Ireland’s oldest credit union, Donore Credit Union, has today, Tuesday 21st July, published “A social dividend, not just a financial one”, a report highlighting the social value the credit union brings to the local community in Dublin 8.
Using the internationally recognised Social Return On Investment (SROI) approach which measures the social impact an organisation has on its community by assigning a monetary value to that impact or change, independent researchers calculated and verified that Donore Credit Union delivered a social dividend of €25m to its local community in one year. With inputs to the value of €2.5m, this means that Donore has a social dividend ratio of 10:1. In other words, the credit union puts ten times more than it takes in from its members back into its local community.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Donore Credit Union Chairperson Garrett O’Toole said, “Our credit union, as a member owned, not for profit, democratic financial cooperative, plays a huge part in improving members’ lives, as well as continuing to add value to our community. Today’s report not only outlines how Donore Credit Union contributes to the community in so many different ways, it also measures, for the first time, how much this social contribution is worth in equivalent monetary terms.”
Garret O’Toole added, ”While we, as credit union members, have long valued and realised what we bring to local communities, it is time now for our politicians and regulators to recognise that we are not just another financial institution and should not be regulated as such. We are more than a financial institution and should not just be measured by our asset base and the size of our loan book. Credit unions were founded by communities for communities and any review of the policy framework for credit unions, committed to in the Programme for Government, needs to take account of this uniqueness.”
Speaking at today’s launch CEO David McAuley said, “We undertook this study as we strongly believe that the success of our credit union should not be measured solely in terms of financial results. While we continue to thrive financially, our true success lies in the measurement of the many lives improved, the many needs met, and the overall improvement in community spirit. That success comes from the fact that members recognise these improvements and continue to trust us with their savings and to come to us when they need a loan in preference to other financial institutions. Behind our financial accounts are real people, real stories, real problems, real successes. Donore Credit Union takes great pride in the fact that it is neither a profit nor cost centre but remains a people centre.
Donore Credit Union like all Credit Unions was deemed an essential service during Covid 19 crisis. However, for vulnerable people, people deemed unbankable, those with physical or mental illness issues, those who have no trust or faith in banks or those who simply prefer an ethical financial institution, we have always been an essential service.
When we embarked on this study we had no idea that we deliver a social dividend of €25m – ie €5,000 in value roughly to every single member. We know we are vital to our members but this report clarifies precisely the value of the credit union. It is simply stunning.
Today’s report is a significant milestone for credit unions, as it can be the springboard for beginning a new conversation with Government on what Irish credit unions are and how we can help communities and members recover in the post COVID-19 environment. As a collective, credit unions are well placed to assist with the national recovery with overall financial assets of €18bn. Credit unions want to see their assets used to develop communities in Ireland, such as through funding social housing, rather than being solely invested to build infrastructure outside Ireland, as currently happens
It is a terrifying thought but what would Ireland and the area around Donore Credit Union be like if the credit union no longer existed?”