During a presentation I made at CUNA’s 2014 Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC), I shared the following anecdote to which, I suspect, most of you can relate:
“Time and time again in my 23-year credit union career, I’ve faced this response from friends, neighbors, and community members: ‘Yeah, there is a credit union in my community. I don’t really know what they do. Don’t you have to join or something?’”
As a credit union system, we are not the best at creating awareness about who we are and what we do. We have to change that.
Why? A 2012 survey of 25,000 American adults conducted by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation noted that:
These are our colleagues, our employees, our neighbors, our family, our friends.
Additionally, not only are millennials the future of the credit union movement as borrowers and members, they also make up nearly a third of the population. And our mission, as a credit union community, is to serve members and help them improve their financial well-being.
To do so, we need to create awareness that credit unions are an option—the best option.
During my GAC presentation, I also shared three tips on how credit unions can create awareness:
1. Strive to become part of the strategic architecture of their community’s financial literacy efforts. One way of doing this is for credit unions to find what may seem like unlikely partners in their community (e.g., nonprofits, health care providers, farmer’s markets, and, certainly, other cooperatives).
2. Be strategic in their philanthropic efforts. In other words, leverage what you do best—consumer finance—into philanthropy that focuses on strengthening the financial well-being of everyone in your community.
3. Lead efforts to improve their community’s financial well-being (e.g., hold a reality fair for high school students).
Creating awareness actually complements other steps credit unions can take to unite for good.
By creating awareness, for instance, you begin to remove barriers that prevent others from knowing what credit unions do. You also foster service excellence by setting a standard for other credit unions to meet—or even exceed.
All of these actions in the end not only help demonstrate to Americans that credit unions are the best financial services option, they also play a large role in realizing the vision that credit unions, leagues, and CUNA are working toward in their initiative, Unite for Good.