The National Credit Union Foundation (the Foundation) has released a research brief detailing how credit unions can grow their membership, grow their loans, and improve their members’ financial well-being, focusing on those who most need.
The Foundation partnered with Pelican State Credit Union, a certified community development financial institution, to compile the case. The document details the impact of the credit union’s financial wellness program over the past three years.
Originally launched in 2006, the program was designed to provide the immediate, low-value loans that Pelican members sought from predatory lenders, while improving each member’s underlying financial well-being.
Pelican’s Financial Wellness Program offers members the opportunity to partner with a financial advisor to set and achieve financial goals or participate in workshops and educational resources at their convenience. Although open to all members, the outreach prioritized members with low credit scores, financial literacy, and commitment to credit unions.
According to the brief, this intentional outreach benefited both parties. Over the past three years, Pelican has seen the average number of new monthly memberships increase from 300 to 1,000, much of which has been attributed to word of mouth marketing. Additionally, participants in the Financial Wellness Program directly referred more than $5.3 million in loans over the three-year period.
“The Foundation serves as a catalyst to improve people’s financial lives through credit unions,” said Gigi Hyland, executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation. “Pelican State Credit Union’s unwavering commitment to improving the financial health and well-being of its members has shown what is possible. Our hope is that by sharing this report system-wide, we can inspire a similar focus and scale of credit union programs whose core is improving financial well-being for all.
Jeff Conrad, President and CEO of Pelican State Credit Union added, “It wasn’t too long ago that we had predatory lenders following members around branches, waiting for them to cash checks. Our members, our communities, were caught in a vicious circle. Individual products and solutions were not going to be enough. We needed a holistic financial wellness program that could improve the lives of our members.
“This case shows that credit unions can engage the most financially vulnerable members, build strong relationships with them in a short time, and deliver strong budget results.”
The research brief is available here, along with a supporting video that details this program.