CHICAGO (9/2/08)--Nonbanks are discovering--like credit unions and banks--that community-based nonprofit organizations can be strong partners for financial providers wanting to serve the unbanked. According to the Center for Financial Services Innovation, the landscape is changing for financial providers with retailers and technology firms eager to grab a share of the underserved market (American Banker Aug. 29). The center, an affiliate of ShoreBank in Chicago, has for the past four years funded efforts by nonprofits to develop and test financial products, services and strategies for serving the underserved. Its most recent round of funding attracted 133 proposals worth $30 million from nonprofits in 35 states, said the center. One credit union that knows the value of working with nonprofit agencies is Truliant FCU, a $1.208 billion credit union in Winston-Salem, N.C., according to the North Carolina Credit Union League (Weekly Update Aug. 29). Truliant offers a Truliant Community Mini-Grant Program to assist nonprofit agencies with operational costs. The program was designed by Marjorie Rorie, director of community services for Truliant and a former grant-writer. She has conducted 13 grant workshops to prepare nonprofit agencies with grant applications. "I wanted to find a way for Truliant to connect with what we feel is the 'heart' of every community--nonprofit organizations," said Rorie. "Truliant is committed to meeting the community's needs and has strengthened this connection by developing new guidelines for organizations with a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit status to open accounts with Truliant." To qualify for a grant, the agencies must impact one or more of these areas: health or human services, youth, affordable housing, financial literacy or economic development, said the credit union. More than 110 applicants submitted proposals, and 31 agencies received grants. The Center for Financial Services Innovation says that more than 80% of proposals it received in its latest funding round involved partnerships. Of those, two-fifths were collaborations with credit unions and banks. Six Michigan credit unions, for example, are testing a new product to reward savings with a combination of interest and cash prizes in a project with Doorways to Dreams Fund of Boston, said the center. Another such collaboration involves U.S. FCU, a $780 million asset credit union based in Burnsville, Minn., aiming to reach underserved people in a low-income neighborhood. Its collaboration with Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota has created the Eastside Financial Center in St. Paul, which provides basic financial services and other social services such as job training, said the innovation center.