On a Mission: NW Credit Union Foundation Unveils Its Plan to Increase Impact

New website? Check.

New online reporting tools for collecting data, assessing applications, and measuring impact? Check.

A new vision that goes beyond scholarships and grants to cultivate opportunities, develop leaders, leverage partnerships, and encourage the kind of collaboration that helps credit unions make sustainable investments in the communities they serve?

Make that check a double, because the Northwest Credit Union Foundation has redefined its mission in an effort to enhance the impact of credit unions throughout the region. Executive Director Kim Vu and Development Associate Josalyn Alston unveiled the changes last week at the Northwest Credit Union Association’s Amplify Convention in Portland.

“We want to unleash the power and potential of every credit union and every credit union employee to impact their community,” Vu says. “We want to be able to say, ‘Here’s what we set out to do, and here’s the difference we made.’”

The Foundation has already made a huge difference in Oregon and Washington. Giving increased by 5 percent last year, resulting in 138 scholarships (totaling $128,611) for marketing, brand development and leadership, and six grants (totaling $38,144) for financial education and outreach.

One of those grants helped to fund Co-opAtopia, a unique event that helped seven Washington credit unions spread the movement’s message and fostered “greater cooperation among cooperatives” across a variety of sectors. Another grant supported Town Hall meetings in Kitsap County to help residents there deal with the effects of sequester cuts.

“The Consumer Public Education Grant provided by the Northwest Credit Union Foundation allowed us to put together a Town Hall with some timely information and a great deal of financial resources, all within five weeks,” says Scott Prior, CEO of Connection Credit Union. “We hosted 250 people and got the message out about our willingness to help and what credit unions are about.”

The Foundation’s enhanced mission will enable credit unions to impact more communities like Kitsap County by focusing on three key areas:

  • Asset Building: Reaching out to underserved communities through financial education can catapult individuals and families out of poverty. Vu says the Foundation will focus on financial literacy for children and adults, with an emphasis on K-12 public education and college prep.
  • Economic Empowerment: Communities thrive, Vu says, when their residents have access to housing and the ability to gain the skills they need to get a job or start a business. The Foundation will therefore focus on small-business development, workforce development, and housing.
  • Cooperative Development: Through employee development and community-engagement initiatives, the Foundation will partner credit unions to support programs like the “CU4Kids Ride & Rock,” which recently delivered hundreds of Teddy bears to patients at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

Vu, who is also the NWCUA’s vice president for community investment and social impact, says the Foundation’s new website will “allow us to communicate our voice in the community more effectively.” In addition to showcasing inspiring examples of the organization’s impact, the site will make it easier to apply for funding and seek out resources. It also will provide cutting-edge assessment tools to measure and document the positive effects credit unions are having on the communities they serve.

Those tools were developed in partnership with Profits4Purpose, which uses its grants-management software to track and measure initiatives and to share the stories of how those initiatives impact communities in real time. “The platform gets results that move us away from spreadsheets and frees up more time for us to be in the community,” Profits4Purpose CEO Jason Burns says.

In addition to simplifying the decision-making process for awarding grants, the software will also track donations and volunteer hours, and it will give credit unions a central location to post upcoming events.

“We are delighted to scale the Foundation,” Vu says, “in ways that will help leverage our resources and those of our community partners to further advance the impact our credit unions are creating every day in communities throughout the Northwest.”


Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216, gstein@nwcua.org.

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