The demographic makeup of the U.S. is forever changing. Understanding how an individual’s race, ethnicity and culture influences their financial behaviors is key to the credit union movement’s mission to improve financial well-being for all — but operationalizing that understanding requires tools and resources. With the vast majority of U.S. credit unions having less than $500 million in assets, some of the organizations most connected with and integrated into their communities lack the capacity to invest in these tools. This poses an existential risk to the credit union system.
In October 2021, the Foundation launched the Knowing and Helping Your Member grant project to explore these implications. Credit unions composed of 10 or more employees with assets between $100 million and $600 million were encouraged to apply. Six credit unions participated in the study throughout 2022. Each organization received consultative hours and analytical services from Coopera Consulting, and technical support and consultation from Attune, part of the Financial Health Network.
As a result, each credit union uncovered communities of color in their field of membership that were overlooked or underserved to a greater or lesser extent, and identified existing products and services that did not (or would not) meet the needs of these communities if greater outreach occurred.
The grant also uncovered implications beyond the straightforward upfront costs that – unless addressed as a credit union system – could continue to limit opportunities for all credit unions to deliver against their missions.