Why They Won: Credit Unions, Chapters Honored for Regional, National Efforts

Winning a national award for financial education, philosophy in action, or social responsibility is a major accomplishment. Solarity Credit Union won three last week at the Northwest Credit Union Association’s annual Amplify Convention in Portland.

Demonstrating excellence in one of the NWCUA’s four chapter pillars—leadership, education, advocacy, or philosophy in action—is cause for celebration. The Southwest Washington Chapter of Credit Unions took home two banners from the awards dinner and gala.

And when the night was over, 12 Oregon and Washington credit unions and chapters had cemented their roles on both the regional and national stage, not only for advancing the movement’s message, but also for putting the “People Helping People” philosophy to work in the communities they serve every day.

“The credit union DNA is alive and well tonight,” NWCUA Chief Operating Officer Denise Gabel told convention-goers. “We are inspired.”

CUNA Awards

Solarity was honored in three CUNA categories, winning one First Place award and two Honorable Mentions:

  • Solarity’s efforts to provide free monthly seminars for adults on topics as wide-ranging as credit management, ID theft, retirement planning, and budgeting—as well as the financial-literacy information it provides in lobbies, newsletters, and online—earned a First-Place Desjardins Adult Financial Literacy Award. The award is named after Alphonse Dejardins, who is considered the “father of financial education.”
  • Solarity’s financial-literacy programs earned an Honorable-Mention Louise Herring Philosophy in Action Award. Herring, considered the “mother of credit unions,” believed everyone deserves economic justice, and Solarity was honored for its commitment to serve 50,000 diverse members who might not otherwise understand or have access to mainstream financial services.
  • And Solarity’s support of Junior Achievement and JA World—including a JA Bowling Classic that raised $18,000—earned an Honorable-Mention Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award. Maxwell, another credit union pioneer, organized hundreds of New York credit unions in the 1920s to reach out to the poor and needy; the award named for her encourages credit unions to make a positive difference through community projects and activities.

Maps Credit Union and Unitus Community Credit Union were double winners:

  • Maps, which literally wrote the book—a financial education storybook—on financial literacy for young people, won a First-Place Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award. Maps successfully operates three in-school branches, where it has built longstanding relationships between teachers and Maps staff, and where older students are encouraged to mentor their younger schoolmates.
  • Maps also won a First-Place Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award for creating the Community Challenge program, which became the signature event for Maps’ newly formed Foundation. The challenge asked members and mission-aligned nonprofits to find a creative solution to teen homelessness; winning ideas won $1,000.
  • Unitus, which made sure that any member who made a New Year’s resolution to get better control of their finances would have the resources they needed, won a First-Place Louise Herring Philosophy in Action Award. Its Money Quest program included lessons on debt management, savings, improving credit scores, and more.
  • Unitus also won a First-Place Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award for its community involvement. Last year, staff donated more than 13,000 hours of service. The credit union raised $79,000 for community programs and nearly $50,000 for its nonprofit partners; held back-to-school, holiday and scholarship drives; and hosted special events like Wine on the Willamette, which benefitted Credit Unions for Kids.

Five other Oregon and Washington credit unions were honored with Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Awards of their own:

  • North Coast Credit Union won First Place for its community involvement, including the Cups of Hope Giving Mob that partnered with a local coffee shop and radio station to raise more than $15,000 for Rebound of Whatcom County.
  • Mid Oregon Credit Union won First Place for its Teachers’ Night Out program, which connected 300 teachers to 30 community partners and became the definitive back-to-school networking and resources fair for High Desert educators.
  • Fibre Federal Credit Union won First Place for inviting its staff to commit random acts of kindness. The result: movies and popcorn for foster kids, lunches for homeless youth, meals for the families of hospice patients, holiday turkeys for military families, and free snacks on Fridays for kids at Fibre’s adopted elementary school.
  • BECU won First Place for its efforts to find affordable-housing solutions, for funding BizKid$ and other financial-outreach programs, and for the Restore the Duwamish Shoreline Challenge, which partnered with businesses and the city of Tukwila to clean and restore 1.5 miles of shoreline.
  • Oregon Community Credit Union won Second Place for working with SELCO Community Credit Union and Pacific Cascade Federal Credit Union to change the lives of 24 unbanked customers through a unique financial-literacy program.

Chapter Excellence Banners

“Chapters have always been part of the fabric of the credit union system,” NWCUA President and CEO Troy Stang says. “So many of us built our first professional networks through a chapter meeting.”

Four chapters were honored at Amplify for excellence in leadership, education, advocacy, philosophy in action, and overall best practices. The winners:

  • Leadership: Central Oregon Chapter, which collaborated with Rotary International and other partners to impact a variety of community events and causes. The chapter started a quarterly newsletter and built a robust social media presence, all while dealing with a boundary change and the addition of new board members.
  • Education: Southwest Washington Chapter, which provided webinar reimbursements for employees of its five member credit unions and held collaborative community events to educate the public about the credit union value proposition.
  • Advocacy: Pierce County Chapter, which hosted annual Legislative Nights that have drawn as many as nine legislators in search of credit union support. The chapter wrote letters to lawmakers and raised funds for credit union champions; chapter members also turned out in force for Credit Union Day at the Capital, thanks in part to chapter scholarships for members who might not otherwise have been able to attend.
  • Philosophy in Action: Southwest Washington Chapter earned its second banner for a variety of community programs, including Nourish Our Neighbors, which collected thousands of pounds of food and thousands of dollars for area food banks. Other events included shred days, toy drives, golf fundraisers, community concerts and special services for foster children.
  • Overall Best Practices: Capitol Chapter not only excelled at all four chapter pillars, but it also reached out to other chapters to help make them more effective. Those efforts included establishing unified, effective communications processes, playing a lead role in advocating for credit unions in Salem, helping other chapters through a complicated tax ID process, and creating its own unique brand along the way.


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

Posted in Awards.