of the credit union movement and so it’s natural to find nonprofits promoting financial literacy. Their founding credit union often provides fundamental financial products which helps individual recipients and in turn, expands membership.

Credit unions generally support social justice and responsibility, making those arenas a natural focal point for the establishment of a foundation. Environmental concerns are another obvious choice for a foundation that prefers to pinpoint a specific cause.

“Regardless of the issues a foundation addresses, it gives members and the public at large opportunities to be more involved. It inspires community engagement,” Sheila states. “Foundations,” she goes on to say, “have a volunteer Board of Directors, make use of volunteers in general, so credit unions with a foundation often see more involvement from their own team members. A nonprofit foundation can help a credit union navigate some regulatory requirements as well.”

SingerLewak can help in many ways. We can aid in the development of plans, set parameters for volunteers and fundraising, and help put together Social Impact reports. These reports delineate who and how the foundation has benefitted people and communities. It’s information that reflects positively on the credit union brand.

Our SingerLewak name adds an additional measure of credibility and integrity to the numbers, which makes us a valuable partner even with a foundation already in place.

Foundations act as transparent entities, making sure resources are allocated appropriately. In short, they give credit unions that structured, strategic approach to community engagement and social responsibility.

The SL Credit Union Services Group would be happy to provide a free consultation. Reach out by filling in the form below.