As not-for-profit financial cooperatives, credit unions operate under a universal set of operating principles that distinguish them from their for-profit counterparts (banks), in the financial services industry.
The key credit union principles are:
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Members’ economic participation
- Autonomy and independence
- Educations, training and information
- Cooperation among cooperatives
- Concern for community
Of particular interest is operating principle seven, “concern for community.” This principle provides that credit unions have a concern beyond their membership that extends to the community. This principle forms the cornerstone for credit union’s philanthropic endeavors. Being charitable is really part of credit unions’ DNA.
By focusing on the community where their members work, worship, live and attend school, among other things, credit unions leverage their local presence to provide local service to members.
Local service and concern for community can mean several things to a credit union. Among these things are:
- Affordable, appropriate financial products and services for members
- Community leadership
- Charitable giving
- Educating members and communities about financial issues
- Putting members’ needs first when engaging in philanthropy