With the help of Montana Credit Unions for Community Development (MCUCD), credit unions in the state have embarked on a new program that will give their members access to both certified financial counselors and financial coaches.
“We’re really excited by this program. We believe it will help credit unions make an incredible difference in their members’ lives,” said Karen Smith, MCUCD Director of Outreach Services. “Knowing what makes good financial sense is the first step, but the next step is applying that knowledge – discovering and making the actual changes you need in your life. Now, imagine being able to get both at your local credit union. That’s what this program is going make possible in Montana.”
With the help of a Financial Education Grant from the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) and a grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture, MCUCD has established a unique program offering Montana credit unions an affordable avenue to have one or more staff members become trained financial counselors and/or coaches. In the past seven months alone, professionals from 14 of Montana’s 57 credit unions completed training. And that’s just the start.
Montana's first FiCEP class poses alongside instructor and REAL Solutions Field Coach Mark Lynch (far right).
Impact in Montana
By providing an affordable financial certification program and financial coach training, this program makes it possible for Montana’s credit unions to offer low‐income individuals in Montana’s rural areas the same kind of financial education services more widely available in non‐rural areas. The new program also builds on the asset-building and financial education work that many Montana credit unions are, with the help of MCUCD, already engaged in. Several of the participants that completed either the financial counseling or financial coaching trainings come from credit unions that are involved in one or more of MCUCD’s programs that offer free tax services, matched savings accounts, consumer resource centers, and payday loan alternatives.
Combining the lower cost and convenience of the Credit Union National Association’s self-study Credit Union Financial Counseling Certification Program (FiCEP) enhanced with webinars and local in-person training and networking, the training enables credit union staff to become more confident in helping members build stronger financial futures. Once they successfully complete the FiCEP training, they earn the Credit Union Certified Financial Counselor (CCUFC) designation. The enhanced FiCEP program is a result of a partnership between NCUF’s REAL Solutions® program, Credit Union National Association’s Center for Professional Development (CUNA CPD), the Montana Credit Union Network and their member credit unions. Read more about the enhanced FiCEP program here.
"Financial counseling is something all credit unions should be offering to their members," said Sue Smith, graduate of Montana’s first FiCEP class and CEO at Ravalli County FCU in Hamilton, MT. "Thank you for providing the opportunity to help us achieve our goal of providing the valuable assistance to our membership.”
In late 2011, MCUCD coordinated a financial coach training through the New Mexico Project for Financial Literacy (NMPFL). Coaching is goal-oriented: it empowers clients to achieve their objectives and helps them to navigate life transitions. To provide for the long-term sustainability of financial coaching in Montana, staff from MCUCD and staff from selected partner organizations received instruction from the NMPFL enabling them to serve as in-state trainers of financial coaches. As a result, after the initial training from NMPFL, MCUCD will be able to train additional financial coaches without requiring outside assistance. MCUCD’s intent is to provide several financial coach trainings across the state in 2012.
A Foundation Grant at Work
This “Grant at Work” is part of a series highlighting NCUF grantees making a positive impact in their community and empowering consumers to achieve financial independence through credit unions.
NCUF grants are made possible by supporters of the Foundation and the Community Investment Fund (CIF), an award-winning system of investments that help credit unions earn dividends while donating to national and state community development programs.
About the National Credit Union Foundation (ncuf.coop):
The National Credit Union Foundation is the US credit union movement’s primary national philanthropic program provider, fundraiser and grant-maker. Through NCUF grants and programs, credit unions provide widespread financial education, create greater access to affordable financial services, and empower more consumers to save, build assets, and own homes.
NCUF is funded primarily by investments in the award-winning Community Investment Fund (CIF) and by generous Supporters led by the Credit Union National Association and CUNA Mutual Group. All NCUF donors provide support that empowers NCUF and state credit union foundations to make a real impact in the credit union community.
The National Credit Union Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization. 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.