WECU is deeply committed to making a meaningful difference in the lives of our members. Since we first opened our doors in 1936 as Bellingham Teachers’ Credit Union, we have strived to serve others and do what’s right.

In early 2018, we reflected on our approach to grantmaking to assess ways we could make a deeper impact in Whatcom County. We talked with employees, community members and experts in the field of philanthropy. After many discussions, we believe that we can make a greater impact in our communities in 2019 by dedicating charitable dollars to Education First grants.

In tandem with the launch of Education First, WECU is making a one-time donation to foundations at our local colleges: Northwest Indian College (NWIC), Whatcom Community College (WCC) and Bellingham Technical College (BTC). Additionally, in 2018 Western Washington University’s Carver Gymnasium Court was designated WECU Court as part of a larger sponsorship agreement through June 2022 that includes $50,000 annually for student-athlete scholarships.

Other exciting changes are also in order.

  • A new program, Community Builder Grants, will allow WECU to be part of supporting a wide array and number of community groups.
  • Our branch team was equipped with new charitable dollars in 2018 and we are increasing the amount for 2019.
  • The creation of a new program, Servant Leadership Grants, with added charitable dollars is underway for 2019 and dedicated to supporting WECU staff that serve on nonprofit boards.
  • Over recent years and into 2019 through our many giving programs- WECU Scholarship Program, Education First, grassroots giving at the branch level, and Service Leadership Grants – WECU will have increased its annual giving well over $100,000.

WECU is tremendously excited to reach the communities of Whatcom County in new ways and continue to create meaningful partnerships.

Our staff volunteer program Team WECU, our award-winning United Way Campaign which funds 25+ nonprofits and now is second largest in the county, branch charitable drives and our free Education Center remain unchanged.

For more details visit wecu.com/corporate-giving and review our 2019 WECU Charitable Giving FAQs below.

Charitable Giving FAQs

What does “Education First” mean? WECU seeks to support programs serving Whatcom County in partnership with pre-k, K-12, community colleges, technical colleges, universities and libraries which further the academic achievement of students. In addition, WECU also seeks to support financial education with various agencies serving residents of all ages throughout the community.

Why is WECU focusing on institutions such as schools, colleges and libraries? WECU first opened our doors in 1936 as Bellingham Teachers’ Credit Union. School district teachers and administration founded and operated our cooperative. Educational institutions have been critical to the membership ever since.

Many of these institutions anchor our various communities in Whatcom County, including our more rural towns. In rural towns they may be one of just a few organizations providing social services.

How does focus improve WECU’s charitable giving?

  1. Larger grants allow WECU the time to research funding requests and get to know the nonprofits in our community. Our decision making is also afforded more time to thoroughly analyze the various promising applications we review.
  2. For the projects we fund we will be better able to assess the effectiveness of the programs towards their goals and report back to our membership achievements and lessons learned.
  3. Engaged and collaborative donors can be of benefit to the nonprofits offering a different perspective and asking good questions further refining the nonprofits’ approach.
  4. Finally, in time we will understand the education landscape better thereby making us more effective as donors.

How will this affect nonprofits that do not fit in the Education First program?

While WECU elected to focus a portion of our charitable budget we still will address a broad range of community issues. One way is through our Community Builder Grant Program. This program will have a quicker review period and maximum donations will be $500.

In addition, WECU will support numerous charitable causes outside of our Education First Program: through member and staff donation drives, our award-winning United Way Campaigns, branch sponsorships, Servant Leadership Grants, WECU Scholarships, the WECU Education Center and our Team WECU volunteer committee.

Why is WECU donating large gifts to Western Washington University?

Local educational institutions including Western Washington University represent a significant part of WECU’s history. Washington State Normal School employees (now Western Washington University) joined our field of membership in 1936.

With respect to the WWU athletic scholarship gift, WWU student-athletes entering college have an Academic Success Rate of 86% well above the NCAA II national average of 71%

Honoring WECU roots and these exemplary student-athletes propelled our scholarship partnership with WWU.

When will the change happen and what does the transition look like?

Education First and Community Builder Grants will launch January 1, 2019. Our cooperative’s gifts to NWIC, BTC and WCC will be given in January 2019. Under our current 2018 charitable approach requests for up to $2,500 can be submitted to the Social Responsibility Committee until November 6, 2018. Donations for $1000 and under can also submitted until December 28, 2018.

How can I learn more about the Education First program?

For more information view our Education First Request for Proposal document located on wecu.com/EducationFirst.