BECU Provides Voice and Visibility to the Good Work of Members

Credit unions are built on ideals of equal opportunity, of serving the under-served and furthering the “People Helping People” philosophy to benefit local communities. This commitment to service reflects the spirit of credit union pioneer Dora Maxwell, a woman who not only helped charter hundreds of credit unions, but was also renowned for her work improving the living standards of the poor and needy.

Of course, as member-owned financial cooperatives, credit unions rely on their membership to reflect Maxwell’s spirit as well—and to understand credit union ideals—and that can be a tall order. But social responsibility is serious business at Northwest credit unions, and while engaging credit union membership on this philosophical level can be tricky, Seattle’s BECU has found that the right mix of engagement channels and philosophical candy can be a successful recipe for truly communicating the scope and value of the credit union difference.

Winner of the 2012 NWCUA Dora Maxwell Award in the greater than $1 billion category, BECU’s Member Volunteer of the Year Award and Donation Project recognizes not only members who are doing great things in their community, but advocates for employee involvement in the promotion of corporate social responsibility.

BECU members are invited to submit their stories of social responsibility as part of the program’s nomination and application process. The stories are then voted on by the credit union’s membership, with the two winning members earning a $5,000 donation to their charity of choice.

BECU Community Affairs Manager Debie Wege said that BECU’s primary goal is to be the conduit for recognizing all the great things that the credit union’s members are doing in the community. But it’s also about getting the word out about the winning member and his or her charity.

“This program promotes the members’ local, community-based volunteer efforts, which sheds a very positive light on the member,” Wege said. “But then the charity gets recognized as well, and two are ultimately awarded the $5,000 in the name of the credit union member who won the contest. It’s a wonderful way to see the credit union principle of social responsibility come to life.”

Wege says the program has been around for at least 23 years, although it has changed over the years.

“Today we solicit community involvement stories through our Facebook and through email, so it’s all online,” she said. “We used to solicit though placards in our branches, which really limited the number of nominations.”

Other parameters of the contest have remained the same, such as its time frame, which always begins on International Credit Union Day and ends with a celebration in the lobby of BECU’s Tukwila branch that includes employees, members and a contingent of regional charities, four of whom receive a housing grant of $20,000 from the credit union.

This year, one of the recipients of a housing grant and a charity of the winning member have decided to work together more in the coming year after learning of their BECU connection. According to Wege, this type of recognition and philosophical promotion is important to the life of a community.

“We are part of our community of members and are honored to provide a voice to their social responsibility efforts and let as many people know as possible what it means to give back to that community,” Wege said.


Questions? Contact the NWCUA Awards Program: 800.995.9064, ext. 106;

Posted in Around the NW, Awards, NWCUA.