National Credit Union Foundation Selects 2009 Wegner Award for Outstanding Organization

Montana Credit Unions for Community Development will Receive
Credit Union Movement's Highest National Honor

MCUCD logoIt’s only five years old, but it has already made a lasting impact on over 50,000 people’s lives. For its successful innovations and partnerships, Montana Credit Unions for Community Development (MCUCD)—the philanthropic arm of the Montana Credit Union Network—will receive the prestigious Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Organization.

This will be the first award presented at the 21st Annual Wegner Awards Dinner hosted by the National Credit Union Foundation on Feb. 23—opening night of the Credit Union National Association’s 2009 Governmental Affairs Conference. For the second straight year, the gala dinner will take place at the Grand Hyatt Washington. Online registration will be available later this year at www.ncuf.coop.


“It will be a highlight of our year when Montana Credit Unions for Community Development receives the credit union movement’s highest national honor,” related Montana Credit Union Network President Tracie Kenyon.


“We are proud of the real difference our organization is making in our state with 62 innovative credit unions. On behalf of the 50,000 people we have helped avoid predatory loans, keep more of their earned income, and open their first savings accounts, we thank the National Credit Union Foundation’s Awards & Recognition Committee for choosing the underdogs for this award.”


“The people of Montana are fortunate to have an organization like Montana Credit Unions for Community Development,” agreed NCUF Awards & Recognition Committee Chairman Bob Schumacher, CEO of MountainCrest Credit Union in Arlington, Washington. “This organization really gets it. For credit unions to truly grow and thrive, we have to partner with other organizations who know the people most in need of credit union services. By following this innovative example, credit unions could reach millions more potential members and serve them for the greater good.”

Far-Reaching Mission

Montana Credit Unions for Community Development upholds a far-reaching mission: to implement programs, through credit unions, that improve the social and economic well-being of Montanans.

Most of its activities are directed toward serving the state’s low-wealth population. Montana’s median household income of $33,024 is substantially lower than the national average of $42,000. In fact, 50 of Montana’s 62 credit unions have the National Credit Union Administration’s “low-income” designation.

Successful Programs

MCUCD’s services are packaged to aggregate resources and create innovative “plug and play” products that are easy to implement so that credit unions can focus on what they do best: serve members regardless of their economic status.

This approach empowers MCUCD to provide a wide range of successful programs throughout Montana:
  • Alternatives to Payday Lending – offering low-cost alternatives to meet short-term borrowing needs;

  • Credit Union Resource Center – web-based tools helping consumers make smarter financial decisions;

  • Early Awareness – educating parents of elementary-aged school children about planning and saving for college;

  • Financial Education – reaching classrooms, community centers, and boardrooms;

  • Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) – special matched savings accounts that encourage low-income members to become regular savers by doubling or tripling their principal;

MCUCD's Americorps VISTAs provide volunteer income tax assistance.
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) – free tax preparation sites in person and on the internet, returning over $1 million in Earned Income Tax Credits to working low-income families.

(In the photo on the right, MCUCD's AmeriCorps "Volunteers In Service To America" provide volunteer income tax assistance at a VITA site.)

Valuable Partnerships

Led by Executive Director Jeanne Saarinen, MCUCD also recognizes the need to create partnerships to sustain their programs. In its first five years, MCUCD has forged successful partnerships with 22 organizations.

These partners have provided strategic and capitalization planning, teacher training, consumer education, and valuable fundraising—$824,233 in grants.
  • AARP Montana
  • Allstate Foundation
  • Career Training Institute
  • Community Development Financial Institutions Fund
  • Consumer Credit Counseling Services
  • Credit Union Advocacy Council
  • Kellogg Foundation
  • Lewis and Clark County Community Foundation
  • Montana Council on Economic Education
  • Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
  • Montana Department of Revenue
  • Montana Homeownership Network
  • Montana HRDC Association
  • Montana Legal Services Association
  • National Council on Economic Education

(In the photo below, a "Learning, Earning, and Investing" training class was funded by the National Council on Economic Education.)
Learning, Earning, and Investing training was funded by the National Council on Economic Education.
  • National Credit Union Administration
  • National Credit Union Foundation
  • Rural Employment and Opportunities, Inc.
  • Student Assistance Foundation
  • US Department of Agriculture Rural Community Development Initiative
  • US Department of Health and Human Services Assets for Independence Program
  • Women's Foundation of Montana

“The great thing about partnering with MCUCD is that it is always a true partnership,” observed Student Assistance Foundation Executive Director Kelly Chapman. “There’s never a struggle for who should lead and who should follow, or who should give and who should receive. Rather, partnerships with MCUCD are about coming together with the resources of all partners and working together to make the best use of the gifts, talents, and resources that everyone contributes. Many organizations espouse this philosophy, but too few actually live it. That’s why it’s so refreshing to work with MCUCD. They are genuinely involved to work for the greater good.”

Other sources of support come from MCUCD’s parent: the Montana Credit Union Network. The league provides general operating expenses for salaries, benefits, office expenses, and grant matching funds. The league and Treasure State Corporate Credit Union both maintain deposits in the Community Investment Fund (CIF), which returns up to 1% of its dividends to state credit union development initiatives through the National Credit Union Foundation.

What’s more, 50% of Montana credit unions also invest in the CIF. In fact, Montana credit unions’ CIF investments total over $4 million. This represents .14% of Montana’s total credit union assets—the highest commitment of any state.

Positioned for Growth

With all the good work there is to do, and the desire to do more, MCUCD has increased its capacity by establishing a long-term relationship with Montana Legal Services. This partnership allows MCUCD to leverage the AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) program. So far, MCUCD has hosted six VISTA workers to assist in poverty-fighting programs.

Already, MCUCD has touched the lives of more than 50,000 people in a state with a population of only 902,000. This represents outreach to nearly 1 out of every 18 people throughout Montana.

It all adds up to a very impressive resume for a five-year-old!
MCUCD's staff celebrated their successes with a team hike!
MCUCD's staff celebrated their success with a team hike!
About the Wegner Awards:
The awards are named in honor of the late Credit Union National Association CEO Herb Wegner, whose tireless dedication, innovative ideas and deeds truly revolutionized the ways that credit unions serve their communities. The awards that bear Wegner’s name honor his legacy and recognize his spirit of “innovative, creative, risk-taking” leadership.
BBB SealAbout the National Credit Union Foundation
www.ncuf.coop:
The National Credit Union Foundation is the U.S. credit union movement’s national philanthropic leader and fundraiser. In 28 years, NCUF has provided more than $28 million in grants supporting its mission to promote consumers’ financial independence through credit unions.

NCUF is funded primarily by investments in the Community Investment Fund (CIF) and by Corporate Supporters – led by the Credit Union National Association, CUNA Mutual Group, the Corporate Credit Union Network, Harland Clarke, WesCorp, CO-OP Financial Services, Card Services for Credit Unions, Fidelity National Information Services, and Visa. All NCUF donors provide support that empowers NCUF and state credit union foundations to make a real impact in the credit union community.

NCUF continues to earn the Better Business Bureau seal of approval as an “Accredited Charity” for meeting all 20 BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for national charities.