Vancity Community Credit Union

What we want to be known for


Tamarra Vrooman
Chief Executive Officer
Vancity Savings Credit Union
From a conversation with the Downtown Vancouver Association, 2009

Where we are
The Vancouver Foundation Report on how well we are doing on the things that are important to us, – our common community interests around health and wellness, learning, safety, housing, transportation, environment, arts and culture, poverty, having healthy, well-cared for and loved children, and creating opportunities for everyone – leaves room for opportunity. We want healthy, well cared for, and loved children and yet one in four children live in poverty.

What opportunities do we have? What opportunities do we have as a community to improve our quality of life? What opportunities can we create? These are concerns for our business community as well as our community service enterprises. What opportunities do we have for our business community to contribute to their self-interest and to our common social interests as a community? What are the opportunities for VanCity and our community partners?

Who we are
We are the largest community based credit union in the world. We have 380,000 members, one of every six residents in the Metro Vancouver area. We have operated for more than fifty years, have growing assets of 13 billion dollars, and employ 2600 people from our community.
Our employees are members, which gives us the opportunity to learn how to work together to support our members and our employees.

What we are doing, how we do things, and how we contribute
We hire locally keeping transportation costs low and employing people who have a better understanding and commitment to the community
We buy from sustainable businesses and businesses who are making a social contribution
We partner with not-for-profits

How we invest
We invest in socially responsible enterprises and demonstration projects
Victoria Dockside Renewal project – profit in a sustainable way – a model for demonstrating what can be done –– attract interest from around the world – take a community asset or resource and work with the community to create something that is better for the community – show others how, with a little creativity and thought, we can do something that contributes to our community interests, and to our common social interests, and make it profitable.
VanCity Venture Capital – first nations and sustainable energy
VanCity Enterprises – bringing affordable housing to market

Where there is more opportunity
We do business with 40% of the non-profits in the Lower Mainland and a significant amount of business contributing to our future economy, – the social economy
We are serving them one at a time rather than thinking about the asset or resource we have as a community of social and community enterprises.

What if we helped them formalize partnerships? What if we brought the community together around common community interests? What if we invested in a social capital fund for non-profits to access and for business partners to invest in?

Governments are generally followers, not leaders. It is generally up to others to demonstrate leadership and show what can be done, to take the techniques, tools, ideas, and financial capital to create.

We need to partner with those who understand the concept of community and bring those together in a way that not only creates and contributes financial value, but also social value.

This what we strive to do with our partnerships and what we are continuing to strive to do, not only as a way to grow our business, but also because it is the right thing to do, – understand the issues and bring things together to create social value as well as financial value

On local initiatives
How do we do a better job of managing the resources spent on social issues?
We have a silo approach to it rather than a holistic approach. How do we find the big idea to do a better job of bringing people together across silos? There needs to be more dialogue to understand what is happening in different places and how those issues interact with one another and how we bring things together.
The greatest impact occurs by getting entrepreneurs from the financial community and the social community together in local creative ways to start taking immediate action to solve some of these problems in a smaller local way. If we wait for the big convention to come up with one magic idea, we would have found it already. It is important to bring people together, to convene, to talk, to understand, to learn, – but more will be achieved and learned from local partnerships, from small grass-roots initiatives that tackle problems locally, and start to demonstrate the benefits of dialogue and get the machine going that way.

On sustainability
Global issues require vision and leadership at the global level but big changes can be made by many people doing small changes. One person or a thousand people can change their habits.
Small businesses have the opportunity, not to make radical change, but do small things.
It is important that each individual person and business contribute, – how we buy our paper, how we recycle, who we do business with, where to locate premises, how we interact with our customers. Small things can bring a huge benefit. People want to work for us because we care about these things. People want to do business with us because we care about these things. It is a huge draw for employees and a major benefit in recruiting and retaining staff.

On supporting the arts
How do we leverage the dollars we invest? How do we create spaces for artists that are affordable? What opportunities do we have about how we support the arts community?
The arts are a growing, clean sector. We need to think about it a little more creatively. We sponsor for a variety of events in the arts community. This is only one way to support the arts. We do not want to replicate what governments do. We have a surplus of between 3 and 5 million dollars a year which we distribute. How do we use this to leverage our investment, – in creating affordable space, creating communities that connect with artists rather than the art, in growing the arts community? We need to think creatively about what we do

On demonstration projects
We use creative techniques by engaging people from Europe, students from academia, and community in exploring ideas and creating partnerships to reduce the costs, reduce the footprint of our enterprise, and develop new approaches to contribute to our community interests, – to make affordable housing accessible as in the Victoria Dockyard demonstration or in other demonstration projects we can create to excite imaginative creative enterprise around our community interests.

On supporting non-profits
Large organizations tend to partner with large charities because they are seen to be safe investments. Large charities speak the same language and have the capacity to produce grant applications. Smaller not for profits do not have the time or resources to participate and are focused on getting business done. Small not for profits do not have the resources to get their story known and get them in touch with resources

How can we support smaller not for profit enterprise in terms of articulating their success, in terms of getting their stories known, in terms of putting them in touch with the resources that can help them? We work with the Sauder School of business on creating cooperatives in the non-profit enterprise. We can do the same with our own non-profit members

On demonstrating the value of small non-profits
Giving smaller enterprises the opportunity to demonstrate they are not risky, giving them an opportunity to tell their stories, the opportunity to celebrate their success in ways that show the risk of being associated with these smaller organizations is smaller than we think, is how we will be best able to support small non-profit enterprise and community contributors.

Tamarra Vrooman
In conversation with the Downtown Vancouver Association, 2009

The opportunity

My Observations

Vancity has a connection with thousands of businesses, community service organizations, and people in the community who are contributing to and part of communities of common social interest.

I receive two communications from VanCity each year. One is a statement of my equity, the other a notice of election for the Board of Directors. I receive a few from candidates for the Board.

VanCity has funded several hundred community leaders to go to Bologna to learn about cooperatives. I do not know whether this has resulted in creating more cooperatives or in creating cooperative enterprise and how it contributed to our community.

Leadership is showing how to do things and demonstrating how things can works

What we know

About creating enterprise
Most new customers come through word of mouth
Most new transaction activity comes from our existing customers.

About creating wealth
Creating relationships, resources, and contribution

About creating community
Moving from us and them to we

About creative enterprise
Creating with opportunities
Creating opportunities
Contributing opportunities
Operating beyond integrity

About creative community enterprise
Creating community around common individual, community, and social interests

To bring community together around our common community interests and excite creative community enterprise

Our Story as we tell it

Our Mission
To be a democratic, ethical and innovative provider of financial services to our members Through strong financial performance, we serve as a catalyst for the self-reliance and economic well-being of our membership and community.

Our Purpose
To work with people and communities to help them thrive and prosper

Our Values

Integrity – we act with courage, consistency and respect to do what is honest, fair and trustworthy.
Innovation – we anticipate and respond to challenges and changing needs with creativity, enthusiasm and determination.
Responsibility – we are accountable to our members, employees, colleagues and communities for the results of our decisions and actions.

Our Commitments

We make the following commitments in order to live our purpose and values in how we do business. Our aim is to strengthen Vancity’s long-term business while contributing to the well-being of our members, staff, communities and the environment.

We will be responsible and effective managers so Vancity remains strong and prospers
We will provide meaningful opportunities for members to have input in setting the direction of the credit union
We will ensure that Vancity is a great place to work
We will lead by example and use our resources and expertise to effect positive change in our communities
We will be accountable for living up to our commitments

How we are seen
As a community contributor focused on community issues, assisting community enterprises, taking initiatives to contribute to community, and creating new ideas
As a community leader encouraging enterprising non-profits and social enterprise

How we could tell our story

VanCity – Creating community
Exciting creative community enterprise
Create community by creating community wealth – community relationships, community resources, and community contribution
Making creative enterprise profitable
Demonstrating the risk in social enterprise is far less and the returns much greater and that making social enterprise profitable is good investment.

How we could be seen
As a cooperative
As a cooperative enterprise
As creating cooperative enterprise
As connecting community
As creating community
As a creative community enterprise

What our story could communicate
This is what we do.
This is how we contribute.
This is what we contribute.
This is what we have contributed.
These are our interests in contributing.
These are the interests we contribute to
We are not banks.
We are community enterprises and contributors.
We are a community
We contribute to our community.
We are from our community.
We represent our community.
We contribute to our community interests.
We are creating community around our common community interests.
We hold wealth in trust for our community.
We provide the financial services our community needs.
We engage our community in exploring new ideas, initiatives, and enterprise.
We are a creative community cooperative
We are a community credit union cooperative

How we measure our contribution to creating community
Community understanding
Community connections
Community enterprise
Community health
Community wealth
Community well-being
Community thinking
Community behaviour
Community development
Community resources
Community relationships

How this contributes to our interests
and to the interests of the communities we serve and are a part of

We may find our story more easily understood and remembered in the many different communities of interest we find ourselves in and the people we do business with and contribute to.
We may excite more creative thinking both in the Vancity enterprise and in our communities around opportunities and possibilities that contribute to our interests
We may excite more relationships with other community contributors and leaders with common interests.

What is possible
Vancity has a connection with thousands of community contributors, and community members interested in becoming contributors, that could create relationships with one another, with our community, and for our community.

Creating and contributing opportunities

Who wants to create a relationship with a community contributor?
Who wants to become a contributor to creating community?
Who wants to be associated with a contributor to our community?
Who wants to connect with the communities of interest they serve?
Who wants to engage our community around a common community interest, – or around an opportunity or initiative that could contribute to our community interests?
Who wants to tell the story and create connections and creative community enterprise around a community contributor?
Who wants to excite creative community enterprise?

Creative Community Enterprise
How are we investing our resources in creating community?
How well are we doing?
How well are things working?
How well is what we are doing contributing to our interests, the interests of those served, involved in, and affected by our enterprise?
What things could we do more of or better?
What things could we do differently?
What different things could we do?

What we could do
Demonstration projects in creating community
A calendar of community fundraising events
A showcase of our members who are community contributors
Reports on our member’s contributions
Give our members opportunities to tell the stories of community contributors
Create a community communication centre for Vancity members
Contribute to creating communication centres for our communities of common interest
Create and contribute opportunities to excite creative community enterprise
Publish opportunities to invest in our community
Create community with Culture Days,
Create community with the community credit union cooperatives in British Columbia

The information in Weathering the Storm makes it apparent that we need to think differently, create new connections and relationships, and find new ways of doing things if we want our community of artists to be able to continue to contribute to the quality of our lives, to our understanding and connectedness, and to our ability to create community.

The Opportunity
To curate the arts, culture, and heritage of our communities in collaboration with the creative community, the community arts councils, the community tourism associations, the community business improvement associations, the community service groups, and the community credit union.

The Opportunity
To contribute to creating Creative Vancouver to curate the creative contributions of our community to our common individual, community, and social interests, and to our cultural and social development as a community, and to create connections with opportunities to create relationships with Vancouver community contributors.

We are entering the social, creative, open economy of the future.

If we are involved in the community and utterly transparent, we will have better success with the next generation of consumers. Younger people use ‘shop and compare’ sites to compare different features and prices and they use consumer watchdog sites so they know about the reputation of enterprises. The next generation is well informed and will choose who they do business and create relationships with. It will be better to err on the side of transparency. The earlier we create connections and relationships, the more successful our enterprise will become.

From The World of Wealth
Episode on Ethics


What we want to be known for – all about us


What we could be known for – all about we


We are committed to being clear and open with our community

Vancouver Foundation Stories
Vancouver Foundation Vital Signs
Enterprising Non-Profits
Enterprising Non-Profits Tool Kit
VanCity Community Stories

Vancity Community Foundation