Member Stories

International Volunteer Day: The diverse ways customer-owned banks give back


Customer-owned banks have an extensive history of helping communities flourish and stay connected, which is often achieved through volunteer work. Whether it be environmental efforts, supporting local healthcare campaigns or giving sporting teams an extra boost, customer owned banks are well known for donating their time, as well as their money.

In fact, KPMG estimated the value of paid volunteering efforts in our sector to be about $13,000 per institution.

At the Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA), we’ve learnt through our two Banking with Purpose books that building societies, mutuals and credit unions often begin by speaking to locals about ways to make their communities better, then dedicate time and money to executing those plans.

As the world marks International Volunteer Day – a United Nations-run initiative that showcases the work of unpaid heroes globally – we thought it would be worth providing a small snapshot of some of the outstanding work our customer-owned banks are doing back home.

Encouraging and enabling staff to give back

One of the ways customer-owned banks support communities is by allowing their staff to use work time for volunteering. Take, for example, Coastline Credit Union, which encourages its staff to take paid days for volunteer work. In just a few years, the credit union has racked up more than 1000 hours of time spent at local not-for-profits and community organisations. Queensland Country Bank has adopted a similar method, with staff encouraged to volunteer at a charity of their choice. As a team, the bank also volunteers for Ronald McDonald House.

Gateway Bank has taken an environmental approach to its volunteer efforts, encouraging staff to help out Reverse Garbage – an initiative that’s focused on reducing waste. Gateway staff help with everything from organising the Marrickville-based warehouse and creating craft packs, to painting shelves.

For RACQ, the effects of volunteer work have been seen by many in its community, after the devastation of severe weather events. For that reason, it set up a foundation to help communities rebuild after natural disasters. In addition to handing out financial support, the foundation’s volunteers chip in with tasks such as sanding and painting, washing, cleaning, gardening and maintenance for local associations.

Credit Union SA, meanwhile, has chosen to give back via the Foodbank charity. Once a fortnight, its staff give their time at the local Foodbank warehouse.

Similarly, Central West Credit Union encourages its staff to get involved with Meals on Wheels, school fetes and blood drives. It also gives financial support to the world-famous Parkes Elvis Festival, which in turn allows festival organisers to recruit volunteers for the event.

These are only a few examples of how customer-owned banks are giving back. Find out more in our latest Banking with Purpose edition.

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