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ECONorthwest Report Finds Credit Unions Have Great Impact

ECONorthwest, a firm specializing in evaluating public policies and investments, recently released a report measuring the economic impact of Northwest credit unions in their communities. The study was conducted using detailed information for over 450 credit union branches in the region, survey data, NCUA report data, and CUNA project zip code data. The study followed expenditures from a company as they ripple through the local economy.

In 2014, credit unions in Oregon and Washington had an economic impact of more than $6.8 billion. Washington’s 3.2 million credit union members alone received $249 million in direct benefits. These dollars went into members’ wallets, in the form of better rates and lower fees, and right back into the community.

In addition to operating as not-for-profits that exist solely to serve members, credit unions give back to their communities through fundraising, education, and involvement.

Seattle Credit Union Giving Back Through Year Up

Seattle Credit Union’s CEO Richard Romero knows first-hand what it’s like to have a tough start in life. Having grown up in a lower-income, single-parent household, Romero had to overcome enormous odds to achieve success in life. He is grateful for the opportunities and financial education he got working in the credit union industry, and now he’s passionate about giving back to his community in the form of mentorship and education that he didn’t have access to as a youth.

Last year, Romero was invited to give a speech to 50 young adults about personal finance at a program called Year Up. Year Up is a one-year, intensive training program that provides low-income young adults with a combination of hands-on skill development, college credits, corporate internships, and support. After receiving overwhelming response, Romero joined Year Up’s Leadership Council and mentored a Year Up student, who went on to secure employment at a tech company.

While Year Up offered a full gamut of hands-on professional training and life skills, Romero felt that students could also get great benefit from a robust personal finance curriculum. Most students enrolled in Year Up come from underprivileged backgrounds, where basic budgeting and financial planning are not strengths in their home lives. From this light bulb moment, a new educational program was born.

Seattle Credit Union’s Business Development team assembled a three-phase educational program to meet the needs of Year Up participants at all different phases of their professional journeys, both during the program and with a follow-up session for graduates. The pilot seminar was so well received that the full program has been permanently incorporated into Year Up’s core curriculum.

Over the past several years, Seattle Credit Union has given over 50 other financial education seminars to our members and community, and Seattle Credit Union employees have spent nearly 1,000 hours volunteering at local non-profits.

Other Credit Union Contributions to the Community

Washington credit unions and their employees and members contributed more than $5.2 million to charitable organizations last year, as well as tens of thousands of donation hours.

Here are just a few examples of other northwest credit unions doing great things in their communities.

  • Red Canoe Credit Union has collected school supplies for students in need since 2007. The first year, they collected 2,500 pounds of supplies. In 2014, they collected 13,800 pounds of supplies. One middle school student and budding artist thanked a Red Canoe employee and said that she was one of the kids who received a backpack from the drive. She burst into tears after receiving a box of Sharpie pens. She’d never had anything brand new.
  • A Gesa Credit Union employee was reading the newspaper one morning when he came across an article about their community’s teen shelter, the Safe Harbor Support Center. Safe Harbor learned that they would not receive $150,000 in funding it had counted on from the state. They could reapply for the money, but needed $30,000 in the short term just to keep their doors open. Gesa Credit Union’s staff and members came together with a goal of raising $15,000, to be matched by Gesa. Gesa Credit Union and their generous community ended up bringing in a total of $90,649 for Safe Harbor, allowing them to continue operating. Gesa continues to contribute to Safe Harbor by donating computers and sponsoring fundraiser events.
  • Solarity Credit Union got creative when making donations to Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital and other children’s hospitals within their community. In addition to donating toys, stuffed animals, and electronics, they donated a wagon to transport patients to and from treatments in a way less threatening than a gurney or wheelchair. They raised over $10,000 in funds for children’s hospitals through fundraiser events, such as “Golf to Give,” funds that were matched by CO-OP Financial Services and other Northwest credit unions for a total of $30,000 in donations.

Get Involved with Seattle Credit Union Giving

Members have the opportunity to participate in several community giving events we run each year:

March of Dimes: Nearly 9,000 babies are born prematurely each year in Washington State alone, putting fragile lives at risk and an indescribable hardship on their families. March of Dimes, a non-profit organization, supports these babies and their families financially, medically, and emotionally, as well as supporting research on premature births and birth defects to help prevent future pregnancy and birth complications.

Each spring, Seattle Credit Union employees come together to donate and raise money for March of Dimes, some years making it into the list of top 10 contributors in Washington. You can also find our company team at the annual March of Dimes walk. If you would like to contribute to our fundraiser, please check back in early spring.

Checking for Change: When a member signs up for a Seattle Credit Union Feel Good Checking account, we donate $20 to the non-profit partner of the member’s choice. Our community selects our seven non-profit partners each year through a nomination and voting process. We encourage you, your friends, and family to nominate your favorite local non-profit organizations in October, so they can have a chance to receive donations. Since we began the Feel Good Checking program in 2008, it has raised over $130,000 for local non-profits.

Holiday Toy Drive: Each December, we collect new toys, warm clothing, books, gift cards, and more. The donations go to Wellspring Family Services, where families in need can pick out special gifts for their children.

Credit Unions for Kids: Credit Unions for Kids collects funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, which in our region is Seattle Children’s Hospital. During the Winter Icon Campaign, you may donate $1 or more at Seattle Credit Union branches. Donations are represented by paper icons, which hang on the walls of the branches. The funds go to expenses like fetal heart monitors and pediatric wheelchairs.


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