What’s the average age of your board of directors?

I just found out that the National Youth Involvement Board was chartered in 1967 to address the aging of credit unions members, and yet the average age of a CU member is 47. The average age of all Americans is 37.8 years old. What’s the average age of your members and what is the average age of your board of directors?

I recently had a conversation with a credit union that had just completed a year long rebranding with a fresh new look and snappy tagline that will insure they look and appeal to a “younger crowd.” I was walking through the office when I noticed the latest edition of their newsletter. Hmmm…I thought, I can’t believe they are still spending money (and by the looks of the quality, lots of money) on a paper newsletter. So I inquired. The answer? The board likes it. And here’s where it gets interesting. The board of directors are all largely retired from the original core group. Even though the field of membership has expanded to a community charter and the rebrand is necessary to show the desired target audience that they are welcome, there are those little things we just can’t let go of, because the (old) board members like it.

Another great example? Old people checking. Do you still offer that? And does it include “free checks” that your board members love? If your target audience is the Millennial, why would you even still offer (aka target) the member that still writes checks? And last I checked because of supply and demand, check printing has gotten super expensive. Almost punitive in its pricing.

If the credit union movement was a car it would definitely be a Buick. Remember those ads when Buick was trying to shed their image of only appealing to old people that could barely see over the steering wheel, driving slightly under the speed limit on the Interstate, with their AAA sticker on the bumper and their turn signal perpetually on?

They launched a campaign with the tagline “This is not your grandfather’s Buick.” Highlighting, of course, the old stodgy image of the brand.  That’s what it feels like when I see a hip new website with “wealth management” and “Horizon checking” still prominently displayed. We’re a shiny new 2017 Buick. Incidentally the average age of a Buick owner went down to 57 from 64 after they launched this campaign and made their cars not so ugly.  So there’s that.

I know it’s hard to recruit young board members, because the average age of your membership is so old so there just aren’t that many of them. And maybe it’s the nature of the beast. The subject of paying the board came up at a recent CUNA roundtable. Typically we have “paid” the board with a conference to an exotic location each year or some really great dinners with some really great wine. Most Millennials are working, raising a family and don’t have the time or see the value in volunteering to run a financial cooperative so they can spend an evening a month away from their family. Much less take a week of their precious paid vacation to attend a conference.

I think a paid board of directors might be the answer to recruiting younger people. To be fair to our members, it shouldn’t be an exorbitant amount, since it’s their money we would use to pay them. Does it impact one of our big differentiators? A volunteer board of directors elected by the membership? A little. They would still be elected by the membership, but imagine if we had some new blood to help show us the way out of our Buick brand and into a bright, new younger future?

Denise Wymore

Denise Wymore

Denise started her credit union career over 30 years ago as a Teller for Pacific NW Federal Credit Union in Portland, Oregon. She moved up and around the org. chart ... Web: https://www.zest.ai Details