← Return to the blog index

“An ancient system of give and take”

Gigi Hyland addresses the crowd at CUNA's GAC

A transcript of the address Gigi Hyland, executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation, gave to GAC attendees during the opening ceremony – Monday, February 27, 2023.

I love nature. It is my happy place—outside, in nature—birding, hiking, gardening. I also completely geek out on nature programs.

Recently, I watched one called The Soul of the Ocean. Besides the incredible, breathtaking underwater photography, what struck me was the language used in the narration; language that felt familiar:

The ocean is “a natural realm built on relationships… An ancient system of give and take… Where communities of life cooperate… And everyone must play their part to maintain the delicate balance.

Listen. Watch. Understand. The more you look, the more it changes your perspective.”

This language feels so familiar because it is the very heart of our purpose as credit unions. It is also the heart of the Foundation’s work.

Our credit union system is built on relationships—with each other, our employees, our members, our communities. It is give and take. The “communities of life” within our system—credit unions, leagues, state foundations, the Foundation, CUNA, system partners—we all come together to cooperate and transform people’s financial lives. We understand the more we each look, the more it changes our perspective on how we can improve financial well-being for all.

Financial well-being for all is a subtle, but fundamental shift in the credit union promise that articulates the credit union difference through providing personal financial care. It is give and take and requires cooperation. It is our system’s commitment to improving each and every person’s financial well-being, one member, and one step at a time.

When every credit union works together to build and share tools, we can make a tangible difference in communities across the country. It is the very promise that makes credit unions different.

Financial well-being for all is the Foundation’s work. In 2022—through your unwavering support—we collaborated and engaged across the credit union system to bring the tools, resources and convenings you asked for.

We collaborated with Filene to craft a financial well-being for all Quick Start Guide that lays out a clear roadmap for credit unions to put financial well-being for all into practice.

Through our grants, we funded tools and resources to medium and smaller institutions to understand membership demographics, financial health, and respond to the diversity of members’ needs. That work helped these credit unions lay a strategy for future growth and diversification.

Similarly, the results of our Start at Home grants revealed key benefits of helping employees with their financial well-being through a split-deposit program.

To help credit unions with talent and culture, we delivered best-in-class virtual and in-person learning through our signature Development Education™ (DE) program, our fully customizable Exploring Why™ workshops, and our Cooperative Principles and Empathy training.

We reached over 1,500 credit union professionals through our Foundation learning experiences in 2022—every individual returned to their organizations more knowledgeable, empowered, and committed to improving the financial health of those they serve.

We responded when disaster struck, serving as the conduit for your cooperative generosity—just shy of $600K distributed through disaster relief grants to our credit union colleagues in Puerto Rico and Florida as they recovered from Hurricanes Fiona and Ian, and Colorado and New Mexico for wildfires, Montana for floods, and Michigan for a tornado.

This groundswell of energy, action, and work that you see and feel all on financial well-being for all is the very soul of credit unions. And that soul needs care and feeding.

In 2022, the Foundation also became the steward of the FinHealth Fund; a new designated fund to capitalize and provide resources over the next four years to the credit union system to:

  • Build a national repository of resources to ignite and inspire credit unions to act and put financial well-being for all into practice.
  • Build credit union employee readiness to give them the knowledge, skills, and resources to help solve member needs, improve member financial health, and promote the credit union difference.
  • Collaborate to identify and test data to demonstrate the credit union difference and the positive impact credit unions have on the financial health and well-being of members.

This is the credit union system’s effort. Not siloed with the Foundation here, and CUNA there, and others over there. No. This is all of our work together headed in the same direction. This is the credit union promise, this is the credit union difference that is grounded in providing everyone we serve personal financial care.

I spoke earlier of the ocean as “an ancient system of give and take”. Admittedly, our credit union system is not nearly as ancient as the ocean, but we have history, history that shows time and time again that credit unions are designed to be inclusive; are designed to give people the power to help themselves and build the financial lives they want. This is our history and it is our future.

Listen. Watch. Understand. The more you look, the more it changes your perspective.

Share this post on