I recently attended a focus group that consisted of credit union members. The discussion was a lively one and many of the topics of conversation were expected. Credit unions are more personal; they know who we are; they take an interest in what’s best for us financially. But a few things really stuck with me and seemed to highlight things that we, as credit unions and their Associations, can do better to help engage them in our movement.
When we discussed taxation, member benefits and our not-for-profit structure, it was evident that not everyone knew those facts. It was also evident that there were some misconceptions about convenience, technology and regulations – especially when it came to data breaches.
If this group is a representative sample of our members, and I would argue they were, there is an opportunity to better educate them about all the wonderful benefits to their membership and how their voice can help protect what they love about their credit union.
So many of them were not aware of the true differences between credit unions and banks. We’ve heard over and over that members join because of a lower interest rate on a loan. And then they leave it at that. We are missing a huge opportunity by not helping them understand the uniqueness of a credit union and why it is such a great choice for them.
Let’s start with the basics. Understanding how a credit union operates is a critical piece of missing information. Our not-for-profit status and what that translates to the member is incredibly important to convey. They need to hear and understand “what’s in it for me?” Because that information is going to move the needle on whether they make their credit union their primary financial institution or not.
Helping members articulate the credit union difference will empower them to become greater advocates for the movement. The moderator of this focus group told them that 45% of Americans are members of a credit union. That is a huge number. If we, as a movement, can motivate even a small percentage of that group to become vocal advocates, think of what we can accomplish.
Hopefully you’re thinking, “great, but how do I do this?” The good news is, there is already a resource available that makes educating and empowering your members to become advocates in place. CUNA’s Member Activation Program https://www.cuna.org/map/ is a tremendous tool and essentially, the work has been done for you. All you do is register your credit union and the materials will be available for you.
The group of folks that we heard from in this focus group sent a resounding message – tell us more. We’d be active if we knew what to do.
Our credit unions are already communicating with members. But are we giving them the right messages? We have an opportunity to better equip and engage our membership to mobilize them for action. When we need voices to advocate, we have them – we just need to arm them.
An educated, passionate membership is our best ally. Let’s take the steps we need to in order to protect our movement.