For members who find it difficult to get approved for a loan, some credit unions are offering debt management assistance.

Credit Union of Ohio, Powerco Credit Union and Western Credit Union are among some 70 institutions that refer members to Trinity Debt Management of Cincinnati. A not-for-profit debt counseling organization, Trinity does not receive referral fees; confidentiality laws assure that a member's private information will not be shared with the referring credit union.

"Members trust their credit union when they're referred to us. We value that trust," says Steve Muterspaw, Trinity's outreach director.

Trinity assesses the member's financial situation, then negotiates with creditors on the member's behalf for a lower interest rate. "We can take more time with them than the credit union can. And unlike other debt counselors, we don't require clients to be delinquent before they work with us," Muterspaw says. Once a plan is agreed to, Trinity makes members' payments via electronic debits.

"We want [borrowers] to have hope again, and over time they rebuild their credit," Muterspaw says. "For the credit unions, our involvement reduces write-offs and bankruptcies."

Many credit unions provide direct debt management advice to members. Credit Union of Ohio, for example, employs a full-time credit counselor. "We try to do more than just say no to their loan application," says Marketing Vice President Kim Hudson. "Our members tell us of the immense relief they feel once they're on the right path, and many say they wish they'd done it sooner."

Reprinted from the August 2011 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.