National Credit Union Foundation Celebrates 30 Years of Investing in Credit Unions

Charitable Arm of CU Industry was Chartered in October, 1980

The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF), widely recognized as the national charitable arm of America's credit union movement, celebrates its 30th anniversary this month.

Originally called the CUNA Foundation, NCUF was incorporated in October of 1980. In its early days, NCUF focused on international development, scholarships and grants to small credit unions, working closely with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and CUNA Mutual Group. In 1991, the Foundation reorganized to become a true charitable foundation focused on the needs of consumers and credit unions’ unique ability to meet those needs.

In its first 30 years, the Foundation has awarded over $25 million worth of grants to fulfill its mission: “to promote and improve consumer financial independence through credit unions.”

"The National Credit Union Foundation has and continues to evolve in its ability to support the work of credit unions in their communities,” said Patricia Brownell Sterner, former NCUF Executive Director and Founder and CEO of JFB & Associates, LLC. “A true hallmark of the Foundation's strength is its ability to embrace change, taking advantage of the opportunities and challenges of an often tumultuous financial marketplace to consistently develop new ways to fulfill its mission. Kudos to the Foundation for how much we have achieved together in 30 years to support consumer financial independence through credit unions!"

The Foundation’s strategic programs and grants help 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 programs and grants include:

  • REAL Solutions® – helping credit unions offer services that have proven successful for people of modest means and "low wealth."
  • Credit Union Development EducationPreserving credit unions’ uniqueness through training in credit union philosophy and cooperative principles.
  • Financial Education – sponsoring Biz Kid$, the award-winning financial education series on PBS stations underwritten by America’s credit unions.
  • CUAid ( – raising disaster relief funds for credit union employees, volunteers and members.
  • Innovation Grants – encouraging credit union innovations through grant-making.

“None of the work the Foundation has done over the years would be possible without our generous supporters,” said Bucky Sebastian, NCUF Executive Director. “Particularly credit unions who invest in the Community Investment Fund, corporate supporters, individual donors, and state credit union leagues and foundations, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), CUNA Mutual Group, and the Corporate Credit Union Network, who make significant donations and encourage others to follow their lead. Thank you all for helping the Foundation make a real impact in our communities over the years.”

Carol Schillios, Founder, Schillios Consulting Group and Fabric of Life Foundation, and the first full-time NCUF Director said, “One of the Foundation’s earliest objectives was to ‘aid in mobilizing and channeling the people, talents, expertise and resources available through the U.S. credit union movement to bring credit union services to those who need and want them.’ How wonderful it is to see NCUF programs such as REAL Solutions® continue that goal thirty years later!”

“I’m proud to celebrate the Foundation’s powerful work over the years and am enthusiastic for our future,” said NCUF Board Chairman Allan Kemp McMorris, President & CEO of Oakland County Credit Union in Waterford, Mich. “The need for consumer financial freedom is as strong as ever. Our grants and programs in the years ahead are vital to helping credit unions make that independence a reality.”

Give the Gift of Financial Freedom!

Make a $30 gift today in honor of the Foundation's 30th anniversary.


National Credit Union Foundation historical highlights:

October, 1980
Foundation is chartered as “CUNA Foundation.” Staff includes a full-time director and one program assistant in Madison, Wis.

CUDEs: Making a Difference for Over 25 YearsFirst grant: $1,000 to New Zealand Credit Union League for custom overview analysis.

First Credit Union Development Education (DE) Program launches with education grant from U.S. Agency for International Development (US AID).

February, 1989
First Herb Wegner Memorial Awards held in Washington, D.C. Recipients include R.C. Morgan, Cynthia Mandizha, and NCR Universal CU.

Board expands to include broader representation of credit unions. Foundation nears $1 million in grants after first 11 years.

Patricia Brownell (Sterner) hired as Executive Director. During the next nine years with Brownell leading the Foundation, more than $7.7 million will be distributed in grants.

October, 1992
“CUNA Foundation” changes name to “Credit Union Foundation” to better reflect commitment to credit unions.

Relief efforts for Oklahoma City bombing raise $1.4 million for Disaster Relief Fund. Every dollar is disbursed to credit union victims’ families.

Foundation facilitates creation of State Credit Union Foundation Network to further credit union development at state and local levels.

February, 1998
CIFAs state credit union foundations develop, “Credit Union Foundation” changes name to “National Credit Union Foundation.”

Community Investment Fund (CIF) opens to provide credit unions opportunities to donate portion of dividends to NCUF and state credit union foundations. CIF attracts $650,000 in investments in first year.

Late 1999
Current logo introduced. Flame symbolizes credit union philosophy.

Board expands to current form: 13 seats representing cross-sections of the credit union movement and major stakeholders.

October, 2002
CIF investments reach $100 million. Supported by partnerships with U.S. Central, corporate credit unions, state leagues and foundations, CIF emerges as the primary funding mechanism for programs and grants of NCUF and state foundations.

Late 2004
First America’s Credit Unions Congressional Golf Tournament held in Washington, D.C. During the next six years, the tournament will provide over $500,000 in funding for NCUF programs and grants.

AFPApril, 2005
CIF wins the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) 2005 Award for Excellence in Fundraising.

August, 2005
Disaster Relief Fund reactivated for Hurricane Katrina. Campaign raises largest amount ever for credit union disaster relief: $3.3 million. $3.4 million is ultimately disbursed to assist survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

May, 2006
Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance bestows “seal of approval” on NCUF for meeting National Standards of Charity Accountability.

Biz Kid$June, 2006
NCUF makes largest non-disaster grant commitment ever: nearly $2 million over three years to sponsor the Biz Kid$ TV series, which began airing on PBS in 2007. Since then, the youth financial education show has won numerous awards and is featured in all 50 states.

CU AidOctober, 2006
To raise funds for major disasters affecting credit unions and their people, the Foundation launched CU Aid (, the first online disaster relief fundraising system for credit unions.

To further credit unions’ efforts to serve low-wealth and modest means households, NCUF begins the national expansion of REAL Solutions® as its signature program.

REAL Solutions®2008
NCUF launches REAL Solutions®’ Impact Center website ( which provides tools, resources and information for credit unions to better serve low-wealth households.

January, 2010
NCUF activates CUAid in conjunction with World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) for the credit union employees and members who suffered catastrophic loss due to the earthquake in Haiti. US credit unions and their members raised $453,390 for this disaster alone.

April, 2010
CIF with NCB, a new CIF alternative is launched. The partnership with NCB, FSB (NCB) the thrift subsidiary of the National Consumer Cooperative Bank will provide the credit union community with another CIF option to participate in and support the programs and Bucky Sebastian photoservices that NCUF and the state credit union foundations (SCUFs) provide.

June, 2010

Current Executive Director Wendell “Bucky” Sebastian takes helm.