The Credit Union Difference is Integral to Communities

By Tom DeWitt, NAFCU Board Chair

In the last decade, social media has provided our society with its very own ups and downs. While the mere ability to connect with peers is an obvious positive, I think most of us would agree the negatives pile up.

That doesn’t suggest a positive future, but it’s important to understand there’s a difference between being social and being a member of a community. Socializing is simply interacting with those around you, which includes the good, the bad and the ugly. What’s more, even when social groups share a common territory or culture, there’s little that binds them in a material way.

By comparison, members of a community don’t just occupy the same space, they share a common ownership of the community. Even if community members don’t own land or physical resources, they still share an interest in the community’s success and future.

Credit unions give everyone an opportunity to participate in society’s financial system and experience shared ownership in a community. However, predatory lenders, regulations and market forces beyond our control can make delivering on the credit union promise quite challenging at times.

Credit unions make it work, and remarkably, they don’t stop there. When their communities need more, credit unions don’t hesitate to answer the call.

In the last two years, we’ve not only seen COVID-19 disrupt our lives, but our country has also experienced civil unrest, natural disasters and unprecedented financial and emotional stress placed on specific employment groups. Credit unions have been there, unwavering, through it all.

Take, for example, a wildfire that occurred at the end of 2021 near Boulder, Colo. that displaced thousands of residents. A quick Google search produces an impressive list of credit unions that raised funds, distributed resources and even matched donations up to six figures. Many Colorado credit unions smartly leveraged their resources to make a huge impact on the communities touched by devastation.

Earlier in December, in Kentucky, deadly tornadoes destroyed homes and businesses. Many of those displaced were people of modest means, and, although many large credit unions stepped up to the plate, it’s the modestly sized credit unions that were most impressive.

These are only two examples out of many that exist that detail the credit union difference at work. Just one person working for one responsive, caring credit union can make a huge impact to others in need … and, with hardly any social fanfare.

Some days it seems like human compassion levels are low. And as we scroll on social media, it can be hard to find humanity at work. However, if you look further into what’s happening in communities, especially where credit unions are present, you’ll find people helping people.

For more on NAFCU’s 2022 Advocacy Priorities, go to Tom DeWitt is president and CEO of State Farm Federal Credit Union in Bloomington, IL.