Why consider a historical review?

by Sarah Marshall, North Side Community Federal Credit Union

Credit unions are heavily in the midst of strategic planning. It is exciting to look forward. The turn of the year rings in possibilities and potential. Even if we have not yet had a formal strategy session yet, we are already in the middle of thinking about goals and budgets for next year. Strategic planning is so important that the value of going through the process is understood without much explanation.

What isn’t always so readily remembered is the value of knowing and recalling where we came from. There are many more times where we have trouble moving past ‘the way we have always done things’ to implement new strategies.  We have a fine line to walk between forward thinking and being stuck in the past.  A review of our credit union’s history is deeper than doing a look-back on the past year or a strategic review of the past few years. Remembering history is about thoughtfully understanding where we stood twenty, thirty or fifty years ago. It is about reflecting on our roots and what our credit union was like the day we opened the doors for the very first time. It is about understanding the visions and plans of our founders and previous leaders.

This is about understanding the broad history of your credit union and its place in its field of membership. The older the institution becomes, the harder it is to recall the past. For many of us, we do not have access to our founding members. Institutional knowledge isn’t always handed down smoothly. The bigger our asset size becomes, the harder it is to understand what we originally meant when we were organized. All credit unions were organized out of a democratic, cooperative spirit. (If we hadn’t been, we would have been a bank instead).  Individual credit unions have taken different paths in terms of outreach strategy, product lines, and financial growth. At one point, each credit union was formed with the objective of providing a cooperative alternative to help financially stabilize its membership.

When we review very old meeting minutes we learn a lot about our institution. For those that have the opportunity to interview founding members we often find a new source of inspiration. When we review strategic plans from ten or fifteen years ago, we can better understand what decisions shaped where our credit union stands today, for better or worse. When we understand the history of those who are part of our charter, we better understand their struggles and challenges. When we understand those struggles, we can better communicate our message.  When we know our history, we can avoid the mistakes of the past.  When we understand our history, we come to understand how we shape our culture and what we contribute to our community. It expands our ability to see more broadly, and we can approach our work with a perspective of responsibility for the legacy we are leaving as well.

Sarah Marshall

Sarah Marshall

Sarah Marshall is a consultant in the credit union industry, and can be reached for partnership and speaking opportunities through Your Credit Union Partner. Her background in community development includes ... Web: https://yourcupartner.org Details