In a recently published article, CreditUnions.com featured Doron Noyman, vice president of business development and community relations at KeyPoint CU (San Jose, CA); Marci Francisco, senior vice president and chief experience officer at Premier America CU (Chatsworth, CA); and Erica Taylor, vice president of communications and community relations at Golden 1 CU (Sacramento, CA):
As credit unions nationwide focus on economic empowerment and inclusion, partnering with community organizations has become a key element in reaching underserved communities. From providing vulnerable populations with basic banking needs to addressing broad issues such as affordable housing and generational poverty, cooperatives are digging in to find new ways to serve.
Here, three credit unions share how their innovative approaches have helped bring economic empowerment to the communities and members they serve.
Existing Connections Open New Doors
The Economic Empowerment Initiative was a natural outgrowth of KeyPoint CU’s ongoing involvement in its community. While discussing new membership challenges with a local chamber of commerce, Doron Noyman, vice president of business development and community relations for KeyPoint, saw an opportunity to leverage the credit union’s relationship with the chamber to help local nonprofits.
“Nonprofits either don’t have the funds to join the chamber or don’t think it can help them,” Noyman says.
So, the credit union started sponsoring nonprofits that were not chamber members. KeyPoint pays for a one-year membership and the chamber promotes the nonprofit through its network. Additionally, a KeyPoint branch “adopts” each nonprofit partner, with the branch manager serving as the primary liaison with the charity and as its ambassador to the chamber.
KeyPoint’s goal for this credit union-chamber-nonprofit collaboration is to uplift marginalized individuals — including impoverished families, underbanked populations, minorities, and those experiencing homelessness — and to break the cycle of poverty.
The initiative began in 2022 when the credit union partnered with a single organization focused on lifting families out of poverty.
“The results exceeded all expectations,” Noyman says.
Beyond the chamber sponsorship, KeyPoint’s branch manager assisted the nonprofit with financial education and provided other resources, including a corporate drive for diapers and fundraising for back-to-school supplies. The credit union also split its table with the nonprofit at the largest chamber event of the year, driving more awareness and enabling new connections.
Today, KeyPoint works with four chambers and supports six nonprofit organizations it selected in partnership with each chamber. The nonprofits address critical community needs — such as affordable housing — that are tied to the credit union’s mission and also could benefit from its financial education resources. Branch managers work with the organizations on an ongoing, nearly weekly basis, depending on the nonprofit’s needs.
The approach not only increases visibility for the nonprofits — in turn helping them meet fundraising goals and distribute more community aid — it also strengthens KeyPoint’s internal culture, employee engagement, and branch managers’ leadership skills.
“It’s not writing a check or doing a drive once a year,” Noyman says. “Our branch teams become deeply involved with their adopted organizations. They are proud to talk about the work they do together.”
To date, KeyPoint staff has volunteered to feed the homeless, assembled Easter baskets for children in need, purchased $1,000 in towels and hygiene items, and provided a range of financial literacy resources. Although there is a limited budget for sponsorships, and the initiative itself isn’t particularly costly, the credit union stays apprised of volunteer and support opportunities it or another partner can provide.
“If it’s not something we have the budget to do, we can often connect our partners with other local businesses who can help,” Noyman says. “We’ve also been successful holding corporate drives to assist with urgent needs like diapers.”
Driving new membership for the credit union is not the primary goal of the initiative; however, KeyPoint has welcomed new relationships as a result of it. In fact, one KeyPoint branch reported an increase in traffic of more than 30 percent thanks to its nonprofit relationship.
In terms of future goals, Noyman has a big one. He’d like to expand this type of economic empowerment initiative — to the tune of 1,000 credit unions partnering with 1,000 chambers to support at least 1,000 nonprofits. Many cooperatives are already members of their local chambers but might not be fully leveraging those relationships.
“This could be a real differentiator for the credit union movement,” he says. “I’d love to see how many people we could make a profound impact on together, industry wide.”
To that end, Noyman is happy to share the program and mentor other credit unions that would like to implement it. Reach out via LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/doronnoyman.
A Central Tenet of Mission
Economic empowerment and inclusion are core to the mission of Premier America CU. The not-for-profit financial cooperative recognizes the power of diversity in its community and seeks new ways to make it easier for members to meet today’s needs and achieve tomorrow’s dreams.
“Providing equal financial access, opportunity, and empowerment is central to who we are,” says Marci Francisco, senior vice president and chief experience officer.
The credit union, which has branches in California and Texas, noted more people struggling to make ends meet in the communities it serves. That’s why Premier America’s CEO and board re-oriented the organization to make diversity and inclusion a key focus. As part of that focus, the credit union stood up a foundation, partnered with Inclusiv, and became BankOn certified.
Premier America also has embraced opportunities to build local partnerships. It offers onsite financial empowerment services at the Consulate of Mexico in Los Angeles. The collaborative partnership — which includes a financial advice window for one-on-one service as well as workshops, financial education fairs, and online resources — also offers information in Spanish to better reach vulnerable communities that might be facing a language barrier.
Similarly, the credit union has partnered with two California State University campuses, CSU Northridge and CSU Channel Islands. Both serve a large population of diverse students, including many “Dreamers” who arrived in the United States as young children.
As part of its effort to improve economic empowerment and inclusion, Premier America evaluated all its products, from the forms of identification it accepted to open accounts to its lending guidelines. In doing so, the credit union discovered it needed to shift to serve the needs of its communities.
“It’s been quite a journey,” Francisco says. “And we’re not done.”
Premier America’s performance measurements revolve around impact and reach. The credit union measures how many people take advantage of the financial advice window and other financial empowerment resources as well as and how many it supports through coaching or account opening assistance.
“It doesn’t matter if they join Premier America or one of the other two Juntos Avanzamos credit unions we’re partnered with through our foundation,” Francisco says. “The important thing is they have access to a financial cooperative and, together, we’ll positively impact family trees through financial empowerment.”
A Hyper-Local Approach
Founded in 1933 by a small group of state employees, Golden 1 CU has grown to serve the entire state of California. Today, it has more than 1 million members and continues to serve people who have been excluded from the financial system.
“The philosophy of inclusion is still where we operate from today,” says Erica Taylor, vice president of communications and community relations. “Remaining true to that gives us an opportunity to serve people who need help, whether they are unbanked or underbanked.”
After conducting in-depth research on income disparity and wealth gaps throughout the state, Golden 1 looked more deeply at the causes of generational poverty and how difficult it is to break the cycle. Inspired by the concept of hyperlocal, concentrated funding, the credit union decided to focus its efforts on the Del Paso Heights community through a five-year, $10 million investment. The historically African American neighborhood is located just north of downtown Sacramento and has both the highest crime rates and lowest educational attainment, median household income, and homeownership rates in the area.
“Being founded in Sacramento, we looked at a variety of neighborhoods and decided on Del Paso Heights for myriad reasons,” Taylor says. “This was a thriving community in the 1950s and 60s before disinvestment and freeway projects isolated it economically. Today, we’re still seeing the results of that.”
Golden 1’s investment will include allocations to local organizations — including the Greater Sacramento Urban League, Mutual Assistance Network, Neighborhood Wellness Foundation, and the Roberts Family Development Center — to support physical and mental health support for Grant Union High School students as well as education, mentoring, and various wraparound care for youth, young adults, and families. It will also include a new financial resource center, which should open later this year.
To identify local needs and develop this multi-pronged approach, the credit union engaged a community advisory committee.
“Rather than approaching this with a check and a prescription, we worked with residents to understand what it would take in their view to create a thriving, healthy neighborhood,” Taylor says.
The roadmap included youth mentoring, art and music education, college and career pathways, and more in addition to financial services and financial education.
To measure the impact of its investment, Golden 1 will work with established nonprofits, some who have been working in the community for as long as 40 years.
“We’ll be looking at a whole range of metrics, including high school graduation rates, college and career readiness, and usage of our new financial resource center,” Taylor says.
The community advisory committee Golden 1 assembled to help it create its investment roadmap will also remain engaged, offering their perspectives throughout the process.
If all goes well — and the concentrated, hyperlocal investment works in Del Paso Heights — Golden 1 hopes to partner with other communities to replicate the initiative throughout the state.
“One of the biggest lessons learned is there is no one-size-fits-all solution,” Taylor says. “Each neighborhood, state, or municipality is going to have unique needs. It’s important to start by asking what those needs are and listening.”
Quick Facts: KeyPoint, Premier America, & Golden 1
KeyPoint CU (data as of June 30, 2023)
Premier America CU (data as of June 30, 2023)
Golden 1 CU (data as of June 30, 2023)