From the Blog

Start By Asking

Posted by Samira Rajan @ April 14  2018

Welcome to Brooklyn Cooperative’s blog!  We decided to start a blog as a way to introduce ourselves. Credit unions aren’t as familiar to most people as banks, though our services are likely better suited to their needs. Hopefully, through this blog, we will show that.

I spent most of March writing a grant application for the Treasury Department’s CDFI Fund. If we win, Brooklyn Coop might be awarded as much as $1 million in permanent capital. That’s huge!

In the past I’ve won these awards in some years and lost in some years. Because this year it is really, super, incredibly important that we win, I reached out for help. Through references from partners, I found a consultant who would review my application every week. It was the first time I had sought help like that.

The experience was wonderful. It was eye-opening to have a qualified person give you their honest feedback. There was conflict, but probably that was a sign that the relationship was working. She wasn’t trying to make me feel good, she was trying to create a good application. Long before the end, I realized how much better the application was with her help and it ended up being the least stressful CDFI application I have ever experienced.  Amazing!

I wonder if – and hope that — this sort of magic happens for BCoop members who sit with one of our financial counselors. Its not so easy to answer a total stranger’s intrusive questions. It might create internal conflict. But at some point, you start seeing improvements. The stress starts to diminish and you gain the confidence that you can make it to your goal.

Start by Asking’ is the name of Robin Hood’s program to encourage individuals to sign up for benefits for which they are already qualified, like food stamps or the EITC. They fund us part of our free tax prep work. At first I didn’t think much of the name, but it has grown on me. I see the message they want to send: ‘we all need help; start by asking’.

Samira Rajan is the longest-serving employee of Brooklyn Coop and currently the Director of both the credit union and Grow Brooklyn. She started here as an Americorp*VISTA for a single year of service back when we were Bushwick Coop in 2001, got hooked by the challenge of building a community financial institution, and hasn’t left.

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