Edward Filene Credit Union Awards for Excellence - ENTERPRISE - Criteria

All credit unions are businesses that must produce proven economic outputs.  A viable credit union business can instigate and drive worthwhile social change.  A desire for social change cannot drive a business.  

"Credit unions are first a business"
Roy Bergegren, First Chief Executive Officer, Credit Union National Association, USA
Credit unions are about the economy
Roger Marsh, Head of Credit Union Section, Prudential Regulation Authority

It’s crucial for credit unions to develop existing skills, acquire new ones and adapt ethically to all methods of trading used by their competitors and devise newer ones of their own for their furtherance and survival in the competitive market - the financial services industry where the consumer has many choices - demonstrating continuously the core values of the mutual ownership, co-operative decision making nature of “our firms”. 

These techniques can attract the savings of new and current owner-members wishing to obtain an investment return on their deposits and dispensing of loans to these people “for a provident and prudent purpose” of a greater amount than that held in their deposits.

Click on these headings to see the criteria and suggestions for evidence for each Award category:- 

6. "Young Savers Schemes in Primary, Secondary and tertiary education "
7. "The "Big Challenge" Award
8. "The Rochdale Award - Co-operation amongst Co-operatives"
9.  ​"Prudential Standards Award" .
10. "Setting up a "Friends" of a credit union"

6. Excellence shown in performance by a credit union hosting .... 
                 Young Savers Schemes in Primary and Secondary Schools - 4-16 years
                 Young Adults Schemes in Secondary Schools, Further/Tertiary Education -
                                                               Universities, Colleges and the workplace

Financial education is of course a continuous process from the primary school level until the “University of the Third Age” - so there shouldn't be a “cut off” at primary school level.  Many initiatives are now being undertaken to educate young people in full-time education about money and its uses, bookkeeping, accounting, computer use, sales and marketing, civil education, self managment and others delivered through the education escalator.  This escalator of development is crucial as it will produce the young savers/borrowers/co-operators, who are our future owner-members and apprentice leaders.  Evidence could include reference to:

  • How was the savings group set up?
  • Who achieved this - parents/guardians, teachers?
  • What introductory and ongoing education did the young people receive and who delivered it?
  • Who runs the collection/service points and what is the pupil engagement in the project?
  • How are the natural young leaders discovered, encouraged and developed?
  • How has this project benefitted the credit union financially and socially - stretching its brand awareness in the community it serves?

7.  Excellence shown in performance in striving for The "Big Challenge" Award
 In most credit union movements in both the developed and developing world, the owner-membership of credit unions is equal to or more than one third of the adult populace, on the island of Ireland it is 75%!  Put bluntly this means that if the legal field of membership, the Common Bond, is 2 million people, credit union ownership should be 666,666!  If it is 100,000, it should be 33,333!  Is yours?

Everything we do starts with the owner-member; the owner-member and all of those, i.e. all the "have mores" and "have less" within the Common Bond should be at the core of everything we do - this is co-operation. 

Often the progress of a credit union stutters or ceases as a result of the fixed term of office or defaulting of lay leaders and, to meet the base standard of the Regulators, an up-to-date Strategic Business Development Plan has to be maintained "rolling forward" for only three years.

So the Big Challenge Award is about and will be judged on a number of issues, with some examples here and the full list of seventeen benchmarks set out on this page

  • What is the number of adults/young savers within the Common Bond as at 1/7/2019 and how many were owner-members/savers with the credit union at that time?
  • What are the plans, both laid down (the Strategic Business Development Plan) and in hand (actually being done) to increase this number?  Please provide details of projection and performance
  • What methods were, are and will be deployed to achieve the planned targetted objectives of the owner-members' growth?  Please be specific, detailing both successes and failures
  • What methods both devised and used by the credit union to stimulate savings, mobilisation and share retention by adult members and Juvenile Depositors?  Please give examples
  • What are the savings and loans products and other services, either "member pay" or given by the credit union to attract "buy in" by all of those within the Common Bond who qualify for owner-member of the credit union.
  • How does the credit union outreach physically to and service all of those within the Common Bond?  Please provide actual examples of achievement.
  • How does the credit union raise its brand (credit union) and own name awareness as THE savings and loans "firm" and a force for doing good in the area of its Common Bond.  Please give examples.
  • How does the credit union ensure it has the necessary money, physical infrastructure and necessary sweat capital (lay leaders, volunteers, management, other external stakeholders) available and a place to deliver some or all of the above?
  • How many owner-members of the credit union have taken a loan to (i) set up a business enterprise or develop an existing one, creating employment for themselves and others and (ii) undertake further education and training?  Giving economic empowerment first and social uplift second.

8. Excellence shown in performance by a credit union pursuing International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) Principle 6 "Co-operation amongst Co-operatives" - the "Rochdale Award"
A credit union is foremost a mutually owned, co-operatively run, professionally managed savings and loans "firm".  As such it should be both logical, fraternal/sororal for a credit union to be the savings and loans "firm" of choice to all other non-financial co-operatives and co-operators within the remit of its "Common Bond".  Credit unions can identify the presence of co-operatives and their members within their Common Bonds by accessing the websites:
 UK - www.uk.coop/directory; Ireland http://icos.ie/find-your-co-op/ and suggestions for elaborating on this entry are .....  

  • How did the credit union outreach to these other co-operatives? Methods used?
  • How were the offerings of core products, ancillary services and ventures presented to the target co-operatives/co-operators?
  • How were the needs ascertained of financial products and services particularly relevant to co-operatives and to self employed co-operators in particular?
  • In line with ICA Principle 6, how were inter-trading marketing facilities offered to the co-operatives and other co-operators with whom it deals? 
  • What were/are the quantifiable results produced from this activity?  e.g.
    • Increases in the number of corporate and individual owner-members; aggregate savings and loans
    • Examples of development of intertrading between co-operatives, their co-operators, the credit union and its owner-members
    • Increases in the co-operative branding activity and presence in the area of the Common Bond.
    • Increases in all types of co-operative partnership working, such as joint ventures within the Common Bond, e.g. commercially, educationally, socially etc.

The intention of this Award is to create a joined up and integrated co-operative commonwealth and the Judging Panel will be looking for positive measured oucomes from the pursuit of these ideas.

9. Excellence shown in performance demonstrating achievement of Prudential Standards

There are a number of issues known to bring about failure in credit unions.  The purpose of this Award is to look at what practical measures are in place to safeguard and avoid the risks of failure that have contributed to the collapse of too many credit unions over the past few years. Entries should describe in detail what measures your credit union has in place to ensure as much as possible these threats are mitigated against.   

Listed below are examples that have come to the attention of the Foundation; to find the full list of risks and threats click on this page where they are outlined in detail.

  • Auditors
  • Banks
  • Boards of Directors
  • Credit Union Association bodies and leagues  
  • Computer Software 
  • Credit Union Consultants
  • Leadership succession
  • Owner-Member Education
  • Professional Managers/Management or contracted out 'back office' functions
  • Risk Management appraisals
  • Supervisors

10. Excellence in performance by a separately constituted “Friends” of a credit union and acting as a hub for activities that are not part of credit union regulated business (to comply with the UK Credit Union law and regulation, a separately constituted "Friends" is required if the credit union is acting as the provider of any "non-regulated" activities that are not part of the core saving and loans regulated business). 

Elsewhere in both the developed and developing credit union world, credit unions are at the heart of multi-purpose co-operatives, providing savings and loans facilities to other co-operatives and co-operators, or are permitted to act as multi-purpose cooperatives themselves, take a look at the website pages of Paglaum Multipurpose Co-operative in the Philippines and Credit Union Keling Kumang in Indonesia and for all sorts of charitable endeavours, such as lotteries and events, the website Unite For Good fpr some good ideas.

The "Friends" of a credit union, provided it is correctly structured (separate bank account, management committee, accounts etc) can undertake all activities of a business and those of an educational, social and charitable nature (indeed this was and still is why credit unions were set up in the UK by owner-members from the Caribbean and island of Ireland).  Not only can the activities undertaken by the "Friends" be profitable, with the net proceeds donated to the credit union (or local non political/sectarian causes) but as a result stretch the brand recognition and its reputation as a force for good in the community it serves, which could also be good for business.   The organisers of the "Friends" of the credit union should outreach to their owner-members and their households to participate.

With grant funding and material assistance from the State coming to an end in Great Britain (it never existed on the island of Ireland and also Governments and assemblies have more pressing priorities), donations made by the "Friends" in either cash or kind might be essential for the credit union to remain financially viable.  Donations of cash to the credit union will appear as a revenue receipt in its accounts; those made in kind, to comply with FRS102 should be recorded as a "Note to the Accounts".  Advice on the tax treatment of both must be obtained from the credit union's auditor as the cash donation could be subject to Corporation Tax as it is a non core activity and donations "in kind" as a bounty - the receipt of something of value for which nothing was paid.

The "Friends" can (say) run an owner-member only closed lottery, a co-operative food store, operate a food bank, run after school clubs, set up an enterprise zone/premises for local businesses that will empower people socially and economically, etc. etc. 
Possible items of evidence follow - not an exhaustive list .... 

  • What are the purposes of the “Friends” of the credit union?
  • Is it run by owner-members entirely? (Many owner-members by temperament won't want to participate in a meeting based democracy but instead would prefer to "do things")
  • What are the business, trading, educational, social, charitable activities undertaken and operated by the "Friends", such as Foodbanks, Pre/After School or Third Age clubs (adult social care is very big in Korean Credit Unions), Money education courses, donations to good causes.
  • Is the “Friends” in any co-working relationships or partnerships with other organisations for mutual benefit and if so, who are they and how was this achieved?
  • How has the "Friends" enhanced the reputation of the credit union in the community it serves and the wider world?

Credit unions must constantly strive to be a force for delivering good in their communities and the wider world. 


The following Award is open only to selected entrants, the winning of this does not count towards the Supreme Award (click for information on this)  

“Edward Filene Credit Union Award for Performance Excellence by the winner of a category making a film about their entry and Credit Union

This Award will be open to credit unions winning one or more categories, at which point (in utmost confidence) they will be requested to make this film which should cover specifically the activities described in their winning entries.

Only after the Judging Panel has made their decisions will the invitations go out to make this film.  The film editor, who compiles these films into an edited loop, acts as the Judge for this Award.   No prior notice will be given of success in this Award category. 

Good luck with your entries!   Here's a link to the Entry Form Any questions - don't hesitate to contact the Awards Office - see the "Helpline", including the 10 Top Tips to write a winning entry, FAQS and the judging process