PHOENIX-Since 1996, credit unions across the nation have collectively raised more than $100 million for Children's Miracle Network hospitals, a significant amount of money.

But now CMN is setting an even bigger goal for the next decade: to raise $1 billion in one year.

The nation's credit unions raise significant funds for CMN every year, and last week it was announced that Children's Miracle Day will be honored with a 2013 Wegner Award (see related story, page 3).

"Our hospitals are continuing to serve more and more kids, and we're at the verge of some real breakthroughs in treating childhood diseases, and we need more money. We want to play a big part in that," said Joe Dearborn, senior director of CMN's Credit Unions for Kids (CU4Kids) program. "When (President) Kennedy said we want to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, we did. And (our CEO) feels that with the partners we have and our innovation team looking at new groundbreaking ways to raise money...that $1 billion is within reach. It's going to take a lot of work and ingenuity, but he's convinced and we've joined with him in his thinking that we can raise $1 billion in one year."

In 2011, the nation's credit unions helped raise about $8.8 million for CMN, the most ever raised in one year. Dearborn said that CU4Kids is projecting more than $9 million from credit unions for 2012. Last year CMN raised a total of $275 million from all stakeholders, including $90 million from corporate partners, of which CUs constituted 9.77%.

Dearborn noted that the credit union community is consistently the third-largest donor to CMN, behind only Costco and Walmart, "who obviously have a bit of an advantage over credit unions just because of the volume of people that come through their doors."

Yet even with the recession and tightened budgets-both at credit unions and in members' houses-overall donations in recent years have stayed strong or, at worse, been flat, said Dearborn. While some places such as Michigan or the sand states have struggled, donations are up in places like Arizona and California. "We've weathered this downturn in the economy very well, as far as maintaining our fundraising, and we're already seeing it turn around this year as the economy improves and credit unions maybe see some light at the end of the tunnel."

Dearborn admitted that some of the organization's largest gifts do come from bigger credit unions with more resources, but "we try to educate the smaller credit unions that even though you're going to raise $500, it's still important in the big picture of the overall number that credit unions are raising."


Focus On Local Hospitals

Aside from donations made at individual CUs, Dearborn credited the "Miracle Match" program from CO-OP Financial Services as having been instrumental to CU4Kids' success. "They commit $1 million annually with the intent being to create new fundraising programs which will result in new incremental dollars for our program," said Dearborn. "That's been a big part of maintaining the modest growth we've seen in the program over the last couple of years because of the economy."

Dearborn noted the donations each CU takes in to help their local hospitals as helping continue to drive giving even during the hardest times of the recession. And after the jeans days, paper balloon drives and charity 5ks are all over, those donations are funneled to local hospitals, including a number of things Dearborn said might never have been completed without the help of credit unions and their members.

"I'm in Phoenix, and since 1999, credit unions have completely funded the 1 Darn Cool School (at Phoenix Children's Hospital), a K-12 in-patient education program," said Dearborn. "It provides teachers, computers and every single piece of equipment that you need to outfit a classroom, all of which has been taken care of by credit unions."

Beyond that, there is a re-entry program to prepare teachers and students and ease the transition for children who go back to school after treatments. "Maybe Bobby has had chemo and lost his hair-they'll go in and educate the kids about why Bobby's lost his hair so that it's an easier transition for the patient, the child, the students and the staff."


The Gold Standard

In Oregon-which Dearborn called the "gold standard" for CUs for Kids-credit unions have been partnering with CMN hospitals since 1986, a full decade before CU4Kids was established. Oregon's CUs have funded the entire seventh floor at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, where that space has been dubbed the Credit Unions for Kids Outpatient Clinic. Credit unions in Oregon have also endowed four different pediatric intensive care units at hospitals there.

Not all of the donations have such a directly tangible result, but they are no less meaningful, stressed Dearborn.

"There are also several hospitals where funds go to the greatest need-that might be research or it might be charity care," he told Credit Union Journal. "It speaks to the credit unions' goal of serving the underserved; they do it financially, but they also do it at our hospitals as well."

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