Jan 18 2022

Community Social Impact: The Urgency of Now

Report  
Number  
527

With financial institutions and businesses committed to community social impact like never before, a sense of urgency to address society’s most difficult social issues has emerged.

Mai Thi Nguyen
Mai Thi Nguyen
Director, The Design Lab; Professor, Urban Studies and Planning
University of California San Diego
Report Number 527

Executive Summary

Credit unions have long sought to improve the lives of their members and the communities they serve. But many of the societal issues that are causing harm to our communities are seemingly intractable, and tackling them requires systems-level change. There is a temptation in philanthropic work to focus on superficial rather than structural issues. But it is only by understanding these structural issues that we can hope to reimagine and fix the systems and structures that reinforce them. How can credit unions leverage their resources to address complex societal challenges? 

With a systemic approach to social impact, credit unions have the opportunity to build human, social, and financial capital in communities that have historically been denied equal access to them, paving the way for transformational change.

Why It Matters—A Credit Union Perspective

Social challenges ranging from racial economic inequality to climate change have been magnified due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit unions can play an active role in addressing these challenges in a way that not only supports our movement’s unique philosophy of community and social impact, but in a way that contributes to ongoing financial sustainability. 

“It’s clear that the advantages of including social impact considerations in credit union strategic planning and business decision making are significant and should not be overlooked."
Sandra Sagehorn-Elliott
President/CEO
Vantage West Credit Union

To be successful, credit unions must take a strategic and systematic approach to community giving and involvement, which often involves making difficult tradeoffs of what causes to support. However, with a clear objective and a view toward iterative solution building, credit unions can contribute to enduring, structural change. 

As our industry struggles with remaining relevant, it's important to look for opportunities to truly showcase what makes credit unions unique and why consumers should care. And as younger generations increasingly expect businesses to play a role in improving society, quantifying and demonstrating social impact may become a competitive advantage for credit unions. Beyond impacting marketing and growth metrics, credit unions may also enjoy greater success attracting and retaining talent that is specifically looking to be associated with pro-social organizations. It’s clear that the advantages of including social impact considerations in credit union strategic planning and business decision making are significant and should not be overlooked.

Download the report now to see examples of organizations that are succeeding in improving outcomes for vulnerable communities and a framework for how your credit union can follow their lead.