Credit unions are a solution for policymakers searching for ways to rebuild their communities. Their success is tied to the development of the communities they serve because credit unions are member-owned and operated. And with 120 million members nationwide, credit unions have a constituency that is representative of the U.S. population. That means the problems you solve for your members are struggles that many Americans are facing.
Our mission-driven approach to make an impact in people’s lives is evident in the data we collect, from the 32.4 million loans made to members of low-income-designated credit unions to the amazing work mobilizing over 204,000 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for small businesses. Those figures make for great talking points in letters and statements, but policymakers need to hear the individual stories behind the data.
Gathering and telling these stories may seem like a daunting task, especially when working around the clock to find ways to secure members’ financial futures. But as legislatures across the country weigh measures to pay for the pandemic’s economic recovery, hearing stories from their constituents – rather than a bunch of lobbyists – can help crystalize why those policy asks we make are so important.
Many great credit union stories are overlooked because we aren’t sharing them broadly. Work with your credit union staff to make sure they understand why these stories are so vital. This is more than just creating a commercial; this is about taking community leaders, reporters, and lawmakers along with you. Lean into the fundamentals of good stories – simplicity and relevancy – to bring those key stakeholders on a journey that takes them to the heart and soul of credit unions. There are many ways that we can master the art of storytelling.
Begin by identifying a critical solution your team provided for a member. Approach your members about sharing their memorable experiences about working with your credit union and ask them if they would be willing to participate in an interview. For example, Skyler Fort, a member of 4Front Credit Union, told CNBC that he chose the credit union over a bank “based on the more personal feeling relationship.” 4Front approved Fort for a $55,000 PPP loan to help his business keep five full-time employees and 14 contract workers on payroll.
Consider writing, or partner with a member to write, an op-ed or letter to the editor for a local newspaper. This is another effective way to grab the attention of your state lawmakers or member of Congress to urge them to act. Howard Bates of St. Francis X Federal Credit Union penned an op-ed for his local newspaper to emphasize how credit unions employ local community members and encourage them to shop local. Bates describes how credit unions reinvest funds from small business loans back into the community through lower fees, better credit terms and local charity support.
Encourage your team to share the credit union difference through social media. Golden 1 Credit Union used a video and infographic to share their America Saves Week pledge and encourage their audience to commit to financial well-being, starting with a gut-check on their finances and savings habits. Golden 1 leveraged the annual America Saves Week for this call-to-action, asking members to sign the national pledge and to take advantage of their financial wellness program.
Videos are an especially effective way to capture stories. A 30-to-60-second video clip can bring the credit union difference to life. Author and speaker Kevin Carroll credits his credit union, First Tech Federal Credit Union, with being a big part of his success story. The Oregon-based credit union gave him a loan to self-publish his first book – “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball.”
Advancing Communities is designed to capture and share the individual stories illustrating how credit unions promote financial well-being for all through the voices of credit union members and staff. Upload your credit union story to the Advancing Communities portal and share it with your state League and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). When we work across the system, the stories intertwine to form a cohesive narrative about how credit unions deliver on our mission to promote thrift and provide access to credit for provident purposes.
With economic uncertainty so high, credit unions across the country are stepping up and making a world of difference for members. Every day, a new credit union story can be written, but if we’re not telling that story, someone else will. Let’s make sure it’s being told how we want, painting an irresistible picture of a future made better by America’s credit unions.