Want to help send a needy student to law school? How about supporting a start-up making origami microscopes? Would you spring for a cat café in Canada?

Crowdfunding is a big deal these days, with websites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Indiegogo enabling virtually anyone to provide money to virtually anyone else who needs it. But if you think it’s a new concept, think again. It’s what credit unions like WCFCU have been doing for at least a couple of hundred years.

Our philosophy of members getting together to pool their money and make loans to each other has proved pretty popular. Today, 33{a16c29276902c0134dc3724dc6f6a60124a484baf737123e94c02cf5a4efbdc5} of Americans belong to credit unions.

In fact, it might surprise you to know that the U.S. now has more credit unions than commercial banks. In mid-2016, there were 6,009 CUs but only 5,289 individual banks, according to the FDIC.

Credit unions tend to be smaller than banks, with a median asset size of only $28 million compared with $197 million. But since CUs are member-owned nonprofit cooperatives, we do a lot with less. For example, the average interest rate on CU-issued credit cards was just 11.6{a16c29276902c0134dc3724dc6f6a60124a484baf737123e94c02cf5a4efbdc5} this year, compared to 17.7{a16c29276902c0134dc3724dc6f6a60124a484baf737123e94c02cf5a4efbdc5} on cards issued by banks. And we charged only two-thirds as much as banks did on used car loans (2.8{a16c29276902c0134dc3724dc6f6a60124a484baf737123e94c02cf5a4efbdc5} vs. 4.0{a16c29276902c0134dc3724dc6f6a60124a484baf737123e94c02cf5a4efbdc5}).

Perhaps most meaningful of all is the atmosphere of trust and cooperation that members find at their credit union. Since we’re not profit-driven, it’s easier for us to keep your best interests in mind. Even in tough financial times, we’ll try to help you work things out.

So hurray for crowdfunding—a way to connect people who need money with other people who want to put theirs to work. We can confirm that it’s a terrific idea. After all, we’ve had a few centuries to try it out.

Source: Credit Union National Association (as reported by David Crook & Jess Kuronen in “Are Banks the Only Places to Park Your Money?” The Wall Street Journal, 10/20/16)