Nurturing Employees’ Desire to Make a Difference

The credit union mantra of “People Helping People” isn’t just a saying — it’s a way of life. This mission is woven throughout every part of a credit union’s operations and organizational culture, and it’s one that employees fully embrace, both inside and outside the workplace.

Many businesses and organizations boast about being active in their communities, but not all of them provide the opportunities — and time — for their staff to get involved. It’s something that sets credit unions apart from other employers. Here in the Northwest, credit unions nurture their employees’ desires to make a difference, not only for members’ financial lives but also for the causes, communities, and organizations they care about.

As community-focused organizations, these not-for-profit cooperatives prioritize making time for staff to volunteer in the community during working hours. According to the 2020 Community Impact Report, Northwest credit union staff contributed 102,467 hours of community service. Some credit unions take this commitment to volunteerism a step further by offering volunteer paid time off (VPTO) — a benefit that is quickly rising in popularity for today’s workforce.

Rivermark Community Credit Union, based in Portland, focuses on several areas of need in its communities, including housing insecurity, fighting hunger, and children’s health and welfare. Just as important as those community initiatives, Rivermark President and CEO Seth Schaefer explained, is that the credit union also wants employees to find volunteer opportunities that excite them.

Each staff member is paid for 16 hours of volunteer time off, and many employees also use their weekends to work on volunteer projects. The program allows staff to feel empowered to go out and make a difference.

“Volunteering in our community is part of our DNA and it’s helped attract the employees that we have, and we’ve really tried to leverage that passion as well,” said Schaefer.

Progressions Credit Union in Spokane may be small, but its commitment to volunteerism is mighty. President and CEO Susan Vuong believes that community involvement is one of the most important missions for credit unions.

“One of our philosophies is that we going to strive to make a profound impact in our community, where we live and work,” Vuong said.

To that end, the credit union has put several initiatives in place, including the Random Acts of Kindness Fund for employees to use when they see a need in the community, as well as offering eight paid volunteer hours per year. Staff members are also encouraged to participate in a variety of charitable events that take place annually. Vuong said that when she recently asked a job candidate what they knew about the credit union, their response was, “Wow, you do so much for the community.”

“I believe our volunteer efforts may help attract applicants. They think it’s cool that we’re so involved,” she said.

Employees at Idaho Central Credit Union would agree. For the past decade, the credit union has been named the Best Place to Work in Idaho, with its culture of community spirit being a driving factor.

ICCU employees say that working at the credit union gives them the chance to “show up, lift up, help out, and give back.” According to the ICCU’s Vice President of Community Development, Laura Smith, team members volunteered more than 24,800 hours in 2021. The staff is actively engaged with Hispanic Heritage Month — just one of the more than 900 events they participate in each year.

“Idaho Central team members love being involved in their communities. We participate in parades, fundraisers, and also volunteer our time for nonprofit support activities wearing our green team gear with pride,” said Smith.

Horizon Credit Union, based in Spokane, calls its employees HZCU Go-Givers. The credit union closes for one day every year to participate in its biggest giveback event, called “Go. Give. Grow,” where employees volunteer for nonprofits across three states including food and clothing banks, housing facilities, and community action organizations. Last year’s event included 300 Horizon staff participating both in person and virtually.

“We originally designed Go. Give. Grow. Day as a one-time event to make a big impact. But it was so popular with our team and it aligned with our values so well, we decided to make it an annual tradition,” said Jeff Adams, Horizon Credit Union President and CEO in a press release about the event.

The credit union’s passion for volunteerism doesn’t stop with a once-a-year effort. Every Horizon employee is offered 24 hours of paid volunteer service per year, which they may use for group initiatives or on an individual volunteer project. Horizon has a long history of supporting financial literacy in schools and organizations like Junior Achievement to help youth build healthy money management habits.

From the coastal towns in Washington to the high desert of southern Idaho, credit unions across the Northwest are serving their communities and fulfilling their employees’ need to give back. It’s proof the “People helping People” philosophy extends far beyond the walls of credit union branches.

Editor’s note: Early next month, NWCUA will once again ask credit unions to share their community impact and economic data. This valuable information helps amplify the great work credit unions are already doing and will be shared with state and federal lawmakers and regulators to garner support for credit union priorities. Additionally, sharing stories of credit unions’ community impact with consumers helps generate positive buzz and excitement about the benefits of becoming a credit union member. Stay tuned for more information.

Posted in CU Difference.