CUNA Awards

Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Community Service Award

Recognizes model credit union efforts to strengthen local institutions and materially improve the lives of nonmembers through community outreach programs (other than personal finance education). Examples:

  • Internship program
  • Charity fund raising
  • Support for public events
  • Donation to social service programs
  • VITA or EITC assistance
  • Lobbying or advocacy on behalf of K-12 financial education
  • Support for teacher training
  • Dora Maxwell Award Entry Form 

Louise Herring Philosophy-in-Action Member Service Award

Recognizes model credit union efforts to materially improve members’ lives through programs (other than personal finance education). Examples:
 

  • Special loan modification program
  • Wealth-building or debt-reduction incentive program
  • Outreach to underserved population
  • Student-run in-school or campus branch
  • Credit union difference campaign
  • Predatory lending alternative
  • Support for member ESL instruction
  • Louise Herring Award Entry Form

Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award

Recognizes model credit union efforts to teach personal finance concepts and skills to members and nonmembers under age 18. Examples:

  • Classroom presentation series
  • Credit prerequisite course
  • NEFE HSFPP instruction for underserved group
  • Online personal finance curriculum
  • Live group budgeting simulation
  • Special savers or borrowers club
  • Peer-to-peer financial counseling
  • Desjardin Youth Award Entry Form 

Desjardins Adult Financial Education Award

Recognizes model credit union efforts to teach personal finance concepts and skills to members and nonmembers age 18 and older. Examples:

  • Group seminar or webinar
  • Online Q&A with expert
  • Instruction of underserved group
  • Presentation series to SEG group
  • Instruction at personal finance events
  • One-on-one financial counseling or credit report review
  • Regular personal finance segment in local media
  • Desjardins Adult Award Entry Form 

Scroll down for additional in-depth details about each CUNA Award. An overview of CUNA's awards program.

Video highlights of 2017 state-level entries.

The Dora Maxwell Award: The Social Responsibility Program for Credit Unions

DoraMaxwellThe Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Recognition Program was established to encourage credit union and chapter involvement in community projects and activities. Community involvement can enhance your credit union’s image and is a great opportunity to give something back to the community.

Credit unions compete with others in their asset category for the Dora Maxwell award. First-place winners at the state level advance to the national competition, where they vie with credit unions of similar size throughout the country.

This award is named after Dora Maxwell, a credit union pioneer who worked with numerous organizations to improve the living standards of the poor and needy.

Winners are announced during the Chairman's Awards Banquet at the League's annual convention.  First-place winners are forwarded to CUNA for the national competition. See a list of past winners here.

The following information should answer any questions you have about these awards programs. An online form to enter the Dora Maxwell competition is available here. If you need additional help, call the Communications Department.

What is the Dora Maxwell Award? How does it work?
Your credit union or chapter can participate in a wide variety of community outreach activities. Take a look at your community and assess its needs. They might include fund raising for charity, making classroom presentations, sponsoring community activities, or loaning employees for a few hours a week to work in hospitals, retirement homes or shelters. You can make a difference in your community. Get involved, and then enter the Dora Maxwell award program. As you document your activities, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. What were the goals of your project and how did they show social concern for the community?
  2. How did the project support the needs of the community?
  3. Define the project's target audience(s), including who got involved and who benefited from the project.
  4. What strategies were used to reach the project's goal?
  5. How were the project's promotional materials targeted to the intended audience(s) and how did they communicate the project's goals?
  6. How is this project unique? How does it demonstrate extraordinary effort and devotion of time and organization by the credit union?
  7. Please describe the measurable or defined results the project achieved.

The Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Recognition Award recognizes credit unions for external activities within the community.

Sample Dora Maxwell Award activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Helping solve core community problems, such as housing, transportation, hunger, or literacy.
  • Food, clothing, or school supply drives for the needy.
  • Raising money on behalf of charitable organizations, such as the United Way or Credit Unions for Kids®.
  • Helping an organization or agency with events or projects, such as coaching a Special Olympics team.
  • Tutoring or reading to students at a local school.
  • Sponsoring a community volunteer of the year award.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q: Who was Dora Maxwell?
A: Dora Maxwell was an early credit union pioneer. One of the original signers of CUNA's constitution at Estes Park, Colorado, she worked as an organizer for the movement's trade association (then called the Credit Union National Extension Bureau) and held numerous volunteer positions at the local and national level. In addition to organizing hundreds of credit unions, she developed volunteer organizer clubs and worked with organizations on behalf of the poor.

Q: What time period do the award entries cover?
A: Leagues determine any qualifying time frames. In general, entries should cover the previous year's activities, but there are no exact deadlines prescribed. A good rule of thumb is that entries submitted by the deadline should cover activities that took place between the submission date and the same date during the previous year.

Q: What's the difference between the Louise Herring Award and the Dora Maxwell Award?
A: The Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Recognition Award is given to a credit union or chapter for its social responsibility projects within the community. The award is given for external activities. The Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action is given to a credit union for its practical application of credit union philosophy within the actual operation of the credit union. It is awarded for internal programs and services.

Q: Can a credit union enter both competitions?
A: Yes. Just be sure to clearly define which program the credit union is entering and how the activities submitted meet the program guidelines.

Q: Can a credit union enter the same entry in both competitions?
A: No. Because each program has different objectives and requirements, entries should be tailored to match the defined goals of the particular competition.

Q: Can a credit union submit the same entry to more than one-league for state-level judging?
A: No. A credit union's entry may only be submitted to one league, even if the credit union pays dues in more than one state.

Q. Can a credit union submit more than one entry in either competition?
A. Generally, a credit union should submit only one entry per competition. Each entry can list the number of projects conducted in the timeframe established by the League, but the credit union must select one project that best exemplifies the criteria for each award. The questions on the entry form must be completed detailing the one project that was selected.

Q: Can members of a chapter submit their credit union's activities that were conducted as part of a Chapter?
A: No. Chapter's entries are judged based on their collective activities, i.e., what was accomplished as a group, not on individual efforts.

Q: Can chapters enter the Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action competition?
A: No. The Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action criteria is based on individual credit union performance.

Secrets of a Winning Entry

Ever wonder what judges are looking for when they select the winners in the national recognition programs? Here's the scoop:

  • Review the entry form carefully and answer all of the questions. The scoring is based on these elements, so the more information you provide in response to the questions, the higher your score.
  • Read the rules, and make sure you're entering the appropriate competition. Remember: Dora Maxwell entries should focus on community involvement, or social responsibility programs external to the credit union. Louise Herring entries should be based on your credit union's internal programs and provide examples of how you put philosophy into action for your members.
  • Make your entry easy to read and easy to follow. Include the name of your credit union on the front cover of the binder. Use a table of contents. Avoid handwritten entries, and use standard fonts: no italic style or small print. Misspellings leave a bad impression, too.
  • Clearly identify your target audience. Who is involved in your project? Who is doing the work? Who are the beneficiaries? How many people did you reach? While giving donations is admirable, the judges also look for strong volunteer involvement.
  • Identify your results. Your results should correspond to your goals and objectives.
  • If you submit a video, keep it short. A well-done five-minute video is more impressive than 40 minutes of your charity golf tournament.
  • Bigger isn't always better. Keep your entry to a manageable size. Keep it fresh: Include current activities only, not programs or events from several years ago.
  • Include samples or descriptions of the promotional materials related to the entry, not for your used-vehicle sale or most successful loan promotion.

Of course, only a limited number of entries can win at the state and national levels. But by heeding this advice, you can improve your chances of receiving recognition for your good works.

Who was Dora Maxwell?

1897-1985

Dora Maxwell, a true pioneer of the credit union movement, was elected to the first board of directors of the New York State Credit Union League in 1921.

In 1931, Dora was employed as an organizer for the Credit Union Nation Extension Bureau--today known as the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). Dora was one of the original signers of CUNA's constitution at Estes Park in Colorado. She held numerous volunteer positions within the movement and was active locally and nationally until 1955.

In addition to organizing hundreds of credit unions, Dora Maxwell developed volunteer organizer clubs and worked with several organizations to help improve the living standards of the poor and needy.

Louise Herring Philosophy in Action Award

LouiseHerringThe Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action formally recognizes credit unions that demonstrate in an extraordinary way the practical application of credit union philosophy. Philosophy in action is what distinguishes credit unions from other financial service providers. Our philosophy and the way we put it into practice is the heart of the credit union difference.

Credit unions compete with others of all sizes in this competition. An online form to enter the Louise Herring competition is available here. The first-place winner at the state level advances to the national competition.

This award is named after Louise Herring, dubbed the “Mother of Credit Unions” by the Ohio General Assembly for her help in chartering nearly 500 credit unions.

Winners of the program are announced during the Chairman's Awards Banquet at the League's annual convention. The first-place winner is forwarded to CUNA for the national competition. See a list of past winners here.

What is the Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action? How does it work?
Does your credit union do an extraordinary job of acting like a credit union? It's the way credit unions incorporate philosophy into day-to-day operations that sets them apart from other financial service providers. Your credit union can enter the Louise Herring Award Program for Philosophy in Action and get recognition for a job well done.

Eligible activities include programs or policies that demonstrate a credit union's commitment to applying the "people-helping-people" philosophy. Examples are: provisions for the small saver or borrower; programs for youth, seniors or other groups that are often economically disadvantaged; programs that do an extraordinary job of encouraging thrift and provide a source of unbiased money management and consumer information; evidence of an exceptional degree of service.

Keep the following in mind when compiling your entry materials:

  1. How does your project demonstrate credit union philosophy?
  2. Describe how the credit union put its philosophy into action?
  3. How does the project go beyond what is normally expected of a credit union?
  4. How did the project demonstrate the credit union's commitment to educating its members about credit union philosophy?
  5. How does the project demonstrate extraordinary and exemplary efforts to serve the credit union's members on a consistent basis?
  6. How does the project show the credit union's commitment to the credit union operating principles of democratic structure, service to members, and social goals?
  7. Please describe the measurable or defined results the project achieved.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q: Who was Louise Herring and why is the award named for her?
A: Louise Herring was an active supporter, organizer and champion of credit unions. She was the Ohio delegate to the 1934 national credit union conference in Estes Park, Colorado, where she signed the original constitution for a national credit union association. Louise Herring believed that credit unions should work in a practical manner to better people's lives. She saw the credit union as more than just a financial institution. In her own words, "The purpose of the credit union is to reform the financial system, so that everyone can have his place in the sun."

Q: What time period do the award entries cover?
A: Leagues determine any qualifying time frames. In general, entries should cover the previous year's activities, but there are no exact deadlines prescribed. A good rule of thumb is that entries submitted by the June 22, 2012, deadline should cover activities taking place between June 2011 and the submission date.

Q: What's the difference between the Louise Herring Award and the Dora Maxwell Award?
A: The Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Recognition Award is given to a credit union or chapter for its social responsibility projects within the community. The award is given for external activities. The Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action is given to a credit union for its practical application of credit union philosophy within the actual operation of the credit union. It is awarded for internal programs and services.

Q: Can a credit union enter both competitions?
A: Yes. Just be sure to clearly define which program the credit union is entering and how the activities submitted meet the program guidelines.

Q: Can a credit union enter the same entry in both competitions?
A: No. Because each program has different objectives and requirements, entries should be tailored to match the defined goals of the particular competition.

Q: Can a credit union submit the same entry to more than one-league for state-level judging?
A: No. A credit union's entry may only be submitted to one league, even if the credit union pays dues in more than one state.

Q. Can a credit union submit more than one entry in either competition?
A. Generally, a credit union should submit only one entry per competition. Each entry can list the number of projects conducted in the timeframe established by the League, but the credit union must select one project that best exemplifies the criteria for each award. The questions on the entry form must be completed detailing the one project that was selected.

Q: Can members of a chapter submit their credit union's activities that were conducted as part of a Chapter?
A: No. Chapter's entries are judged based on their collective activities, i.e., what was accomplished as a group, not on individual efforts.

Q: Can chapters enter the Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action competition?
A: No. The Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action criteria is based on individual credit union performance.

Q: Why must a credit union supply financial information with its entry in the Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action?
A: A credit union must be in solid financial condition in order to provide the highest level of service to its members. Sound financial management ensures a credit union's ability to continue to provide that service, as well. Therefore, the entry must include current and previous year's (2 years total) statements of financial condition and income statements. Entries received without the financial information will be disqualified.

Sample Award Program Activities

Sample Louise Herring Award activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Services for members with unique financial needs, such as savings clubs for children or discounts for senior citizens, or other extraordinary efforts to serve the membership.
  • Counseling for members facing financial difficulties.
  • Educational seminars for members on retirement planning, car buying, budgeting or college financing.
  • Efforts to educate members on the credit union difference.

Secrets of a Winning Entry

Ever wonder what judges are looking for when they select the winners in the national recognition programs? Here's the scoop:

  • Review the entry form carefully and answer all of the questions. The scoring is based on these elements, so the more information you provide in response to the questions, the higher your score.
  • Read the rules, and make sure you're entering the appropriate competition. Remember: Dora Maxwell entries should focus on community involvement, or social responsibility programs external to the credit union. Louise Herring entries should be based on your credit union's internal programs and provide examples of how you put philosophy into action for your members.
  • Make your entry easy to read and easy to follow. Include the name of your credit union on the front cover of the binder. Use a table of contents. Avoid handwritten entries, and use standard fonts: no italic style or small print. Misspellings leave a bad impression, too.
  • Clearly identify your target audience. Who is involved in your project? Who is doing the work? Who are the beneficiaries? How many people did you reach? While giving donations is admirable, the judges also look for strong volunteer involvement.
  • Identify your results. Your results should correspond to your goals and objectives.
  • If you submit a video, keep it short. A well-done five-minute video is more impressive than 40 minutes of your charity golf tournament.
  • Bigger isn't always better. Keep your entry to a manageable size. Keep it fresh: Include current activities only, not programs or events from several years ago.
  • Include samples or descriptions of the promotional materials related to the entry, not for your used-vehicle sale or most successful loan promotion.

Of course, only a limited number of entries can win at the state and national levels. But by heeding this advice, you can improve your chances of receiving recognition for your good works.

Who was Louise Herring?

1909-1987

Louise Herring was the embodiment of credit union philosophy. Dubbed "the Mother of Credit Unions" by the Ohio General Assembly, Louise was involved in starting nearly five hundred credit unions.

Louise maintained a philosophical ideal she was unwilling to compromise. She was an outspoken advocate for women, minorities, the poor and near-poor.

She strongly believed that the role of the credit union was to provide a means to achieve economic justice for all. At the time of her death, she was enthusiastically involved in the Over the Rhine project, a Greater Cincinnati effort to provide opportunities, including low-cost financial services, to a severely depressed area.

Desjardins Youth/Adult Financial Education Awards

DesjardinsThe Desjardins Youth/Adult Financial Education Awards recognizes leadership within the credit union movement on behalf of youth/adult financial literacy. They consider all activities supporting the personal finance education of members and nonmembers, including, but not limited to, face-to-face teaching, publicity, lobbying for curriculum requirements, teacher and volunteer training, and promotion and use of the NEFE High School Financial Planning Program® (HSFPP).

Naming these awards after Alphonse Desjardins emphasizes the movement's long-time commitment to financial literacy. Besides founding the first credit unions in Canada and the U.S., Desjardins pioneered youth savings clubs and in-school "banks," known as caisses scolaires.

An online form to enter the Desjardins Youth and Desjardins Adults competitions is available here.

For more information on the Desjardins Awards, including secrets of a winning entry, click here.

See a list of past winners here.