Thoughts On International Week, National Foundation

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It's International Credit Union Week, and The Credit Union Journal in this issue brings to readers what has developed into a popular and terrific feature: our Day in the Life project. In Day in the Life, credit unions from all over the country (and this year, Mexico) shoot photos on the same day of events and people at their CUs. We pick the best, and you'll find them beginning on page 33.

But the concept should be more than just a newspaper feature. Every credit union this week ought to be driving home the point that it has a product, service or solution for every day in the life of members. After all, there's a reason there's no International Banking Day or Week-but I welcome and encourage your ideas on how it would be "celebrated."

* The National Credit Union Foundation will begin the week with a new executive director. And for the second consecutive time the NCUF's board has looked for a leader who has experience in fundraising and foundations, and not necessarily in credit unions.

Stephen M. Delfin fills the job vacated by Gary Officer, who resigned earlier this year after a relatively short time in the job and after differences with the board. Delfin had been serving as Worldwide Director of Community Relations at Booz Allen Hamilton, a $2.3-billion management consulting firm. Prior to that, he was president of Delfin & Associates, a marketing communications consulting subsidiary of the National Association for Homecare.

"I have spent most of my career working for or in the non-profit sector," said Delfin, who noted that in his position at Booz Allen Hamilton he was the primary liaison to the philanthropic community. "So I think I have a high level of understanding of the non-profit sector and where the new partnership opportunities exist, and I am very well-known in that community."

Delfin was the first to concede that when it comes to what he understands about credit unions, it's "not a lot." But he said that while he isn't familiar with whom the other candidates for the position were, he believes the NCUF board had to choose between two types of applicants: a person familiar with credit unions who doesn't know much about foundations, or someone who doesn't know much about credit unions but does know foundations. The board apparently believed the learning curve with the latter was less steep than the former. "I have been a credit union member going back to my days with the Red Cross, and my parents are credit union members," he said. "I know what the mission of the National Credit Union Foundation is and it is to help those who are on the (financial) fringe to better manage their lives. I'm familiar with the need there is for those types of resources, and the types of funding resources-and lack thereof-there are for that. I think that it was important during the interview process that while I may not have an in-depth knowledge of credit unions, the board felt I would be able to ramp up quickly."

So what has the NCUF charged Delfin with doing?

"In general terms," he answered, "the charge is to find new ways to ensure the long-term viability of the NCUF." More specifically, he said he will also be pursuing a "signature effort" at raising awareness of the Foundation. (I don't want to overstep here, but a large funding grant to journalists who happened to be in the way of the recent hurricanes could go a long way toward really boosting awareness.)

What Delfin will inherit is a Foundation whose profile and awareness are already significantly ahead of where they were not long ago, when if someone within credit unions talked about "the foundation" it was assumed you were talking about the building.

"The board clearly wants to raise the profile of the Foundation to get support, and you can define support several ways," he said. "I know the Foundation has been successful in obtaining federal grants, but there is also in-kind support. I think the board is confident I will be able to do that. I have raised a lot of money in the past, indirectly and directly, probably more than $2 billion. I have more than a smattering of knowledge on how to use the Internet for fundraising and I want to leverage that. I know what other groups are looking for in partnerships as well as collaborative efforts."

Delfin said that among the first efforts he will pursue will be to put metrics in place to better measure the results of NCUF-funded ventures. Having quantifiable data, he said, only helps in securing more funding for similar efforts.

Delfin, who is currently chairman of e-Philanthropy Foundation, and holds numerous board and committee positions for organizations such as America's Charities, Net-Impact, c-Market and CharitySkills, will find there is already an ambitious fundraising target in place at the Foundation. NCUF Chairman Chuck Purvis has set a goal of $1 billion for the NCUF's Community Investment Fund, which is currently at $367 million. "I wouldn't be telling the truth if I said it was achievable, but I'm a great believer in stretch goals," said Delfin. "One-billion dollars is a lot of money, but there are small universities out there with less than 5,000 students that have endowments of more than that, so it's something we can aspire to. But the real question is what is the end-use?"

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann cujournal.com.

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