Donor Spotlight: Bay Federal Credit Union, Carrie Birkhofer

There are many strong connections to the Monterey Bay for Bay Federal Credit Union. The name of the credit union honors the significance of the Bay in our region, and the President and CEO was fortunate to have witnessed Monterey Bay becoming a marine sanctuary. A few months after President Bush signed the declaration creating Monterey Bay as a National Marine Sanctuary in 1992, President Clinton held a dedication ceremony in 1993. Bay Federal Credit Union’s President and CEO, Carrie L. Birkhofer, was present at the dedication ceremony and associated events with President Clinton and VP Al Gore. Over the 27 years that Birkhofer has led Bay Federal Credit Union, she finds her “sanctuary” at the ocean’s edge.

“Our beautiful Monterey Bay calls to me. As a professional with a demanding career while raising three children to become successful young adults, I have always found my peace of mind when I walk along the water’s edge,” Birkhofer stated. “I was first introduced to the ocean when I moved to Southern California at ten years old. I had a blue and red canvas raft (before boogie boards!) and I would ride the waves hoping my raft wouldn’t fold and send me tumbling. I joined Junior Lifeguards and learned how to navigate and respect the ocean. I have been hooked for life. I raised my children at the edge of Monterey Bay. We have so many family memories that center around our proximity to the ocean. Together, we have surfed, biked, hiked, played, and processed big life changes at the shoreline. I still walk West Cliff nearly every day.”

Birkhofer’s kids enjoying the beach.

These daily walks have led to reflective moments and insights that Birkhofer has used to guide Bay Federal Credit Union’s exponential growth.  When she first stepped into the role of CEO, the organization was $100 million in assets and had four branch locations. Today, the credit union has $1.6 billion in assets, seven branch locations, and 240 employees serving its members. Any person who lives, works, attends school, volunteers, or worships in Santa Cruz, San Benito or Monterey Counties is eligible to join the financial cooperative. From personal banking to business banking, investments, mortgage loans, and a comprehensive online banking experience, Bay Federal Credit Union provides services that rival large national banks. But there is a twist: the credit union’s dedication to serving the community runs as deep as the Monterey Canyon.

The Bay Federal Credit Union staff volunteering for Second Harvest.

“Our organization continues to grow as we help our members with their daily banking and lending needs. We are very conscientious of our social responsibility. We have an award-winning employee volunteer program that supports many nonprofit organizations throughout our service region. Each year, 100% of our team members participate in active volunteering and fundraising events benefiting our community,” Birkhofer shared. “We are actively working to create more sustainable business practices and earn our Green Business Designation.”

Bay Federal Credit Union’s Marketing team was posed with a challenge in 2021: increase the adoption of electronic statements among members and help reduce the environmental impact of producing paper statements for its members. The team proposed a creative idea to achieve greater adoption of eStatements and support a local environmental cause. Their concept was to donate $5 to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation for every member who adopts electronic statements. Additionally, eStatement adopters were eligible to win up to $1,000 in prize drawings. Not only do electronic statements promote additional security and convenience for account holders, eStatements drastically reduce natural resource consumption and the likelihood that paper waste inadvertently flows into Monterey Bay.

In 2021, this campaign moved about 2,200 paper statement users to eStatements and resulted in nearly $11,000 donated to support Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s public outreach and education programs. The campaign was so well received by its members that Bay Federal kicked off the promotion again for July 1 – August 31, 2022.

In closing, Birkhofer stated, “We are proud to engage our members in supporting the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. Our work today will benefit the longevity and biodiversity of our cherished marine sanctuary.”

About Bay Federal Credit Union

Bay Federal Credit Union is a full-service, not-for-profit financial institution that serves over 80,000 members and 2,400 local businesses throughout Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey counties. With more than $1.6 billion in assets, Bay Federal is the largest member-owned financial institution in Santa Cruz County, serving its members and the community since 1957. Bay Federal is a certified Community Development Financial Institution, with a primary mission of promoting community development alongside its financial activities. Bay Federal has an award-winning employee volunteer program in which employees have given their own money and volunteer for numerous local schools, nonprofit organizations, and community events each year. Visit for additional details.