Alternatives Federal Credit Union (Alternatives), founded in 1979, is an innovative Community Development Financial Institution, dedicated to building wealth and creating economic opportunity for underserved people and communities in central New York state. Alternatives' mission is to provide access to transaction services, community investment opportunities, and education about capital, as well as capital investment in individuals, small businesses and nonprofits. Since its inception, Alternatives has made more than 25,000 loans in pursuit of this mission.
- Alternatives helps its clients achieve financial independence by providing a full range of
banking services, community programs, and loan products:
- Business CENTS(Community
Enterprise Networking and Training Services)provides entrepreneurial education, business
counseling, business support services, advocacy, and access to credit for aspiring
- Individual Development Accounts (IDA) are matched, restricted savings
accounts through which low-income people can save for future asset purchases, focusing on home
purchase, business development, and higher education.
- Student Credit Union Project
is a program run by youth at eight school-based branches, offering savings and checking accounts
and loans for youth.
- Community Partnership Lending, Alternatives partners with
nonprofit organizations to give credit where it is most needed, but least often
- Consumer (personal) Loans offer the first access to credit for many of
Alternatives' lower-income members.
- Small Business Loans include lines of credit,
microloans, secured loans, and Small Business Administration loans.
- Home Loans
target first-time and low-income homebuyers, and those whose properties do not meet traditional
- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) offers free income tax
preparation and filing, and non-predatory refund anticipation loans.
Counseling provides information, guidance, and encouragement to members seeking to change their
Alternatives Federal Credit Union has more than 9,000 members. Alternatives' members and borrowers are from communities in seven counties in central New York. Forty-five percent are from rural areas, and 55 percent minor urban. Sixty-four percent of the clients are women and 19 percent are part of an ethnic minority population. Many borrowers have limited financial assets, with 69 percent of clients coming from households with income below 80 percent of area median income. The client population is made up of 9 percent African Americans, 2 percent Asians, 4 percent Latinos, 1 percent Native Americans, 80 percent Caucasians, and 4 percent others.
- Highlights from the past year include:
- 67 microenterprise and small business loans for a total of $1,352,336
- 123 home loans for a total of $8,329,697
- Student credit union membership surpassed 1,300 and $1.1 million in deposits.
- 817 consumer loans for a total of $4,758,473.
- Prepared tax returns for more than 1200 low-income households.
- Individual Development Accounts to more than 100 low-income savers.
- Furthermore, Alternatives' "Living Wage" study has raised awareness of minimum
wage issues and produced data that has been used in labor negotiations. These actions have impacted
starting wages in Tompkins County.
The young children in this picture go to Under Cottonwood Childcare Center, owner by Alternatives member Mary Biggs. Mary went to a symposium at GIAC on starting small businesses and met Leslie Ackerman, Director of Business CENTS. “I approached Leslie about Alternatives’ one-on-one business counseling,” Mary said. “She was wonderful. I worked with her on writing a business plan – I am not a business person and didn’t know what I was doing. She talked me through the whole thing.” Full Story