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Further Apart, but Closer Together Verity Credit Union 2020 Community Impact Report

Verity Credit Union acknowledges that we gather on and benefit from Indigenous land, the traditional territory of Coast Salish people and specifically the Duwamish, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, Snohomish, Stillaguamish and Suquamish tribes.

It goes without saying that 2020 was a year different from all the rest. While we may have been physically further apart due to the pandemic, we also grew closer together in many ways.

Diversity, equity and inclusion training for all Verity staff gave us the opportunity to learn and grow as a team. Offering Paycheck Protection Program loans drew us into the small business community and helped us forge new relationships. Expanding our solar loan program to other states added more members to the Verity family. And, despite restrictions that kept us from gathering in-person, employees still found a way to volunteer and give back to their communities.

All of these efforts, which are detailed in the 2020 Community Impact Report, allowed us to strengthen relationships with our members, partners and the community at large.

Above: Alright by Morgan Bak. See more of her work at morganbak.com

Helping Members Through the Pandemic

Even when it felt like the world came to a complete stop, we didn’t. Our employees continued working, innovating and creating value for our members. Even though branch lobbies closed, staff shifted operations to keep helping members by appointment, via drive-up windows, and through plexi barriers and masks to keep everyone safe. For our back office staff, dining room tables turned into work desks overnight. Despite the challenges that we all faced in 2020, helping members remained our top priority—we’re proud of the improvements and adjustments we made to that end.

Paycheck Protection Program

When the Small Business Administration announced Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in March, our business services team immediately knew that we wanted to offer them to our members. Despite knowing nothing about the brand new program, they dove in head first and started researching to see what we needed to do to make it a reality.

The first round of PPP was a race against time as there was a limited amount of funds up for grabs and once the money was gone, it was gone. Our business team worked around the clock (literally!) with help from reassigned staff from other departments. Some people, including our Chief Lending Officer, even processed applications in the wee hours of the morning to ensure as many local businesses as possible could get much-needed financial assistance. During the first week of the PPP loan being available, we helped local businesses keep an estimated 437 people on their payrolls.

When the second round of PPP was announced, we had systems in place and were able to not only accept applications from our own members, but from small business owners that were turned away from their usual financial institution. In total, we funded 282 PPP loans in 2020 for a total of $13,821,639. Those loans kept hundreds, if not thousands, of employees on the payroll and kept all kinds of businesses afloat – nonprofit organizations, construction companies, salons, retail stores, restaurants and more. Small businesses are so important to vibrant communities and we are thrilled that we were able to provide these loans to many deserving business owners.

A variety of solutions helped Verity members weather the storm

Financial coaching

Trusted financial advice is especially important in times of need. We recognized that during the Great Recession and hired Charnell, a full-time financial coach, to provide free assistance and mentorship to members. When a global pandemic hit and threw the economy into turmoil, our financial coach was ready. In 2020, Charnell had nearly 150 appointments, which was more than a 60% increase from each of the previous three years.

Financial coaching appointments were up 63% for the year

Consumer challenges, as reported by members during two recent financial crises

Loans to help members in need

When the pandemic hit, our first thought was our members. Knowing that many were likely impacted by job or income loss, we activated an emergency assistance loan product and funded 109 loans for a total of $196,065. In addition to emergency assistance loans, we also offered mortgage modifications, skip payments on select loan types, debt consolidation loans, PPP loans, and waived wire and skip payment fees. During an uncertain time, these products and services helped bridge the gap for those who needed a helping hand.

Your deposit makes a local loan

The remaining 13% provides liquidity for daily operations of the credit union. We strive to loan 80% to 95% of deposits directly back to members as loans. In comparison, credit unions across the country with a similar asset size averaged about 74% of deposits being used for loans.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd woke us up to our responsibility and need to take organization-wide action to show our support for BIPOC communities. We know that in order for strong and vibrant communities to exist, we must eliminate systemic racism and promote change through action. Throughout 2020, we were led by our commitment to equity for all, which is apparent in the initiatives we started and supported.

Above: Window artwork by D and Shakita Etheridge graced Verity branches throughout 2020, celebrating equity and inclusion.

Day of service, day of learning

For the last five years, Verity employees have gathered every Indigenous Peoples’ Day at sites around King, Pierce and Snohomish counties for a day of volunteering. Verity Community Service Day has become a favorite of employees over the years, as it is a tangible way to serve the communities we work in and learn more about the organizations we’re helping. However, when the novel coronavirus took hold of the world last year, everything changed. In-person volunteer activities were widely cancelled, which meant Community Service Day as we knew it wouldn’t happen.

That is where our Community Relations team came to the rescue. They recognized that although it wasn’t safe for employees to volunteer in person, we should still do something to make an impact. Verity Day of Learning was born as a way to bring employees together virtually and provide educational opportunities in areas of interest.

Employees spent the day together via video conference and got to hear about Indigenous peoples, affordable housing, climate change and racial equity. Five speakers fielded questions and spoke on the following topics:

  • Erin Jones, “Moving Racial Equity Forward”
  • Gregg Smalls and Susan Balbas, “Climate Solutions and the Intersectionality of Racial and Climate Justice”
  • Tony To, “HomeSight History, Othello Square Future”
  • Ken Workman, “The Duwamish, Seattle’s First People”

As a "thank you" to our speakers, we donated $500 each to a nonprofit of their choosing, for a total of $2,500 to local organizations. Verity Day of Learning was a fantastic discussion and while Verity staff missed volunteering, it was an excellent example of how the pandemic caused a pivot that turned into an enriching experience for everyone involved.

In 2020, Verity teams got busy learning how to better support and advocate for all of our members

Juneteenth: celebrating holidays of personal significance

In 2020, Verity employees were allowed to work a half day on Juneteenth and many chose to spend their free afternoon participating in protests and marches for racial equity. Moving forward, all employees now have a floating holiday that can be used to celebrate Juneteenth or any other holiday of personal significance.

Internal communities: Verity Voices of Color and Cultural Equity Council

Learning and growing in the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) space often starts with listening. That is why we created internal communities for our employees to come together and lead change within the organization. Members of Verity Voices of Color and the Cultural Equity Council have done incredible work educating employees, creating space for conversations and moving our DEI commitment forward. In all, there were 23.5 hours of formal organizational space open to Verity staff, which represented more than 600 working hours, to talk, learn and listen about how we can create and support lasting societal changes around diversity and inclusion. We will continue to expand on these efforts moving forward.

Othello Square and reaching the underserved

Although the pandemic has pushed the opening of our new Othello Square branch back to summer 2023, we continue to be active in the Othello community through financial education courses, sponsorships for community organizations and participating in local events.

With our focus on socially-responsible banking, it is important to us to reach people who have been historically overlooked by financial institutions. This is one of the reasons we're excited to be working with HomeSight and the Othello community. By making financial services more accessible, people can be more empowered in their financial lives, which in turn has a positive impact on the community and economy. For example, Verity offers a credit builder loan to help people repair or establish positive credit, making it easier for them to successfully open larger loans as needed later. Through community partnerships and work with organizations like Business Impact NW, we strive to make it easier for more people to achieve their dreams of owning a home, running a small business or getting out of debt.

Your investment in Verity is an investment in the Triple Bottom Line

(and we’re growing that amount each year.)

Protecting our Planet

As a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, we take a triple bottom line approach to our business model. That means that people, planet and prosperity are at the heart of everything we do. Planet, or environmental sustainability, is an area that we continually strive to grow in because strong and vibrant communities depend on it. In 2020, we made great strides in reducing our carbon footprint and look forward to doing even more in the coming years.

Solgen Power x Verity

Solar loans are an integral part of diversifying our loan portfolio and keeping with our triple bottom line approach. By leaning into solar lending, we are able to offset the carbon output of some of our other loans while also helping environmentally-conscious families take charge of their energy production.

When we first started offering solar loans in 2017, they were only available for properties in Washington state. In 2020, we established an indirect solar lending program with Solgen Power, which has allowed us to help people in other states finance their solar energy projects. Currently, we are able to fund solar loans in three states: Washington, Oregon and Arizona.

We're putting solar panels on homes across three states

Our partnership with Solgen Power has been incredibly fruitful and we are thrilled with how many families we have helped get plugged in to solar power. In 2020 alone, we funded 695 new solar loans for a total of $22.5 million dollars. We look forward to expanding solar lending to more states and continuing to put people, planet and prosperity first.

And, we're putting solar panels on more homes than ever before

Small changes can have big impacts

When COVID-19 forced our back office staff to work from home for the rest of the year, there were some unexpected positive environmental impacts. We reduced our usage of printer paper by half, and employees saved countless gallons of gas and miles traveled by not driving to headquarters. Additionally, all lighting in our building was changed to LED to improve our carbon output. While we don't have a clear picture of the total positive impacts to the environment these changes made, we know every little bit helps.

Climate Change Commitment update

In 2019, Verity joined 27 other financial institutions from around the world in signing the Climate Change Commitment. By doing so, we pledged to track and monitor the carbon impact of our loans and investments over the next three years. During 2020, we established a methodology for how to measure our loan portfolio so that in the coming years, we can regularly report these numbers and take steps to limit the emissions impact of our financed assets.

Green loans

Offering eco-friendly loan products is something we have done for many years, and 2020 was no different. Solar, green auto and bike loans are excellent options for members who are passionate about reducing their carbon footprint and looking for a way to fund those home and transportation options. Eco-friendly vehicles continue to be a popular way for people to reduce their carbon footprint—in 2020, we funded over $9 million dollars in green auto loans.

Green loans make up 9.2% of our total loan portfolio

(and we’re growing that amount each year.)

Making Positive Impacts in the Community

2020 was a year full of challenges, but with challenges come opportunities. Although it felt like the world had stopped, we knew that the needs of our communities were bigger than ever, and it was up to us to find alternative solutions to support them. With creative thinking and dedicated employees, we were still able to make significant impacts in areas that are important to us.

Ballard P-Patch, sowing hope in Seattle

Despite the most challenging circumstances, our mission remains the same – to enhance member’s lives by building trusted relationships and vibrant communities. That’s why we jumped into action when we heard about a neighborhood garden that needed financial help to survive.

Enter the Ballard P-Patch, a beloved community garden that has been a fixture in the neighborhood for years. Redeemers Lutheran Church owned the Ballard P-Patch for decades and leased the space to the City of Seattle for $1.00 per year. When the church decided to sell the 1.66-acre parcel of land to GROW Northwest, a local nonprofit that owns several other community gardens, preliminary financing fell through at the last minute and the P-Patch was at risk of being lost forever.

That’s where Verity came in. We connected with the P-Patch and GROW Northwest, and were able to approve and fund a $1.75-million-dollar bridge loan that was needed to transfer ownership and retain this vital community resource. Thanks to the bridge loan, the P-Patch was able to secure the full funding they needed and were able to retain the space permanently.

Because we stepped in and provided financing, the Ballard P-Patch lives on and continues to operate, host educational programming and grow thousands of pounds of produce for local food banks each year. Thanks to the relationships we built in the community and the hard work of many, we were able to put our mission into action and watch the P-Patch continue to thrive.

Volunteering from afar

Usually, Verity employees tally thousands of hours of in-person volunteer work each year. However, with many of those opportunities unavailable for most of the year because of the pandemic, staff found creative ways to give back remotely. Out of a total of 1,611 hours of volunteering, employees spent 914 hours volunteering remotely by packing sack lunches for those experiencing homelessness, sewing and donating face masks and tutoring via Zoom.

Staff volunteerism in 2020 looked a bit different than previous years

Dollars doing good

In 2020, we also continued our culture of monetary giving. Although most of the events we regularly sponsor were cancelled, we worked with our nonprofit partners to reallocate those sponsorship dollars to support their needs in other ways. The largest single donation in 2020 went to Habitat for Humanity of King County. Thanks to members who got a mortgage with us during 2019, we were able to donate $22,500! We will continue to donate $100 to Habitat for Humanity for every closed mortgage.

Donations and sponsorships helped support our communities at a crucial moment

Growing business lending to make impacts

The pandemic was especially harmful to small businesses. For years, we have worked with Business Impact NW, a local organization that assists small businesses run by women, members of BIPOC communities and veterans. Through this organization, Verity provides funds for small loans for these small businesses.

But 2020 allowed us to help even more small businesses navigate the financial impacts of the pandemic. Through the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program, we were able to help hundreds of local businesses keep staff on their payrolls. We know our local communities and economies rely on long-standing businesses to remain open while also offering opportunities for a variety of new small businesses to break through. While 2020 was a challenge for small businesses in general, we are proud of the support we've been able to offer the local business community.

Looking Forward

2020 was a lot. A lot of change, uncertainty, loss and tough conversations. But, at the same time, it was a lot of resilience, progress and perseverance. We faced the challenges of 2020 head-on and turned them into opportunities to better serve our members and our communities.

As the world returns to normal, we’ll continue on the path of socially-responsible banking. Our work around people, planet and prosperity is just beginning but we can’t wait for what is to come. Let’s move forward together.

Above: Restorative Sea by Christine Olson. See more of her work at sfingiday.com

A very special thanks to our 2020 heroes

Members who patiently waited on hold on the phone, stood outside a branch, or waited for an email response from a Verity staff member while we changed our operations to match health and safety guidelines.

Verity employees who continued to help members in our branches, who adjusted to working from home and who who temporarily took other roles inside the credit union so we could help members where it was needed most.

Everyone who kept paying their loans on time and kept opening deposit accounts, which allowed us to provide emergency loans and other modifications for members who needed assistance.

Community members who engaged in conversations around how Verity can better support marginalized communities.

Coast Salish people, specifically the Duwamish, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, Snohomish, Stillaguamish and Suquamish tribes, for their Indigenous lands on which our branches sit. We invite others to learn about the Indigenous lands you benefit from: https://native-land.ca/

And to the many nonprofits, local businesses, artists, musicians, community partners, and friends who we've had the pleasure to partner with throughout the year:

Alpha Tau Omega National

ArtsWest

Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce

Auburn Police Advisory Committee

Auburn Public Schools Foundation

Ballard Night Out

Ballard Seafood Fest

Bandit Theatre

The Bass Church

Beacon Business Alliance

Beet Box

Bikeworks

BNO artists

Boy Scouts of America

Bureau of Fearless Ideas - BFI

Business Impact NW

Carolyn Hitt

Children's Miracle Network

Christ Lutheran Church

Cleveland High School

Climate Solutions

Clothes for Kids

Community Passageways

Concern for Neighbors

Country Doctor Community Health Clinic

Cure GRIN Foundation

D

D. Lisa West

Delridge Neighborhood Development Council - DNDC

Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association - DNDA

District 1 Community Network - D1CN

Downtown Emergency Service Center - DESC

Empowering Youth and Family Outreach - EYFO

Erin Jones

Equity in Education Coalition

FamilyWorks

Festa Italiana

Fire Station 31

Food Lifeline

Foster High School

Free Letters Home

Fremont Abbey Arts

Front & Centered

Gigs4U

Greater Seattle Business Association - GSBA

Gregg Smalls

Healthy Othello Safer Through Environmental Design - HOSTED

HomeSight Small Business Committee

Hope Creek Charitable Foundation

Hope for Today

Hopelink

Humane Society for Tacoma Pierce County

Illumination Learning Studio

Inglemoor High School

Ken Workman

Kent Schools Foundation

King County COCAPTAG

King Youngblood

Lake Forest Park Stewardship

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Lynnwood Chamber of Commerce

Lynnwood Police Department

Miss Auburn Scholarship Pageant

Metro Parks Tacoma

Moisture Festival

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People - NAACP

Northwest Credit Union Development Educators - NWCUDE

Northwest Credit Unions DEI Task Force - NW CUs DEI Task Force

O'Dea High School

On Board Othello

Othello Square Governance Committee

Othello Square Plaza Art & Fundraising Committee

Othello Square Work Group

Phinneywood Neighborhood Association - PNA

Pigeon Point Neighborhood Council - PPNC

Plate of Nations

PrideFest

Push/Pull

Roosevelt Neighborhood Association

Salvation Army

Seattle Children's Hospital

Seattle Colleges Foundation

Seattle Foundation

SeattleDog Homeless Program

Shakita Etheridge

Shoultes Elementary School

Skate Like A Girl

Society for Marketing Professional Services - SMPS

South Seattle Senior Services Center

SouthEast Seattle Senior Center

Southwest Precinct Advisory Council - SWPAC

Southwest Seattle Historical Society

Southwest Youth and Family Services - SWYFS

St. Luke School

St. Vincent de Paul

Susan Balbas

Taproot Theatre

Teen Feed

Theatre Battery

Thunderbird Select Hoops

Tilth Alliance

Tomo Nakayama

Tony To

Transitional Resources

Trinity Episcopal Church

VIEWS

Wallingford United Methodist Church

Washington Women's Business Center - WWBC

West Seattle Art Walk

West Seattle Bridge Committee

West Seattle Chamber

WestSide Baby

YouthCare