Muddy Buddies

Think about how your leadership role in charitable community events can start a mud slide.

August 27, 2012
Lora Bray

Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.

Last weekend, my friend Lisa and I found ourselves bruised, sore, mud-caked, and smiling.

We decided to challenge ourselves, help others, and have some good clean fun at the Dirty Girl Mud Run, a 5k mud run and obstacle course which in part benefits the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

As we mud-trudged, wall climbed, and tire-hopped, we agreed it was gratifying to be part of something “bigger than ourselves.”  Reportedly 8,500 people participated throughout the day, and we strangers had a lot in common.  Aside from mutual messiness, we all wanted to do something to show our support for the cause.

We did so in ways that went beyond our financial contributions as we cheered on survivors and enjoyed a sense of community.

Lisa and I decided to make it an annual tradition.

An important part of the credit union philosophy is “people helping people.”  Credit unions frequently sponsor causes to benefit disaster victims, food pantries, and others.  In the process, this fosters a sense of community spirit that can have far reaching effects.

What has your credit union done lately to show the community you care?  How might you choose a cause and “rally the troops” to bring about awareness and participation?

Maybe this week’s findings will help you to consider where to focus your outreach efforts.

Back to school and consumer attitudes

Consumers are focusing on back to school trends, many of which affect the family budget.  Survey results by Deloitte in their annual Back-to-School Survey show that 88% of school shoppers will spend the same or more as last year.

However, “Despite these intentions, few intend to forego the tradition of setting a budget or looking for a sale.  Nearly 6 in 10…consumers have a budget in mind for back-to-school shopping, and while two-thirds…say they will shop for items on sale, fewer respondents feel stores are offering them more value for their money.”

Meanwhile, “85% of shoppers say the economy will impact how, what, when, where and why they shop for school and college items,” according to the National Retail Federation’s “Top 10 Back-to-School Trends for 2012.”   In addition, online shoppers “will spend $874 on average for back-to-school supplies, a 27% increase above the overall shopper average.”

Economic conditions remain bothersome for consumers, however, as “Americans continue to have both a negative view of current U.S. economic conditions and a bleak outlook for the U.S. economy’s future,” says Gallup in “U.S. Economic Confidence Stable at Low Level.”

Worldwide, things aren’t much brighter, as Pew Research reports in “Pervasive Gloom about the World Economy.”  “The public mood about the economy has worsened since 2008 in eight of 15 countries for which there is comparable data, while it is essentially unchanged in four others.  The Chinese are the lone exception.  They have been positive about their economy for the past decade.”

Also interesting to note, however, is that generally people are “far more positive about their personal economic condition than they are about their nation’s economic situation…Americans are twice as likely to say their family finances are in good shape as they are to say that the national economic situation is good.”

Productivity measures

Commercial banking output is analyzed in two Bureau of Labor Statistics studies this week.  First, see “Improved Measures of Commercial Banking Output and Productivity”  which indicates “New comprehensive measures of commercial banking output and productivity more accurately reflects the changes that have occurred in the industry, including deregulation, advances in technology, and the development of new banking services.”

New commercial banking productivity measures include “loan securitization, investment banking, insurance provision, and other fee-based services…The BLS output series is now more comprehensive…”  This report is rich in data tables and explanation of services measured.

For more on this, see “Measuring Real Bank Output: Considerations and Comparisons”  where we learn that “The real output of banks is better estimated by counting the number of service transactions they provide than by using the balances of loans and deposits deflated by a price index.”

It is also important “to gather more detailed information on the number and characteristics—including the exposure to risks—of each category of loans granted, the costs of different types of deposit transactions, the prices of various nontraditional bank activities, and how much of the charges are due to risk.”

Regulation’s Role in Bank Changes” by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York examines the influence of government actions and “the growth of the financial intermediation industry as it relates to banks.”

At times, restrictions fostered innovative products and services as providers innovated to circumvent such restrictions.  “In other instances, the government simply created an environment that proved fertile ground for innovation.”

Examples provided throughout the study discuss the roles of policy and regulatory environment with regard to changes in “contracts…and instruments used in financial intermediation and reshaping the role that banks play in this process.”

Back to philanthropy

For a glimpse at how Americans make choices on charitable giving, see “How America Gives” by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.  Key findings:

  • Members of the middle-class give a higher percentage of their income than the rich;
  • Rich people who live in neighborhoods with many other wealthy people” contribute less than those in more economically diverse areas;
  • Red states are more generous than blue states”; and
  • Tax incentives make a significant difference.

Lisa and I didn’t break any land speed records in our muddy endeavors, but the experience was memorable and left us feeling warm-hearted, despite our cold, wet socks and sopping shoes.  Our level of engagement was such that it lasted beyond the event itself.   We have even explored other charitable mud run opportunities; many of their causes likewise resonate.

Roll up your sleeves!  Think about how your leadership role in charitable community events can start a mud slide.

Make it fun and a little edgy—you might even find a few new members who are willing to get their hands dirty, too!

LORA BRAY is a research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.