Written by Allison Smith, Thrive
Meet Dani DeBoice, the Director of Corporate Citizenship at First Calgary Financial. That is only one of the many hats she wears, including sitting on the Thrive Steering Committee, the Mayor’s Civic Engagement Committee and a top 40 under 40 alumna. “I’m what you would classify as the hyper engaged Calgarian,” Dani said. And that she is! She is thankful to First Calgary Financial for being a great place to work, that supports her and her many community ‘hats’.
First Calgary Financial is a local credit union with 16 branches throughout the Calgary region that has been serving the underserved since 1987. A credit union is a cooperative financial institution, meaning they follow the rules and values of a typical co-op. All profits are either paid back into the credit union, paid to members through dividends, or invested into the community. “At the end of the day we are stewards to the money of our members. We want to make sure we are doing it in a meaningful and impactful way,” Dani said in response to their community investment.
At First Calgary Financial they have a social promise, environmental promise and an economic promise when it comes to corporate citizenship. These promises are incorporated into the following three areas of focus:
1) Community Investment
- Financial Literacy & Community Economic Development (CED)
- Mentoring & Learning
- Environmental Outcomes
- Civic Engagement & Volunteerism
2) Environmental Advocacy
3) Corporate Social Responsibility
Supporting financial literacy and CED is engrained in their staff and strategic map. “As a financial institution we see that (FL & CED) as a key role for us, and strong tools from a poverty reduction perspective,” Dani explained. First Calgary Financial also works with the United Way, the Financial Futures Collaborative and FrogSkinU to further community economic development.
“We see that if we have a thriving local economy, citizens are healthier, more engaged, have meaningful employment and get to invest back in their community. There are a lot of multiplier effects,” Dani explained
Certified in Community Economic Development from Simon Fraser, she has had a big role in bringing the program to Calgary in 2013. “It’s a great opportunity for a foundational understanding of the role of community economic development,” she explained. She sees this as another opportunity to get the key players in Calgary to understand what is meant by community economic development and provides a chance to demystify it. Dani described the need for a more plain language approach to CED, as many people aren’t aware that they are doing it or why it’s important as a poverty reduction strategy. “Not only do we want people to buy local, we also want people to be banking locally. Making thoughtful choices, and understand the power they have through those choices, ” she explained.
Tackling the Barriers to Banking
First Calgary Financial strives to tackle some of the tough issues surrounding barriers to banking. Some of the thought provoking questions include: What are some of the questions a low-income individual will have when banking? What might they be thinking? How can FCF work with their staff to understand this and have this apart of their culture? At First Calgary Financial they are very conscious of these questions and strive to integrate them in the frontline staff training. In the past, FCF has put staff members through the barriers to banking modules with the help of organizations like Momentum. They try to have the staff put themselves in the shoes of a low income individual. Though the real end goal, for Dani, is to have this way of thinking, this culture and this training translated to other Financial Institutions. With more financial institutions integrated these tools into their strategic map, the better the progress in removing barriers to banking.
Advocating for Living Wage
Dani has played a large role in advocating for living wage leadership at First Calgary Financial and the journey to becoming the largest corporate living wage leader in Calgary. She started the conversation 7 years ago and was conscious to do it in a way that was both respectful and strategic. The first step was paying all First Calgary Financial employees a living wage, which Dani described as a no brainer. “We didn’t want to sign on as a living wage leader in a nonauthentic way,” Dani explained. It was important for FCF to have it embedded in their strategic map. Therefore, it was necessary to take the time to have thorough conversations with executives and the facilities staff.
Learn more about First Calgary Financial as a corporate living wage leader here: Living Wage Leader Video
Moving forward, Dani strives to continue to build business benefit through environmental and social sustainability. As an organization, she will continue to fully integrate financial literacy both internally and externally to tackle the barriers to banking. Finally, she would love to see a richer social finance sector in Calgary with a community economic development fund!