STCU Navigates Covid

February 22, 2022

Lessons learned from a headquartered company on how you react and realize your civic responsibility during a pandemic. Looking forward how you lean into the next phase of recovery with key partner, Spokane Valley Greater Chamber of Commerce

On March 2, 2020, as the U.S. confirmed the first COVID-19 cases in Washington, an STCU team met to map out possible scenarios, including the impact if staff became ill or could not work onsite; how to deal with conflicting guidelines across state lines; how they would help members; and how they would handle branch closures. Over the next 18 months, critical lessons were reinforced.

Lesson One:

Calm the waters, provide direction and double down on culture.

Every decision was framed around a “beside and beyond” approach. “Beside,” meaning meeting the needs of their employees, as well as the expectations of members, while offering full support to the community. “Beyond,” meaning they would help position employees, members, and the community for recovery and success.

An internal website and employee Q&A became a hub for all COVID-related information, including steps to protect employees; their intended response in case of exposure at the workplace; and resources for struggling employees. 

Prior to the pandemic, 60 of STCU’s 750 employees worked remotely. Within three days, another 300 employees had joined their ranks.

STCU set up a fund of $50,000 to support employees in need during the pandemic. Employees could confidentially apply for financial assistance if they had experienced a hardship at home due to a job loss in the family, had incurred additional childcare expenses, or other basic needs.

Lesson Two:

Take care of the things that matter.  

STCU stood up a platform to help more than 1,000 business members with PPP lending. They provided the same service to smaller credit unions that lacked the resources to administer the loans for their own business members. 

The STCU Community Relations team quickly shifted its financial education program from in-person to digital, providing 245 workshops on topics from eliminating debt to preventing fraud, including some in Spanish. Also, with parents and educators seeking digital learning opportunities, the team added virtual story times for grades K-3. 

As the “stay home” order was taking effect, STCU quickly purchased more than 800 gift cards from local restaurants and grocery stores. Some were distributed to local nonprofits, some for social media giveaways, and others went to members and staff as random acts of kindness.

STCU leaned into assisting nonprofits. That included surprising 15 chambers of commerce, including the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce, by doubling their dues. In addition, STCU surprised more than 20 community organizations with checks ranging from $10,000 to $32,000 – more than $400,000 in unrestricted gifts. 

Lesson Three:

Be relevant, spontaneous, and in the moment.

STCU bought additional billboards, print and digital advertising space, and quickly shifted their campaign of data stories to COVID-appropriate messaging celebrating and thanking STCU members and acknowledging shared experiences.

  • To our 283 members who work at Costco, thanks for the toilet paper.
  • To our 251 members who work at USPS, thanks for delivering to us – even when we don’t shower.
  • Dear business member who owns Anastasi, Moore & Martin, is Disney+ tax-deductible as childcare?
  • To our 18,008 members who made mobile deposits last month, wasn’t that easy?

Lesson Four:

Recovery is as important as reaction

 “STCU members have made clear time and again that they want their credit union to assist always, and particularly during challenging times but also in times of transition and recovery,” CEO Ezra Eckhardt said. 

STCU is now working to collaborate with the Valley Chamber and several private and public entities to create a recovery plan that leverages partnerships, resources, funding, and is motivated around a common vision. A strategic, coordinated and aligned effort will require private organizations like STCU to bring both their voices and expectations of how private investment enables a strong and unified lift. 

CMO Marty Dickinson said, “Doing things, the same way they always have been done is not the answer.  STCU is eager to partner with influential organizations such as GSVCC to challenge others to think differently, think bigger, and drive new outcomes that position our region to.”


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