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Financial empowerment through asset building

May 7, 2015

Working with community partners, a Manitoba credit union co-created a program that increases access to financial services to help people on low incomes save and become economically self-sufficient.

Assiniboine Credit Union (ACU) is one of the founders of the AssetBuilders Partnership, along with Supporting Employment and Economic Development Winnipeg, (SEED Winnipeg), and the United Way Winnipeg.

The partnership supports local non-profit community organizations, like MacDonald Youth Services and Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in Winnipeg, to deliver twelve unique asset building programs to the communities that they serve.

While the community organization partners oversee money management training based on a curriculum developed by SEED, and provide mentorship and coaching for participants, each of the three founding organizations has specific roles. SEED coordinates and measures the success of asset building; the United Way provides the funding for matched savings; and ACU is the financial services provider, opening specially designed matched savings accounts for AssetBuilders program participants and accounts for community partners so that they can manage program funds.

While each of the programs offered through local community non-profits focus on different savings goals, all participants select an asset savings goal; attend regular money management training sessions; follow a savings plan; have access to coaching and mentoring support; and will have their savings matched at a 3:1 ratio upon graduation from the program.

Since the partnership began in 2000, a total of $1.2 million has been saved by participants and $2.9 million contributed in matched funds to the 3,035 Manitobans who have participated in the program.

In that time, the number of participating community partners has grown from one to fourteen, including two sites that are supported by Westoba Credit Union. ACU facilitated training for Westoba Credit Union to support two additional asset building sites in rural communities.

In addition to increasing the capacity of participants, ACU has learned significant lessons about making financial services more accessible and has engaged employees in the success of the program. ACU employees help to fundraise to support the AssetBuilders in addition to funds provided by the United Way. In 2014, ACU raised more than $80,000 for asset building programs through their employee-led United Way Campaign. Nearly $700,000 has been raised for these programs since 2007.

Assiniboine Credit Union’s Asset Building Program is the recipient of the 2015 National Credit Union Social Responsibility Award. Take a look here​.

For more information about asset building programs, take a look at CCUA's Matched Savings Program Toolkit.​