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How Values (and Empathy) Can Guide Credit Unions Right Now

Examples of Black Lives Matter statements from the financial industry

In this current moment of national pain and heated rhetoric, we see an opportunity to let our values guide our decision making. The credit union movement was founded on 7 Cooperative Principles, including Concern for the Community and Open and Voluntary Membership to empower the financially underserved.

Data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finance for 2016 suggests that about 17% percent of credit union members in the U.S. are Black. That means nearly 20 million member-owners are experiencing acute levels of pain and distress, in addition to the anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. These members deserve our attention and support.

We’ve spent some time over the last few weeks coming to terms with the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many more over the years whose lives were taken far too soon.

We understand it can be uncomfortable to speak up, but the choice to avoid discomfort is in and of itself a privilege. At PixelSpoke, when we don’t know how to respond to a difficult situation, we always ask ourselves, “What do our core values tell us to do?” The answer is usually simple, though not always easy. For every credit union, the way forward will be different, but if you look to the cooperative principles to guide you, the answer will be clear for your members, your community, and your employees.

No industry in the United States is exempt from the effects of systemic racism, and that certainly includes the financial industry. Economic inequality and racism are inextricably linked, and Black people in the United States have long been sidelined by our country’s mainstream financial institutions. Credit unions were founded to give Americans access to financial services that they were denied elsewhere.

In our most recent podcast, Gigi Hyland, Executive Director of The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF), talks about putting empathy and members’ financial health at the center of your strategy. Now is the perfect moment to put that approach into action. Here are some sample responses and ideas for you and your credit union to consider:

As you think about your own approach, start with this helpful advice from Filene and also think about these key questions:

  • What is the core message that your members and community need to hear from you right now?
  • How can you most effectively adapt this message to your marketing channels, including social media, your website, and email communications?
  • How can your giving efforts address the needs of your local communities of color?
  • What local Black-owned businesses can you encourage your members to support?

At PixelSpoke, we know we still have room for improvement when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’re talking as a team about how we can be allies in the important work of antiracism, and we want to hold ourselves accountable.

We all have work to do! Let’s get to it.