NCUF Innovation Grant Helps Small Businesses in Underserved Communities

Truliant Federal Credit Union logoTo help small businesses revitalize underserved communities, the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) has approved an Innovation Grant of $22,840 to Truliant Federal Credit Union.

This NCUF Innovation Grant will help Truliant provide entrepreneuer education, credit counseling, and strategic planning for small business owners in five underserved areas of North Carolina and Virginia.

“Rural entrepreneurs in particular need greater access to equity capital,” observed Truliant Director of Community Services Marjorie Rorie. “Our program aligns with the mission of NCUF to ‘improve consumer financial independence through credit unions,’ by increasing access to loans for low-wealth and rural-based entrepreneurs in underserved communities. We want to broaden financial options for start-ups and growing businesses. We will make a concerted effort to provide financial literacy among adults and youths to prepare them better for entrepreneurship.”

Important Lessons Learned

Rorie learned two important lessons from conducting financial literacy classes that will help refocus the next series for entrepreneurs:
  • First, Rorie emphasized, “We have to make the foundation of every class about ‘how to improve credit scores.’ In one class we conducted, 40 out of 48 potential and current small business owners had credit scores under 600. This is a critical issue. Without good credit, it becomes a struggle to run a business.”
  • Second, Rorie explained, “We also saw that many small business people have no formal plan on how they should run their business. Often this has led to their seeking unrealistic loan amounts to borrow for their business.”

"Credit Scores Rising Significantly"

In a pilot funded by NCUF during the first six months of 2008, Truliant has been offering new and existing members a “holistic approach to building financial strength through saving, credit building, account management, and financial education.”

Rorie reported that “We have seen success with this pilot, with credit scores rising significantly.”
Truliant FCU teaches young entrepreneurs "how to improve your credit score."
Truliant FCU teaches young entrepreneurs "how to improve your credit score."

Truliant now aims to help establish and mentor more small businesses that will provide needed jobs and services in underserved communities.

Classes will be delivered in Spanish as well as English.

Fourth of 14 NCUF Innovation Grants

This is the fourth of 14 Innovation Grants to be approved by NCUF in 2008. These grants are made possible by investments in the Community Investment Fund (CIF).
Click to see how to invest in CIF!During the 2008 Innovation Grants application cycle, NCUF received 41 applications requesting over $2.2 million in funding. This was nearly four times the $600,000 budgeted for Innovation Grants through the CIF.

“Grant requests were much higher this year because the needs are much greater,” relates NCUF Deputy Director Steve Bosack, the Foundation’s staff liaison to the NCUF Grants Committee. “More credit unions are seeking innovative ways to serve people with low wealth and modest means.”

“More credit unions than ever are investing in the Community Investment Fund,” points out NCUF Executive Director Steve Delfin. “Yet here’s the paradox: even though CIF balances reached an all-time high, the fund has returned a much lower percentage of grant dollars in 2008. This is due to federal interest rate cuts from January through September. So especially during these challenging economic times, we thank all 650-plus CIF investors, the NCUF Board and Grants Committee for allowing us to maintain our $600,000 in Innovation Grant commitments and reward credit unions serving low-wealth households.”
Click here to see how to invest in CIF!