GoWest Foundation Offers Up to $100K for Solutions to Workforce Housing, Rural Access to Financial Services

For more than 25 years, the GoWest Foundation has supported credit unions’ efforts to address the complex, unique, and challenging issues they witness every day in their communities.

As the chief convener for GoWest’s now six-state region, the Foundation exists to help credit unions bolster resources, foster relationships with philosophically aligned organizations and finance new or distinct solutions that improve the lives of members. From partnering with Tucson-area credit unions to fight hunger to enhancing loan programs that support small businesses, the Foundation team is always exploring partnerships and ideas or seeking new opportunities to support.

Credit unions can now receive up to $100,000 for solutions related to either workforce housing or rural access to financial services in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.

Intended to leverage resources to make a bigger impact on communities, the grants are not meant to support existing programs. Rather, they champion pilot initiatives, programs that address the unique needs of individual credit unions or ones with proven success in other communities. Grants can even support the early-stage research or data collecting necessary to inform an initiative before it’s brought to life.

Options for grant support
States within the GoWest region represent vastly diverse landscapes, each with distinct needs.

However, urban areas across every state have one thing in common: a lack of affordable housing.

Skyrocketing home and rent costs continue to stymie cities with even the greatest resources, and that’s why it’s become one of the Foundation’s signature support areas. Since 2018, it has provided nearly $1 million in philanthropic investments toward housing access and affordability.

Credit unions have used the grants to supplement financing that rehabilitates or renovates older housing units, research on renters seeking homeownership, and low-interest loans over the course of a rental lease to offset steep security deposit fees.

Another option is creating an avenue for down payment assistance, as Central Willamette Credit Union in Albany, Oregon, did with its 80/20 mortgage product. This credit union also used a Foundation planning grant to complete a demographic study, which helped it decide how to more effectively reach potential homebuyers who struggled to meet financial requirements.

“With the continually rising cost of housing, we felt it was a timely and responsible effort for Central Willamette to commit our focus to affordable housing initiatives,” said Stacie Wyss-Schoenborn, President and CEO of Central Willamette. “The awarded funds from the Foundation have been crucial in our continued development of partnerships, education, and product creation.”

While housing is an ongoing struggle in cities, rural communities grapple with other concerns, including the financial desert left by the departure of bank branches. Interactive Teller Machine access, outreach strategies connecting underserved communities with relevant financial services and infrastructure assessments are all examples of how credit unions have used grant support to advance financial access in their rural communities.

Microloans through East Idaho Credit Union helped small-business owners in Idaho Falls recover after the pandemic. Foundation funding offset the cost of staff expenses, marketing, and loan loss reserves when creating the program. In total, it extended $100,000 to $150,000 in credit to small businesses.

“There is something magical when we are able to work with business owners in our communities to bring not only growth and prosperity to them but also to the communities that we all love,” said Dan Thurman, president and CEO of East Idaho Credit Union.

Grant funding through the Foundation can make the impossible possible for your community. Apply for your credit union or collaborate with other credit unions on a project proposal that can further strengthen your impact.

Want to know more?
Visit gowestfoundation.org/grants for grant guidelines and to begin your application. Each application will be accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year. Awards cannot be passed to other organizations. Contact [email protected] with any questions.

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