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Attend a credit union conference or networking event, and you’ll find credit union people sharing stories about how they assist members.
Each interaction combines to form the credit union story—one of financial well-being, cooperation, member relationships, and people helping people. During a recent roundtable discussion, three credit union leaders shared how they improve members’ financial well-being:
“Surround yourself with people who understand your passion,” advises Solomon. “Sometimes we get stuck in the weeds and it's easy to forget why we're here. Share your passion with fellow credit union people and act as a cooperative.”
Wolgamott suggests finding a network of likeminded individuals to visit with regularly. He’s developed a widespread group of peers inside and outside of Meritrust.
“It’s so encouraging to know there are other credit unions out there that are doing the work,” he says. “Sometimes you can feel like you're on an island, so find that encouragement, find people who have good ideas and who allow you to borrow those ideas.”
When you find yourself in one of those situations, tell your story, roundtable participants say. Share it with your network, co-workers, board of directors, members, and communities.
Listening also is important. Every member has their own story, and the more you know about a member’s financial well-being, the more you’ll be able to help them, according to Cassamajor.
“When I have one-on-ones with my members and I hear their goals and help them develop a plan, they also have to put their skin in the game,” she says. “They need to have accountability. It makes my heart warm because you see people start getting comfortable sharing their story.”
One of Cassamajor’s favorite stories comes from SkyPoint Federal’s work with D.C. Central Kitchen. The nonprofit organization not only provides food to Washington, D.C., public schools, but also workforce development for people transitioning out of homelessness.
The program teaches skills and money management while providing job opportunities.
“I had one student trying to understand what credit is and realizing they didn’t even have a credit score, saying, ‘Where do I even begin?’” Cassamajor recalls. “He joined our credit union, and he recently called me to say he got his first apartment. Walking with him through learning a skill, finding a job, building credit, and now having his own place—that journey is everything.”
Those journeys make financial well-being efforts complicated to track, as credit unions measure their success on an individual basis.
“When I think of financial success and measuring the success of my members’ financial well-being efforts, I think of individual stories,” Solomon says, believing sharing those stories spreads the credit union difference and encourages financial well-being for all.