While racing to Gate A2 at SEA, I was inspired by a sign that proclaimed, “Starbucks Is Bigger than Coffee,” and went on to explain the good work the company does around the world. Now I’m not a coffee drinker (yes, there are a few of us in Seattle), but this message got me thinking about credit unions.
Today, more credit unions are becoming much larger than their products and services. Sure, we still race to market with new spins on the same old products, and in recent years there have been some cool technology to make things faster and more convenient. This is all well and very good. But my message today is about the rising number of credit unions who are taking bigger steps and reaching for more to meet the rising financial needs in their community.
The Bar Is Being Raised
There are scores of best-practice credit unions across the country—small, large, urban and rural—which are powerful and influential leaders within their local communities. Leveraging internal and external resources, these credit unions are addressing specific and significant needs within their communities. Here are a few noteworthy examples:
Truly, these credit unions are demonstrating that they are bigger than their products.
Moving toward a Tipping Point
Movement towards greater community impact is gaining momentum with the effects of the Great Recession, intense competition, the NCUA’s action to expand the number of low-income-designated credit unions, and, last but not least, CUNA’s vision of “Uniting for Good.” Each of these things has dramatically increased awareness and motivation to do more. Today, nearly 2,000 credit unions have been recognized as low-income-designated (LID) credit unions, and another 300 credit unions have been recognized as community development credit unions (CDFI) by the U.S. Treasury. The numbers are rising quickly for several reasons:
Is Your Credit Union Bigger than its Products and Services?
I suggest three measurements of success when it comes to answering this question. First, ask yourself: do community stakeholders seek you out on a regular basis? Second, are your membership growth rates higher than peer? Finally, is loan deployment consistently high? If your measures are less than you desire, consider your local opportunities for impact. After all, I believe its impact that makes a credit union bigger than its products.
Scott Butterfield is the principal of Your Credit Union Partner (www.yourcreditunionpartner.com),a company that provides strategic and tactical planning, compliance training, and program development services to credit unions. Reprinted with permission from (www.cuinsight.com).
Cynthia Rainey is the Marketing Manager at $83 Million Pinnacle Credit Union in Atlanta, Ga.
3 random facts:
What's one cool thing you're working on now?
We are working to implement a Community Challenge loan promotion for next year. Once we reach our goal of saving our members (community) $500,000 in interest and fees we will donate a total of $5000 to 2 local charities.
If money and time were unlimited, what would you implement at your CU tomorrow?
I would tear down our main office building and replace with a modern, state of the art building that would reflect our vision for the future.
What's your biggest career accomplishment?
This is certainly not "my" accomplishment but our credit union was approximately $14m in assets when I began working here in 1982. It is now over $80m. These years have been filled with ups and downs but it has been a learning and rewarding experience working in the credit union. I have been truly blessed.
Best advice for a newbie on what not to do?
Don't try to do everything. Pick things that you do well as a credit union and focus on those. Don't be afraid to say no when needed.
Can’t believe that 2013 is nearing its end! Of course, retailers started to ring in the New Year back in August when the first holiday decorations came out (yes, I did indeed see holiday decorations out in August…so not kidding about that!)
But I digress….
Most credit unions are already looking toward 2014. Budgets are being negotiated, strategic planning sessions have been conducted, and pretty soon everyone’s focus will be on having a strong start to the New Year. I’d like to share 3 things that fall in the “must-do” category for credit unions next year:
Get a Grip - the momentum of the marketplace has shifted and will continue to do so. Stop trying to be all things to all people. Get a firm grip on your credit union’s target market and make sure that the VAST majority of your time and other precious resources are being allocated to that target market. And you can only have one target market. You can have other focus groups (or whatever you want to call them) but as for a target market – it needs to be specific and relevant to your credit union’s strategic direction and value proposition.
GetIt Done –During my conversation with many CU marketers and business development professionals over the years, I’ve heard a lot of positive things but also some things that cause incredible frustration. There is one shortcoming that seems to be prevalent. It goes something like this: “we come up with all of these initiatives and ideas at our planning sessions every year. Then nothing gets accomplished.” There could be many reasons why this is the case at your credit unions; however, the most common one that I’ve come across is that the credit unions do not use a dynamic and effective project management system. This is essential. Such a system will help to assign responsibilities, track progress, hold people accountable, and set deadlines. An Excel spreadsheet isn’t good enough. Look into a cloud-based system that people can access easily. Finally, if your marketing budget has been approved, spend it! It’s already been “spoken for” so no one should give you grief about how much a campaign or initiative costs. They’ve given you the money so they should expect you to spend it!
Get Aggressive - stop waiting for business to walk in. You have to go out and get it. And that takes a strong business development function. When hiring new people, make sure they have the skill sets that they are going to need for the future – not just for the present. Be open to new ways of doing things. Make sure your technology is up to date and that your employees are on fire with enthusiasm and motivation. Manage your people better. Don’t get busy with nonsense.
At the end of 2014, you want to be able to look back and be proud of what you’ve done. You don’t want to be wondering what could have been.
Sean McDonald is the Director of Business Development at Mid-State FCU in Carteret, NJ. He is the immediate past Chair of the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council. Sean sits on the Council’s Executive Committee and is the Vice-Chair of both the Conference & Diamond Awards committees.
When some members expressed discomfort with the online "Don't Tax My Credit Union" campaign, Pacific Crest Federal Credit Union got creative and created a written-letter campaign, garnering 400 messages to Congress.
Credit unions across the country are still being urged to use e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook to tell Congress, “Don’t Tax My CU!” But how can they enlist the help of members who don’t have Internet access or are leery of new technology?
That was the problem facing Janet Buckalew in August, when Pacific Crest Federal Credit Union wanted to make sure that lawmakers representing its members in southern Oregon and northern California understood the structure, value and impact of the credit union movement.
“We tried to do the online e-mail campaign,” says Buckalew, Pacific Crest’s vice president of member advocacy and business development, “but many of our members were uncomfortable with that process.”
So Buckalew suggested a different approach: What if the credit union produced pre-written letters and all members had to do was sign their names?
Tellers could talk about the campaign during regular interactions with members, Buckalew reasoned, and then direct them to tables in the lobby of every branch where posters and brochures could explain the importance of the “Don’t Tax” message.
“Credit unions did not cause the financial crisis,” the letters said. “In fact, during the financial crisis, Americans benefitted from having credit unions in the marketplace for the same reason that credit unions were established in the first place—so that consumers and small businesses had a place to go when the banks wouldn’t, or couldn’t, lend.”
That message—and the ease of the letter-writing campaign—struck a chord.
“In one month we got 400 letters,” Buckalew says. “It doesn’t seem like a lot, but that’s a great response from our community.”
Oregon members signed 113 letters to Senator Ron Wyden, 101 to Senator Jeff Merkley, and 110 to Representative Greg Walden. California members signed 26 letters to Senator Barbara Boxer, 23 to Senator Diane Feinstein, and 27 to Representative Doug LaMalfa.
And then Buckalew and Pacific Crest president and CEO Kathie Philp hand-delivered them. “Kathie and I split up,” Buckalew says. “I met with Senator Wyden’s communication manager, who was very aware of the credit union issue and was impressed by the letters. Kathie met with a representative in Congressman Walden’s office, who talked with her for an hour about credit unions.”
Walden, Philp learned, is a friend to credit unions and has been for a long time. “The meeting went very well,” she says. “He read the letters, and made some comments about how some people don’t understand the value that credit unions bring.”
Overall, Buckalew says, the response from members, staff, and lawmakers was terrific. “It was a great way to get started with political advocacy,” she says. “We would definitely do the written-letter campaign again.”
Reprinted with permission from Anthem, the publication of the Northwest Credit Union Association (www.nwcua.org).
Since 1946, SAC Federal Credit Union, Bellevue, Neb., has been a trusted financial partner to its membership, which has grown to more than 75,000.
Now the credit union is expanding its commitment to members with a thoroughly modern tool: A community blog where readers can find a wealth of financial information, tips, and tools.
Cynthia Buettner, senior vice president of information technology (IT), marketing, and sales for the $670 million asset credit union, explained how SAC Federal makes the blog a valuable resource members turn to again and again.
“SAC Federal’s mission is to be members’ trusted financial partner, providing tailored solutions to support them throughout their life events,” says Buettner. “We saw the blog as a way to help fulfill this mission.”
The decision to launch the blog was also guided by SAC’s long-term goal of having the website serve as a highly used source of financial-related information.
“Knowing that content, social media, and search engine optimization are all important to the success of our online brand, we wanted to launch the blog to create brand awareness and generate more qualified leads,” says Buettner.
Here are Buettner’s seven steps to consider when launching a blog:
SAC, for example, published a series of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn posts on International Credit Union Day to reshare previously written blog content. It wasn’t a part of the original plan, but the credit union saw an opportunity and changed course to take advantage of it.
(Read the full article at CreditUnionMagazine.com.)