Toggle Search

The Difference Grant


The Difference helps real consumers build financially strong, self-supporting families and communities. The Difference Grant (formerly known as The Real Solutions Initiative Grant) is to support Wisconsin credit unions offering innovative services and programs that offer:

  • Affordable alternatives to high-cost financial products and services
  • Reduce dependency on predatory financial providers; 
  • Increase financial literacy
  • Improve personal financial management
  • Greater saving and wealth-building; 
  • Stronger creditworthiness
  • An avenue to personal financial stability
  • Improved financial and economic well-being of Wisconsin communities.

Grant Cycle

Applications are accepted May 15 - June 30 annually. Winners are notified by July 31. Applications must be postmarked by the last day of each grant cycle to be considered for funding during that cycle. Applications received after the last day of each cycle will be held for consideration in the next grant cycle.

Eligibility Guidelines

  1. Wisconsin credit unions that have signed a commitment letter are eligible to apply, as are affiliated system credit union organizations such as chapters, or other groups involved with credit union development efforts. Applicants must complete the application form to be considered.

  2. Non-credit union organizations partnering with affiliated credit unions and organizations may apply for grant funding, but must clearly articulate how the project will impact credit unions and their members.

  3. Projects must have clearly defined, measurable and achievable goals and objectives. We favor projects that:
    • Offer affordable alternatives to high-cost financial products and services 
    • Reduce dependency on predatory financial providers
    • Increase financial literacy
    • Improve personal financial management
    • Encourage saving and wealth-building
    • Build creditworthiness
    • Provide an avenue to personal financial stability and
    • Improve the financial and economic well-being of Wisconsin communities 

  4. Funds cannot be used as a cash donation directly to a third-party organization.  

  5. Recipient must demonstrate a strong commitment to the project.

  6. Recipient must use the grant during the year it is awarded and solely for the purpose stated on the application.

  7. The Foundation reserves the right to withhold and/or recover grant funds in the event the funds are misused.

  8. No more than one grant per year, per credit union or organization.

  9. Grant recipients must provide The Foundation within 30 days after the end of the grant period a final written report detailing how the grant funds were used and what was accomplished with the funds.

  10. Grants will be awarded based on the number and nature of the grant requests and the Foundation’s budget.


Josh Roberts at (608) 640-4065.

Past The Difference Grant Recipients


Superior Choice Credit Union
$10,000 for Superior Students

Verve, A Credit Union
$10,000 for Fraud Squad 



Glacier Hills Credit Union
$7,500 for Credit Improvement Program, A New Path 

Verve, A Credit Union
$10,000 for Fraud Squad 



7 Rivers Chapter of Credit Unions
This chapter received $2,000 to fund the Finance and Investment Bowl Scholarship for students in their area.

Fond du Lac Credit Union
 The credit union received $5,000 to add a domestic violence loan program. 

Royal Credit Union
 The credit union received $6,250 for FinU, a virtual finance education for young adults program. 

Shoreline Credit Union
 The credit union received $2,000 to adopt ZOGO, a financial education program.



7 Rivers Chapter of Credit Unions
This chapter received $3,400 to fund the Finance and Investment Bowl Scholarship for students in their area.

Gundersen Credit Union
 The credit union received $6,600 to assist in the creation of starting a lending program focused around victims of domestic violence.



7 Rivers Chapter of Credit Unions
The chapter received $3,000 to award higher education scholarships to the winners of their Finance and Investment Challenge Bowl.

Oshkosh Community Credit Union
The credit union received $4,400 to purchase and promote the Banzai Direct financial education tool.

Shoreline Credit Union
The credit union received $3,000 to support the startup of their Credit Union at Work program to provide financial education.



Peoples Choice Credit Union
The chapter received a $5,000 grant for financial education materials.



Madison Area Chapter of Credit Unions
The chapter is using grant funds to develop a financial education program for soon-to-be released inmates at the Oakhill Correctional Institution. Staff from credit unions in the chapter will collaborate to provide instruction.

STAR Credit Union
This youth-chartered credit union will use grant funds to offer its Youth Entrepreneurship Society program. The program uses BizKids lesson plans and videos to teach teens how to own and run a business. In the first six months, the students participate in job shadowing and training and meet with local business owners. Over the final six months, the students create a business plan that includes a budget and proposal for investors. They pitch their ideas to a panel and receive an investment based on their proposal.



Central Wisconsin Chapter of Credit Unions
The chapter is purchasing a poverty simulation kit from the National Credit Union Foundation to host live learning events involving students from the Marshfield, Stevens Point, Plover and Wisconsin Rapids areas. At least one credit union in the chapter has youth-run branches in schools in two of those areas. The life simulation will be used to cement relationships with these and additional schools, offering young people a glimpse into the way credit unions can help individuals and families address financial challenges. The simulations teach valuable personal finance skills and encourage young people to take their studies seriously.



STAR Credit Union
The funds will allow the credit union to hire additional student tellers and/or increase the salaries and offer negotiating skill to students delivering member service to young savers of a Madison-area Boys & Girls Club. The young tellers create a budget for the income they earn, learn cash-handling skills, balance a cash drawer, and more. They are given career development coaching and learn time-management skills. Because the program does not make income from fees or loan interest, the grant can help reward long-term employees with increased skill sets while bringing new student learners on board.



UnitedOne Credit Union
The credit union purchased a video camera and software for an online video education program. The effort will engage younger members in learning financial concepts and improve member engagement with the credit union via social media.


WESTconsin Credit Union
The credit union purchased iPads to establish a Family Financial Program that engages young people and their parents in financial learning with the help of a local Boys and Girls Club and university extension office.The goal is to set entire families on a sustainable financial plan. Children will learn financial concepts throughout the fall and engage in an online "reality" simulation in spring. Parents, who will receive financial training through the extension, will guide their children in spring as they apply their learning.



STAR Credit Union
The credit union, which serves young members of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, will develop a new website that will better engage its young members, age 7 through high school, in online financial learning and problem solving.The more interactive site aims not only to impart money matters that aren't taught at home – many of the parents of these young members are themselves underbanked or unbanked – but also to encourage return traffic to the credit union and continued regular saving. A new laptop computer will also improve the outreach of STAR to more Boys and Girls Clubs to add member accounts and encourage increased account balances, in part through young member testimonials.


Park City Credit Union
The credit union is using its grant to create marketing materials, purchase a domain name and micro-site, train staff and distribute informational materials to small businesses.The goal is to offer credit union access to entrepreneurs that struggle to access needed business banking services and who are being needlessly gouged for some of the most commonly-used services such as business checking. Radio ads, billboards, printed materials will encourage small companies to improve their financial position by taking advantage of member-ownership in a financial cooperative.



Blackhawk Community Credit Union
The credit union is purchasing iPads to help implement web-based financial curricula within the two high schools that house its in-school credit union branches. As part of its effort, the credit union will train its student tellers as Financial Literacy Student Ambassadors. They will serve as role models and leaders providing peer-to-peer financial literacy education.The credit union estimates it can reach as many as 540 students with education that emphasizes saving and wealth building, improving creditworthiness and budgeting. 


Park City Credit Union
The credit union is offering a Credit Rebuilder Program to help members and non-members improve their creditworthiness and improve budgeting skills to make consistent loan payments. The grant will help fund advertising as well as promotional and educational materials needed to offer the program, as well as training for two employees to become certified credit counselors (for a total of four at the credit union). Enrollees in the program will pay down a secured loan with regular payments reported to the credit bureaus to improve credit scores. Participants will have access to online support materials and spend at least one hour with certified staff to create a budget.



Superior Choice Credit Union
The credit union partnered with debt counselors at a local nonprofit agency to enroll 53 members in their Great Debt Pay Down program - similar to a savings challenge-in which enrollees are encouraged to become debt-free and savings-rich. Participants' average credit score is 685 with $23,508 in average outstanding debt. So far, they've offered participants seminars on basic budgeting and identity theft. A webpage and blog are being developed. A grand prize is being offered to the participant with the most improved financial position. The credit union was honored by a local nonprofit agency for its financial advocacy.  


La Crosse Area Postal Credit Union
The credit union used workshops, brochures, phone calls and other means to educate members on debit cards and debit card fraud, internet banking, mortgages and insurance.The credit union also deployed a youth survey and plan to launch a young adult newsletter with information specifically for them. The funding is also helping the credit union provide financial information through its website, Facebook, an improved newsletter and a postcard series.


STAR Credit Union
Funds helped develop its "Stock Market Club," which educated teenagers from low socio-economic neighborhoods about investing in the stock market and mutual funds. 


Blackhawk Community Credit Union
Funds helped develop the "Student Saver Club," which educated high school students on the importance of saving.