A credit union is a not-for-profit financial cooperative, owned and operated by its members and governed by a volunteer board of directors. The credit union philosophy is one of “people helping people.” Rather than paying profits to stockholders, credit unions return earnings to members in the form of dividends and improved member services. Loan and dividend rates are frequently more favorable than those available at commercial lending institutions. Although the structure and philosophy behind credit unions are unique, in some ways credit unions are indeed like banks. They offer many of the same services, and each depositor is insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration.
- Fairly priced loans, including to members with imperfect, limited or no credit history
- A safe place to save and build assets
- A place to conduct transactions at reasonable cost
- Financial education and counseling for its members
- Products, services and support that can help members to free themselves from high-cost and predatory debt, gain control over their personal finances, and achieve economic well-being
As a Community Development Financial Institution, HopeSouth is specifically a community development credit union (CDCU). CDCUs offer an economic lifeline to low-income communities that have been abandoned by commercial banks and targeted by high-priced check cashers and predatory lenders. CDCUs also provide a platform to serve the broader community through outreach to disadvantaged populations and neighborhoods, participation in government programs, and partnerships with the private sector in community revitalization efforts.
To obtain the CDFI Certification, a program of the United States Department of Treasury, a credit union must have a primary mission of promoting community development by providing activities directed towards improving the social or economic conditions of low-income people. Credit unions have long been a critical sector of the CDFI industry.
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