February 2013

Not-for-profit credit unions are different from other lenders

Credit unions are not "just like banks." While they offer financial services, credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives owned by members, where every depositor’s vote is equal to every other's, regardless of the size of their deposits or loans. This ensures credit unions remain committed to helping members of all incomes improve their financial position. Wisconsin credit unions have demonstrated their value by:

  • Saving Wisconsin consumers nearly $1 billion since the start of the Great Recession. Since 2007, Wisconsin credit unions have saved their members $948 million by providing lower and fewer fees, lower rates on loans, and higher rates on savings.

  • Voluntarily offering programs and services to help members and communities. Through their REAL Solutions® initiative, credit unions provide cost-effective financial services, without costly state or federal mandates requiring they do so.

  • Helping fuel the economy. The credit union system employs nearly 10,000 taxpayers in Wisconsin and pays millions of dollars each year in payroll taxes, property taxes, and state sales taxes. Additionally, in 2012, Wisconsin credit unions spent nearly $578 million locally.

  • Leading the state in financial education by operating 100 in-school branches that have helped students save $3 million and get hands-on business experience.

  • Supporting nearly 3,000 charities and local causes in the form of volunteerism, fundraising, and awareness. For example, the Credit Union for Kids® program helps deliver care to sick and injured children, regardless of the families' ability to pay.

  • Earning seven top awards in seven years for their efforts to help their members and communities. This includes six Wisconsin Financial Literacy Awards, presented by the Governor's Council on Financial Literacy, as well as the 2012 Corporate Citizenship Award.

  • Helping to assimilate new Americans. Credit unions translate information about loans, open savings accounts, offer low cost wire transfers and participate in events to help new Americans establish a financial foothold, seek employment and participate in our nation's tax system.

Under Wisconsin law: A credit union exists to "encourage thrift among its members, create a source of fair credit at a fair and reasonable cost, and provide an opportunity for its members to improve their economic and social conditions." - Wis. Stats. § 186.01(2)

Here is a closer look at how credit unions differ from other financial institutions:

Credit Unions


Not-for-profit cooperative


For-profit corporation


To serve members


To make profits for stockholders
Member-elected directors focused on how to meet members needs


Paid directors focused on ways to increase stockholder profits
Returned to members in the form of higher interest on savings, lower loan rates and lower and fewer fees


Returned to stockholders, not customers
Members and the communities where they live and work

Who Benefits

Stockholders who may not live in the community or state
In people


In profits
Members, each of whom has an equal ownership share (1 vote per member)


Customers with no say how they're treated (except for a few stockholders)

Find more information online!

Click here for more resources from The League

Click here to view videos of credit union members explaining our REAL Solutions initiative

View our Scorecard, which details how credit unions deliver value to their members

Tom Liebe, Vice President of Government Affairs
(608) 514-0082 • tliebe@theleague.coopwww.theleague.coop
Credit Union House: 1 East Main St., Suite 101, Madison, WI 53703-5109