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Seven Principles Blog
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In 1844, a small group of weavers from Rochdale, England created the blueprint for how their newly-formed cooperative would operate and serve the local community. These values, known as the Seven Cooperative Principles, serve as the operating guidebook for credit unions and cooperatives throughout the world. This blog was created to honor that legacy and to showcase the everyday efforts of credit unions in the Carolinas that embody the cooperative mission and purpose.


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Principle Five: Self-Help Home Energy Hoedown spotlights improving efficiency

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Friday, July 18, 2014
Principle Five: Education, training, and information. Credit unions provide financial education to their members as well as the communities they serve.

Principle Seven: Concern for community. Since credit unions are locally owned financial institutions, they are committed to investing in the community.

The recent “Home Energy Hoedown” at Self-Help Credit Union focused attention on two key credit union principles: Principle Five (Education, Training & Information) and Principle Seven (Concern for Community). Local small business energy professionals explained how to take advantage of key areas for home energy improvement: envelope improvements, heating and air systems, and renewable energy.

The event took place July 10 in downtown Durham. Self-Help’s Environmental Stewardship Committee coordinated the informal brown bag lunch event. The Home Energy Hoedown answered several questions that are on everyone’s mind as the weather heats up, including how to go about purchasing and installing solar panels, whether attic insulation all it’s cracked up to be, and the payback on new windows.

Guest experts included Southern Energy Management (home solar experts), Home Performance of NC (energy efficiency experts, with emphasis on historic homes), and HVAC expert Alternative Aire. The event drew 20 curious members and consumers. The credit union also provided a home energy fact sheet (click here to download). 

Self-Help’s Sustainability Director, Melissa Malkin-Weber notes “The impacts of climate change, like rising sea levels, droughts, and fires, harm our members and our mission. Improving energy efficiency in our homes is a way that we can save money ourselves as well as protecting our members.” Learn more about Self-Help’s sustainability programs by following them on Twitter @SelfHelpGreen or or

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Principle One: SE Raleigh residents look to co-op model to strengthen community

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Friday, July 11, 2014
Principle One: Voluntary and open membership. Membership is open to all people who are eligible to join the cooperative, without exception.  

Residents of southeast Raleigh may soon have an oasis in their "food desert", as the Fertile Ground Food Cooperative launches its membership campaign later this month. Fertile Ground, which would be Raleigh's only cooperatively owned food store, kicks off its membership drive with a special event to be held Thursday evening, July 31 beginning a 6:30 pm at the Walnut Creek Wetland Center.

INDY week announced the event in its July 9 edition (click here to read the story). The publication notes that a small group of founding members kicked money into the co-op a year ago, and has been busy with organizational work and community meetings in the months since. If all goes well, the co-op hopes to open for business in about a year.

The southeast portion of Raleigh has been identified as a food desert, an area where affordable and nutritious food is hard to obtain. The food co-op would alleviate this problem by placing a retail grocery store in close proximity to southeast Raleigh residents.

Beyond the food co-op, the Fertile Ground organizers envision it as a means for residents to build an alternative economy by increasing collective ownership, fostering entrepreneurship and creating pathways to living-wage jobs.       

Membership in the cooperative is $100, and the public is invited to the kick-off event July 31. For more details, you may download the invitation or call 919-609-1237.

Tags:  People Helping People  Principle One Food Cooperatives 

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Principle Seven: State CU young professionals engage SC communities

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Monday, July 07, 2014
Updated: Monday, July 07, 2014
Principle Seven: Concern for community. Since credit unions are locally owned financial institutions, they are committed to investing in the community.

State Credit Union's Young Professional Advocacy group has worked together on a variety of community projects, including the Keep America Beautiful Campaign in Norway, SC earlier this year.
Young credit union professionals increasingly have a voice within the movement. From regional opportunities like CUaware's Protege competition to events on the national level such as Crash the GAC, the next generation of credit union leadership is getting more and more chances to connect, network and enhance their career path.

Recognizing both this trend and the importance of community engagement, State Credit Union created a Young Professionals Advocacy (YPA) group two years ago. SCU created the YPA group to give young professionals an opportunity to become more involved within communities served by the credit union. The group meets quarterly to discuss projects.  

Besides community involvement and engagement, SCU SVP of Sales & Marketing, Angie Huffstetler notes that young professionals gain greater credit union knowledge and networking experience through the group. SCU's Romona Hooker coordinates the group. 

Earlier this year, the YPAs helped beautify the town of Norway in Orangeburg County. Six employees volunteered their time cleaning in the downtown area and painting the town hall as part of Norway's Keep America Beautiful project (please click here for the story in the local newspaper).

In addition to volunteering their time, the credit union's Community Events Committee made a $500 monetary donation to the cause. Paired with donations from other agencies, planters, trash cans, benches, paint and painting supplies were purchased to help complete the day's work.

Past projects undertaken by the YPAs include the Lexington Kids Day program, and Families Helping Families. Another key initiative happened last year with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. "Our initial goal was to raise $3500," said Huffstetler, "but with the overwhelming support from our staff , members and SCU, we were able to raise $10,000. The funds helped to send a seriously ill child and their family to Disney World.

In addition to leading the charge on the fundraiser, ten YPAs volunteered to work the Make-A-Wish Ball in Columbia last summer. The YPA group is once again supporting Make-A-Wish Foundation this summer. The YPA fundraiser gets underway next week.   

Hooker, a mortgage loan officer at SCU, notes that the group slogan is Bridging the Generations, which reflects the credit union's core commitment to the YPAs. "We want to be a forum for young professionals focusing on leadership and professional growth," she shared. "We are really looking forward to the Make-A-Wish Campaign and our future outreach efforts."  

Tags:  Credit Unions  Principle Seven  State Credit Union 

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Principle Six: Bringing financial access to rural poor in Mexico and worldwide

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Thursday, July 03, 2014
Updated: Thursday, July 03, 2014
Principle Six: Cooperation among cooperatives. Credit unions work together to improve services to members and build sustainable communities.

(Editor's note: in 2012, Ashley Ruffin of Local Government FCU and Jeff Hardin of the CCUL traveled to Mexico with a World Council representative. As part of their trip, they visited a Semilla Cooperativa in the state of Veracruz. You can read their story by clicking here, and view pictures from the Semilla Cooperativa by clicking here.) 

Written by Matt Garcia, project director, World Council of Credit Unions.  

Matt Garcia serves as the Project Director for World Council's USDA project in Ethiopia and the Cooperative Development Project funded by USAID in Mexico, Guatemala, and Kenya. Garcia has worked with World Council for the past seven years in a project management role.
Imagine living in a world where you have no access to a loan or a secure place to keep your savings. The nearest financial institution is 10 to 25 miles away, and the banks will not help because you do not have any credit history or enough assets to be considered worth the expense of rural finance.

Beginning in 2004, World Council sought to address this very issue in rural Mexico. Through funding from the Mexican government and national development banks, World Council initiated a technical assistance program to help credit unions improve performance and empower rural communities.

The cost of building a credit union branch office is a very expensive endeavor, especially for sparse rural populations in marginalized areas of the country. World Council created a model that allows credit unions to expand financial services to these areas through more affordable investments in personnel and technology.

This Semilla Cooperativa [cooperative seed] outreach methodology literally transports the knowledge and access of financial services into rural areas previously inaccessible due to high costs, high risks and minimal return. The model has gone through a rapid evolution over the course of three rounds of projects in Mexico.

The first phase of development was relatively rudimentary. Credit union field officers traveled by motorcycle to remote communities to provide financial education to small groups, disburse small loans, collect payments and savings deposits and provide handwritten receipts. The second phase transferred the methodology to the 21st century. World Council created a value chain of technological devices to further minimize costs—ATMs were implemented in population dense areas, point of sale (POS) devices were placed in local village stores to increase access and reduce risk of theft for credit union representatives, and credit union field officers used personal digital assistants (PDAs) in the most rural areas of the country. The current third phase incorporates mobile banking in addition to the other technological advances.

The development of Semilla Cooperativa has literally transformed the lives of Mexico’s rural poor by providing 24-hour financial access to a population that previously had none at all. Over the course of the three projects, World Council has brought over 1,375,237 members to the country’s credit union system.

In exchange, Mexican credit unions have shared their technical knowledge with the U.S. through World Council’s International Partnerships Program. The most recent partnership established was between Federación Alianza and Mountain West Credit Union Association in 2012.

At a Semilla Cooperativa session in rural Mexico, credit union field officers collect savings from members using PDAs and provide receipts with mobile printers. Watch a video on World Council rural finance initiatives like Semilla Cooperativa here.

Tags:  Credit Unions  Principle Six  World Council 

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Principle Three: Coastal FCU named a top credit union for consumer-friendly banking

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Principle Three: Member economic participation. The more members use the credit union, the more both the members and the cooperative benefit.

Coastal Federal Credit Union has been named a top credit union in the Southeast in NerdWallet's Consumer Banking Index, recognizing Coastal's consumer-friendly products and services. The assessment is based on seven criteria established by NerdWallet, a consumer-oriented personal finance website.

“NerdWallet's mission is to identify financial institutions that serve the best interests of everyday consumers, and Coastal Federal Credit Union is a perfect example of one. Their simple, low-fee checking accounts and variety of free, simple access options makes Coastal a top credit union,” said NerdWallet Analyst John Gower.

NerdWallet’s Consumer Banking Index assesses banks and credit unions on free checking, high-yield savings, free online bill pay, ATM access, branch access, mobile access, and customer service. These criteria were selected by a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults as key considerations when choosing a financial institution. Spring 2014 marks second semi-annual release of this index and includes 150 of the nation’s largest banks and credit unions. Receiving high marks for each category indicates Coastal’s superior value to consumers.

“It’s always an honor to be recognized by an organization like NerdWallet, which is known for providing unbiased, consumer-focused financial guidance to help their users prosper,” said Coastal FCU Senior Marketing Analyst and Spokesman Joe Mecca. “We certainly share those values, which are reflected in the products and services we provide.”

Tags:  Coastal FCU  Credit Unions 

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