In a press conference this morning, Desert Schools Federal Credit Union has officially announced that it will change its name to Desert Financial Credit Union. Founded in 1939 as a way to serve area teachers, Desert Schools expanded its charter in 1996 to serve anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Maricopa, Pinal and Gila Counties, in addition to family of current members.

According to a focus group conducted by Desert Schools in 2016, 60 percent of participants believed that Desert Schools only serves teachers and students; a common misnomer that Desert Schools CEO Jeff Meshey believes to have impacted business.

“We were having a bit of an identity crisis,” says Meshey. “Our market research has shown that in order to grow our business, we needed to make clear who we serve. People got really hung up on the word schools, but also showed an affinity for our brand at the same time,” he continued. “We tested several new potential names at the beginning of 2017, and Desert Financial resonated extremely well with our focus groups. We let the research decide and are already seeing positive feedback from our current members and interest from the general public.”

In addition to celebrating the new name, Desert Financial also officially announced the formation of the Desert Financial Foundation, the organization’s first-ever non-profit entity. The foundation will partner with Desert Financial in its upcoming “Year of Giving,” an initiative that outlines plans to give back an extraordinary $7 million to the community through grants, charity fundraisers and surprise giveaways, of which $5 million is earmarked to return to members in the form of membership rewards.

Following the presentation of 10 grants totaling more than $100,000 to local non-profits like St. Joseph the Worker and Local First Arizona, attendees of this morning’s event – which included roughly 50 community leaders, non-profit partners and local press – were treated to a special surprise when Meshey announced that each person in the room would receive a $1,000 donation in their name to a local charity of their choosing.

“Our credit union has always been known for giving back to the community,” said SVP of Marketing Cathy Graham. “Moving forward, we want to be very clear that the only thing that is changing is our name. Desert Financial Credit Union positioned to do exceptional things in 2018, and we’re making sure that it’s going to be a fantastic year for our members, our employees and the community we serve.”