After graduating college, like many recent graduates I answered the same question over and over, "So, what are you doing now?" When I tell my friends and my peers from high school that I work for a magazine about credit unions, the immediate reaction is "Oh" followed by a blank stare. They don't have the slightest idea what a credit union is, and to be honest, when I first took this job, I didn't either. I had my accounts at the bank my parents go to in the town where I grew up. I never thought about changing it or thought about the services I was getting until I had to.
Recently, I moved out on my own, away from the town I grew up in, meaning I could no longer use the bank I used my whole life. It has no branches near where I live now. As I researched where to put my money, I found that there was a bank branch on almost every block. Because I work for Credit Union Times, I wanted to know what credit unions were in my area, and what credit unions I could join. The problem, though, was I didn't have any idea where to look. Reading an article here one day I came across www.creditunionfacts.com. As I went on the site and put in my zip code to find credit unions in my area I was repeatedly taken back to the same screen that just gave credit union facts. After a few tries, I gave up. Many people my age do not know what a credit union is, so they're not going to make the effort to find out where you are, and even if they do, if there's no easy way to find you they're going to give up fast.
As I was telling one of my friends about my job he asked me what a credit union was, and when I started to explain to him he asked, "So I can just walk in and join one?" I then explained about field of membership and how you have to qualify to be a member. His response was "Then why would I want to do that?" If you want us to be members, first you have to show us how, and then you have to show us why we'd want to. I'm the exception; most people my age won't even put in the minimal effort I did to find you when they're surrounded by banks they can just walk into and open an account.
If you want us to sign up, don't just target us; target our parents, too. When I asked my friend why he has his account at his bank he said, "Because that's where my parents told me to go." If you have a parent that's a member, there's a good chance you're going to get their kid as a member.
Editor's note: Gen Y Back Talk is a new feature from Credit Union Times, straight from Gen Y'er, 22-year-old Staff Reporter Lindsey Siegriest.