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Measuring Social Impact: Introducing the Social Impact Dashboard

For credit unions that have invested time and resources into their community involvement strategies, we've got some exciting news for you! Filene has partnered with Callahan & Associates to develop a one-of-a-kind Social Impact Dashboard. Learn how this valuable tool (launching this summer) can help your credit union measure the impact of your community involvement efforts and see how your institution compares to your peers.

Credit Union Social Impact: A Competitive Advantage That's Not Easy to Measure...Until Now

As not-for-profits, credit unions’ dedication to the betterment of their communities has always distinguished them from other institutions in the financial services sector. Although commitment to improving the lives and well-being of members may be incorporated in a credit union’s mission statement or even take center stage in their current overall strategy, defining and understanding the actual impact of their activities may present a challenge to some credit unions. While banks, which are increasingly broadening the scope of their own community development efforts, have an established, rigorous reporting and scoring requirement under the Community Reinvestment Act, credit unions are largely without an industry-wide, standardized evaluation method. Siloed in their efforts, many credit unions are uncertain about how they can or should measure and evaluate the impact yielded through their offerings.

To help credit unions better understand where they are in their social impact journey, Filene has partnered with Callahan & Associates to develop the Social Impact Dashboard. With this tool, credit unions can view their level of progress in three predominant areas of impact: 1) lending, 2) financial well-being, and 3) community development and philanthropy. The Social Impact Dashboard not only provides credit unions with their own, individualized progress indicators, but also serves as a baseline they can use to benchmark and measure against at both the individual level and industry level.

A Place to Start Measuring Impact

Credit unions are intended to have a positive impact on the lives of their members, employees, and communities in a variety of ways. The vast array of local community characteristics and needs are oftentimes reflected in their credit unions’ goals, as well as in their products and services. This contributes to the fundamental challenges of measuring impact across the industry. With each credit union operating to serve their particular membership’s and community’s needs—which are, in turn, rooted in distinct socio-economic factors and local, systemic conditions—there are a myriad of activities and, in turn, approaches to measuring social impact.

However, there are common, core activities shared by most credit unions that can be captured and transformed into metrics and, ultimately, calculated to indicate impact. The Social Impact Dashboard does just that: it is designed to incorporate activities that are common across credit unions, capitalizing on the information credit unions already are capturing and reporting, to provide individualized impact assessments. The data used is primarily from the National Credit Union Administration’s (NCUA) Call Report, which is automatically populated in Callahan’s Peer Suite, in addition to optional, supplemental data provided by credit unions.

What to Consider When Measuring Impact

Measuring and interpreting a credit union’s impact begins with understanding which activities have a positive social impact. Based on our research on the ways financial institutions affect their communities, we determined the categories of activities indicative of a credit union’s impact on their community—lending, financial well-being, and community development and philanthropy—and identified high impact metrics for each area. The Social Impact Dashboard displays the maturity or progression level in each of these three areas for credit unions, based on credit union industry averages.

The Social Impact Categories

  • Lending—Loans are a critical part of a member’s financial journey. Access to lending can open up pathways towards financial security and economic mobility. As both a key contributor to financial well-being and an essential component to the credit union business model, lending serves as an excellent indicator of a credit union’s impact. In the Social Impact Dashboard, this category consists of lending metrics that considers loan growth and unrealized potential for expanding the credit union’s lending programs, the composition of the lending portfolio, average loan balance and credit score, and more. These lending score metrics are combined to calculate a total Lending Score.
  • Financial Well-Being—Financial well-being has been in a sharp decline over the past few years as more and more U.S. households are not able to meet their financial obligations[i]. Financial stress has negative effects on physical and mental health, relationships, family life, and feelings about the future. There is strategic operational value in intentionally prioritizing employee and member financial well-being, such as promoting membership growth, employee retention, and talent acquisition. Credit unions are uniquely positioned to provide resources and tailor offerings to alleviate financial stress. 
    • Because financial well-being is such an integral part of social impact for credit unions, the Financial Well-Being Score is split into three categories: savings, lending, and employees.
      • The savings-related well-being score represents the extent to which credit unions are helping their members save money and maintain more dollars in their accounts. For instance, several metrics included in the savings well-being score signify whether members are being offered non-punitive, no- or low-cost products and services.
      • The lending well-being score relates to lending terms that help members stave off predatory practices, survive and rebuild after financial hardships, and boost their lending profiles.
      • The employee well-being score assesses whether credit unions are taking care of their employees by compensating and rewarding them fairly.
    • These three categories make up the total Financial Well-Being Score. However, credit unions are encouraged to delve into the three scores individually to fully understand their performance and identify areas to improve.
  • Community Development and Philanthropy—Promoting positive social change for members and communities is part of the credit union differentiation strategy that supports their mission. While credit unions can accomplish this in part through lending and financial well-being efforts, they can also approach it directly through community development and philanthropic initiatives. The Community Development and Philanthropy Score is based on metrics relating to credit union practices, initiatives, and programs that aim to improve quality of life. These assess credit unions’ efforts to provide resources, products, and services that enable communities and its members, particularly disadvantaged populations, to withstand hardships, build resiliency, and have opportunities they otherwise would not have—such as by serving the un/underbanked and low-income populations, facilitating volunteering and donations, and making higher education and financial education more accessible and affordable. By creating opportunities, credit unions can have a fundamental and lasting impact.

The Benefits of Using the Social Impact Dashboard

  • The dashboard accelerates credit unions’ impact measurement journeys. The Social Impact Dashboard is intended to be a starting point and a guide for credit unions to understand, identify, and monitor their impact. From this point, credit unions can use the performance assessments to strategically align their initiatives with the needs of the community, and consider further, more specific measurement needs to fit their unique activities and goals.
  • Key data is pre-populated and regularly updated. The Social Impact Dashboard will be available to all Filene members in Callahan’s Peer Suite later this year. Designed with ease of use in mind, it lightens the workload of credit unions by auto-filling data from the NCUA’s Call Reports. The tool converts this data into the three categories of impact and their associated metrics, providing easy-to-read standardized impact assessments.
  • The dashboard creates a shared industry framework. Additionally, the dashboard provides a much needed “common language” for those within the credit union system. By having a shared framework for evaluating impact, credit unions can take a cooperative and more intentional approach in understanding and progressing in their social impact journey. The Social Impact Dashboard serves as a standardized tool to help accelerate the credit union system’s mission to promote positive social impact.

Stay tuned for more news about the Social Impact Dashboard and its upcoming launch in Summer 2024!

[i] Federal Reserve. 2023. “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2022 - May 2023”. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

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