What Would a Credit Union for Millennials Look Like?

Credit Union on Purpose is a fictional credit union created by marketer Derek Gillette to explore what a credit union focused on serving Millennials might look like. Gillette dives into the credit union’s values, strategies, and communications, and investigates the ways that credit unions’ structure uniquely positions them to meet the needs of Millennials.

Credit Union on Purpose

Be Intentional With Your Money

The traditional approach to banking starts with a financial institution offering a list of products that members can sign up for: Savings account, checking, auto loan, credit card, etc. Potential members would review these lists of products, and choose the bank based on which offered the most attractive product to meet their needs.

At Credit Union on Purpose, we’re flipping that paradigm around. We believe a product-first mentality creates what we call “money accidents.” These are unintended consequences of investing your money with one institution over another. We are on a mission to stop money accidents.

We believe in a values-first paradigm. Our values are intentionality, transparency, and impact. We are transparent about who we are and how your money is handled, so that you can be intentional in your financial decisions. And as we work together with our members to build their financial strength, we generate impact.

When a new member joins Credit Union on Purpose, our values are on display from the start.

The New Member Experience


At Credit Union on Purpose (CUP), we put impact front and center. When you choose to join CUP you’ll be invited to select one of the four causes we support. As with any credit union, our not-for-profit structure and people-first philosophy means that we put community impact high on our priority list. What’s different about us is that we let you choose where your money goes, so that you can see the difference your money is making. This is part of our commitment to transparency.

  • Take a Chance Fund: This fund will be used to pay down the interest rate of a higher risk borrower. Credit ratings have become powerful, but that doesn’t mean a person can ever be fully defined by a number. We believe in taking a chance and investing in the future of people.
  • Keep it Local Fund: This fund allows us to invest in local initiatives and nonprofits. Community groups come to us all the time looking for funds. Choosing to invest in this area allows us to say yes to these groups.
  • Micro-Loan Fund: This fund will be used to support the funding of small businesses and entrepreneurs who need an injection of low-interest financing to take their dreams from paper to reality. The best part is that these loans have a 97% repayment rate, meaning they work.
  • Family Support Fund: This fund will be used to supports low-income families in our community, focusing on children and single parents, and investing in programs that build towards the future, such as education and healthcare.

Once you’ve chosen your cause, we’ll encourage you to apply to join one of our advisory boards. These boards form the foundation of our causes. Board members meet monthly to determine how the credit union funds are spent and to ensure that the money is making the desired impact.


We have built our whole member experience around transparently communicating with members — about their impact, their accounts, their goals, and their opportunities. We give our members a clear picture of their financial lives so that they can be intentional with their money.

When they join CUP, members establish their goals and preferences together with one of our financial coaches. Based on these, we send our members proactive, friendly reminders to keep their goals in mind throughout the month and help them avoid money accidents, like overdrafts or missed payments.

We also keep in regular touch to inform them of updates related to their selected cause. We work hard to offer members the chance to be as active as they want to. This includes email invites to:

  • Attend advisory board meetings
  • Go to charity dinners for your selected cause
  • Ribbon cutting ceremonies for project you’ve supported
  • Participate in our monthly single question feedback surveys

The Single Question Surveys allow us to gain a benchmark rating for how we’re doing. We’ll ask you to rate us on questions such as how transparent we are, the impact you feel we are making together, and how likely you are to bank somewhere else. We are under no illusions that you don’t have choices for where you bank. But we also believe that by listening to our members, we will continue to be the best possible credit union for you to support.


At the heart of our financial services is the value of intentionality. Money is a great tool for our members to achieve their goals and build the lives they want. But because the financial world can be pretty complex, and because many financial institutions rely on fees to boost their profits, a lot of people experience money accidents — overdrafts, missed payments, repossessions, and more. These can tend to snowball, costing them more money over time and dinging their credit.

We don’t want your fees. We want you to avoid money accidents, build financial strength, and achieve your goals. That’s why we give every member the chance to meet with an Intentional Money Coach right away, so that we can be clear on their goals and help them build a plan to reach them.

Some of our members have goals like:

  • Paying off their credit cards
  • Building or rebuilding their credit
  • Paying off their car
  • Buying their first condo or house
  • Starting or boosting their retirement plan 

Whatever their goals, we help each member construct the right mix of financial services — what we call Intentional Money Services — to get them where they want to go. And then we follow that up with our transparent communications system to help them keep on track.

Derek Gillette is a millennial helping brands better understand how to craft purpose into their marketing and communication strategy.  Reach out to him on Twitter or through his LinkedIn profile. 

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.

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