AACUC Mentoring Program Begins To See Increased Participation

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SHREVEPORT, La.-When the African-American Credit Union Coalition was established in 1999, its purpose was to increase minority representation in credit union leadership.

As part of that, the AACUC created a mentorship program that focuses on helping struggling CUs survive. That program has now begun to see a significant increase in participation in recent years.

Mentorship Committee Chairperson Helen Godfrey-Smith-CEO of Shreveport FCU here-noted that much of the increase in the last few years has come from organizations that had been holding their own for some time. But NCUA assessments and corporate capital share write-downs "have often times been the straw that tipped the apple cart, and they need help and need ideas on how to cut expenses and generate more income," she said. "So we come in and give them practical, inexpensive ways [to do that]; we help them with their marketing plans; we do community presentations to attract loans and to get a better quality of loans. In big credit unions they call it cherry-picking-in small credit unions they call it survival."

Godfrey-Smith added that, in addition to issues of loan quality, the Coalition also helps with collections services and board training to help "meet the financial education requirements that are going to be effective this year. That's something many of these credit unions haven't really talked about, and don't know how to turn on a dime to get that education done."

The AACUC's Mentorship Committee has also formed a partnership with the World Council to assist Africa's CUs through a development education program. Each year four representatives from African CUs are brought to the U.S.for a week-long internship program shadowing CEOs and "learning skills they can take back to help strengthen the credit union movement in different countries in Africa,"

In the U.S., AACUC's mentoring has also assisted CUs in communities dealing with disasters, yet regardless of the situation, Godfrey-Smith explained, "we're not there to hold their hands, sort of like the leagues. We're there on a contractual basis to help them through a difficult time."

Limited resources means not everyone can be helped, "But the ones that we do are quality, and who knows the impact? Whether we're helping one credit union or 20, we're making a difference in communities, and that's what the AACUC is all about."

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