Capacity building makes mission possible

At the root of credit unionism is capacity building. Original credit union capacity-building activities included affordable access to credit, financial education, and products for promoting thrift. Mottos like “People Helping People”, and “Not for profit, not for charity but for service” accurately described our capacity-building mission.

Times may have changed, but the credit union mission and interest in making people’s lives better through capacity-building activities haven’t. It’s this mission and the opportunity to build capacity that motivates us to reach for and do more.

The credit unionistas we run with are enthusiastically engaged at multiple levels of capacity building. It’s a constant stream of inspirational stories of how credit unions are making a meaningful difference for their members, organization and the communities they serve. Here are a few examples of how credit union capacity building works:

Direct Credit Union –Smaller credit unions receiving high-impact assistance like staffing, technology, training and other support services from larger credit unions located in their market. All this without fees or strings attached. They are not merger-focused missions, rather they are commitments to the credit union difference, with larger credit unions committed to and believing in these smaller credit unions – this makes our movement stronger.

Grants –There are a several well-known grants available that are specific to capacity building. NCUA grants for low-income credit unions are a great example. During the last NCUA grant round, Community Underserved Outreachdevelopment grants were available up to $100K, with NCUA awarding a total of 11 grants in the amount of $972,742. Credit union league and association foundations also provide amazing support for credit unions looking to increase their capacity to do good. I’m inspired by the Northwest Credit Union Association’s Foundationgrant program, committing funding to help solve workforce housing issues in the Pacific Northwest. Credit unions are using these funds to expand affordable access to housing in flexible and innovative ways. Of course, the big capacity-building grant dollars are U.S. Treasury Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) grants. Here, credit unions of all sizes are leveraging grants up to $1 million to increase lending and development capacity for consumers and small businesses within their communities. At the end of the day, these grants help credit unions help more people. It’s a deeper level of financial inclusion that leads to home ownership and affordable access to credit and financial services.

What more can we do?

The capacity work we do with grants, partnership development and community-minded business development plans are a source of inspiration. It’s a natural desire to find more ways to do what you love. It’s this desire to build capacity and achieve a greater impact that had a few of us, YCUPand our friends at Your Marketing CompanyUncommn Marketing Partnersand Leverage Pointto ask ourselves what more can we could collectively do to help credit unions achieve more.

Considering that we work with a large group of smaller-sized credit unions. Some of whom are among the most successful credit unions in the country. We decided it would be fun to seek out and find a smaller credit union that is in need of the right tools and advice to increase their capacity. It was our creative friends at Your Marketing Company that had the fun idea to create a national contest to find the right credit union that could benefit with support and guidance to help them grow and fulfil their mission.

To learn more, be sure to visit

Why it matters

The credit union movement is stronger and more effective when we work together. It’s the hallmark of our successful past and there are opportunities all around us to lend a hand to help each other increase capacity, to make more of an impact, and in doing so, more clearly differentiate how credit unions are clearly different and better.

A heartfelt thank you to those credit union leaders and organizations that consistently step up. You make a meaningful difference and inspire others to follow your example. Collectively, we have made a lot of progress, but there is more work to do. Truly, the credit union space is better together.

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