People pay more attention nowadays to where they spend their money. We see this in influential economic movements that urge us to “vote with your dollar,” “shop local” and eat “slow food” instead of fast food. The common thread is that it’s better for the community to support businesses that reinvest that money into the local economy.
What people might not realize is that credit unions were some of the original “local is better” businesses.
From the time President Roosevelt signed the Federal Credit Union Act into law in 1934, credit unions have been at the forefront of community involvement and financial empowerment. In fact, AgFed Credit Union is proud to be one of the original credit unions established by this Act.
Credit unions took the idea of being “for the people, by the people,” and made it their founding principle. So, in the spirit of supporting local businesses, here are three big reasons why having a credit union around makes the community stronger:
Credit unions keep it local
Credit unions have a deep bond with their community which guides us through everything we do.
Hiring locally means the money employees earn gets put back into local businesses like restaurants, shops and services. Credit unions in general tend to be among the best workplaces, with excellent benefits and work environments.
Another benefit is that credit unions process loans locally. Decisions are made internally by local people, who want the best for their communities. Credit union decision makers are more in touch with the values and needs of their membership, and are more likely to be affected by these decisions. Credit union members are trusting their friends and neighbors, not faceless corporations.
Credit unions also love to support local charitable organizations, which go on to support the community members who need it the most.
For example, the AgFed Credit Union Foundation works tirelessly to support groups like the DC Central Kitchen, Bread for the City, the Children’s National Hospital, and ten local schools in Maryland, DC, and Virginia. We believe in making a positive impact on the lives of our community members through education, healthcare and the fight against hunger.
Credit unions work together across the USA, with shared branching and no-fee ATM networks. This means members have access to their money almost anywhere they go.
Credit unions believe knowledge is power
Financial literacy is important because it helps people become self-sufficient and financially stable. As credit unions, we know that everyone benefits when our members are financially active and investing back into the community.
One particular way we like to increase financial education is through programs that benefit kids. Teaching students how to manage their finances early means they are more likely to become adults who are equipped to live independently and make good financial decisions. This is one of the reasons we support and promote programs like Youth Savings Month, which happens each April and promotes children’s financial literacy.
Credit unions know that an empowered community is a stronger community, and one of the most effective ways to empower our members is through good education. This is true for financial education as well as academic work, which is why the AgFed CU Foundation continues to award scholarships to qualifying members currently enrolled in accredited university programs.
(On a related note, our 2021 scholarship application deadline is March 31st, so don’t miss out!)
Credit unions show their love for their neighbors
All of this community involvement is centered around one basic idea: Credit unions give back to their members. To be frank, we couldn’t exist without our members, so it only seems right that we do everything we can for them.
Credit unions are not-for-profit organizations, so they’re not sending any money in dividends to investors. That money is going back to the members in the form of lower fees, more free services, and better rates. Credit union members can rest easy knowing that the money in their accounts is both secure and helping to improve the community at the same time.
Credit Unions help members save and build their savings with lower and fewer fees, higher dividends on deposits, and lower rates on loans and credit cards. In fact, here at AgFed we strive to keep our loan and mortgage rates among the lowest available. We know our members are looking for simple, solid support, so we offer a simple free checking account with everything included and no minimum balances or monthly fees.
Credit Unions across the country stepped up during the pandemic. At AgFed, we enacted quick measures to keep members and staff safe while still doing our best to provide excellent service. We looked for new ways to help with personal loans, skip-a-pay options, and more. We worked to ramp up communication as things changed, and increased our outreach to members having trouble.
In a more general sense, credit unions benefit everyone, even non-members, because they set a higher standard. They offer competitive pressure on rates and fees, which encourages other financial institutions to follow suit. They also provide a high quality of service, and genuinely focus on the people they serve.
Thank you for being an AgFed member!
AgFed Credit Union is grateful to our members for their flexibility, support, confidence, and willingness to learn new things. It really is a two-way street; AgFed is strong and stable thanks to our members. We strive to make a difference every day, and we couldn’t do it without them.