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What Would Your Members Say?

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Imagine a room filled with your members. All of them. Ones who have made your credit union their primary financial institution and those who hardly know you exist. Offer each a blank index card.

A third grade teacher in Denver did this exercise with her students. What was asked of them? To write down what they wished their teacher knew about their lives. They could add their name or leave it anonymous.

Surprising truths flowed. One explained how homework was challenging because they didn’t have pencils at home. Another lamented delays in getting their mom’s signature on school forms because they didn’t see her often.

It was a moving exercise, and offered valuable, if heartbreaking, advice to the teacher.

Before getting back to the credit union talk, let’s make it clear: Teachers like her are doing important work and should be recognized/compensated as such.

Do you see how this exercise could be of value for your credit union? If you handed out index cards to all your members, what would be written?

When I’m teaching martial arts classes, I often ask a student what someone will do if they use a certain move. “I don’t know,” is a fair answer. How can you be sure of their reaction? Well, you do that technique, and see their response!

What will your members wish you knew? Well, you ask! We read articles daily about how to connect with Millenials and Gen Z. Like everyone else, they all want a say. They want a deliberate effort to engage, not a new promotion or product.

Connect and learn. What if it became an industry effort? Say, using social media under the hashtag #OurMembersWish. Now that’s @asmarterchoice I can support.

There’s a fantastic TED Talk describing one way to get into a mission, rather than product, centric, mode of thinking with a process called Golden Circle. You’ll recognize it in use with companies like Apple and Harley Davidson, in the engineers of SpaceX, as well as every non-profit you know.

The index cards? Yeah, they’re in that supply closet, just down the hall. Grab a bunch.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/garylerude/2815430150/

Who’s the Most Benevolent of Them All?

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.

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