Some may say the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference is a glorified lobbying event. They would not be wrong. But it is far more than solely a political maneuver. It’s a family reunion.
When you put a few thousand credit union executives, staff, and board members in a single room, an interesting dynamic emerges. They do not brag about loan volume, capital expenditures, or legislative pressures. Instead, topics revolve around how much their members were helped by initiatives and services. It becomes a competition of benevolence.
“Everything the credit union does is for its members. We don’t say yes to everything, but we do consider what can serve all of them best.” This refrain was far from uncommon.
Consider one credit union with a large membership of teachers. It’s tough to be a teacher. So much is demanded, and too often, so little is provided. Their solution? An interest-free new teacher loan. Just show your offer paperwork and the credit union will extend capital at no expense for classroom supplies, decorations, and more. Oh, you didn’t know? Teachers in many places pay for supplies out of their own pocket. Talk about being committed to their mission.
On the topic of education, what about the other challenge…student loans? Yeah, credit unions are helping there, too. In 2008, a number of institutions banded together under the banner Student Choice to create a better option than students drowning in debt. I spoke with some of the founders, and the passion was oozing out of their pores. Sure, the program helps create financially-stable lifelong members, but also provides access to higher education for many who otherwise could not afford it. While we were talking, there was an “ah ha!” moment when I finally got it (I can be dreadfully slow to comprehension if it’s not a Star Trek reference)…their excitement was such that I was expecting a group hug.
Stories like these flow freely out of the attendees. You’d think one article was sufficient to address their giving nature. Then this one appears. And I’m not done! Have you ever heard of a co-op? Maybe for farmers, or an electric utility, or, a credit union. Yes, credit unions are cooperatives, too. And when these entities work together, great things happen.
Look for a final roundup of the great things the credit union industry is doing, besides banking.