Community Development and Community Finance: Where Opportunity and Mission Meet

True to the credit union movement’s philosophy of “People Helping People,” in spite of the tremendous challenges credit unions have faced with the Great Recession and the meltdown of the corporate credit union system, the movement continues to expand credit union services to economically disadvantaged communities and populations.

The Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (NFCDCU) are teamed up to provide two education sessions that will highlight the innovative work the Federation and community development credit unions (CDCUs) are doing to bring affordable, yet sustainable financial services to low income consumers and underserved communities.

As the credit union authority in all things related to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), the sessions, scheduled for June 27 in Portland, Ore., and June 28 in Seattle, will provide in-depth information about the function of the Federation, about CDFI certification and funding opportunities, and other means by which credit unions can leverage resources to better serve their members and communities.

The vast majority of the credit unions involved in community finance are low-income designated and/or CDFI certified. Although these terms are often times interchangeable, there are important distinctions that ought to be taken into account, as together, they provide a formidable toolkit of resources, regulatory flexibility and expertise that can make a huge difference in a credit union’s ability and capacity to provide viable solutions to the needs of low-to-moderate income (LMI) markets.

  • Community Development Credit Union – CDCU: Designation obtained through membership with the Federation. It identifies its mission and commitment to serve low and moderate income consumers as well as underserved communities and marginalized populations. Regardless of size, charter type or membership served, CDCUs are unified under one common goal: promoting financial inclusion.
  • Low Income Credit Unions – LICU: Designation provided by the National Credit Union Administration (state regulatory agencies generally recognize those powers). This designation gives a credit union certain special powers, such as the right to accept non-member deposits and secondary capital. LICUs are also exempted from the cap limiting member business loans to 12.25% of their portfolio and can provide transactional services to non-members.
  • Community Development Financial Institution – CDFI: Certification provided by the US Treasury Department’s CDFI Fund.  To obtain the CDFI Certification credit unions must have a primary mission of promoting community development by providing activities directed towards improving the social or economic conditions of Low-Income people or Target Markets. This certification makes credit unions eligible to participate in and/or to receive Financial Assistance and Technical Assistance Awards.

The Federation was created by and for credit unions committed to serving economically distressed communities. Since 1974, the Federation has helped credit unions meet the challenges of serving low-income communities, which require implementing innovative approaches to empower people to effectively use credit union services.

The Federation is the only credit union organization that specializes in providing services to credit unions, which serve low- to moderate-income communities. Credit unions are the most effective, equitable and sustainable type of CDFI, which is a function of both governance structure and mission.

Registration information for the education sessions will be available soon. For more information, contact Alison Carr, membership and outreach officer with the Federation, at 800.437.8711, ext. 203, or via email


Questions or Concerns? Contact Matt Halvorson, Anthem Editor:

Posted in Events, NWCUA.