Amid the general excitement about Bank Transfer Day, some commentators have urged caution upon credit unions. They have pointed out that small-dollar, single-product new members may not be profitable; that a large influx of deposits may dilute net worth ratios; and that promises that “we’ll never charge you fees” may be difficult to honor in the future.
All of that may be true. But these arguments should not outweigh what I believe is the enormous opportunity credit unions have today. It’s not simply about adding members and enhancing the bottom line. It’s about reaching millions of people who are profoundly distressed by the growing inequality in the United States, by the skewed distribution of wealth and income and the predominant influence of large corporate interests over the democratic process.
We have a massive potential audience that can be educated about credit union values. Our message couldn’t be more direct and understandable. People before profit. One member, one vote. You own it. These are the bedrock values of our movement. And we need to communicate them to every person who walks through our doors or visits our websites. By all means, tell your potential members that your credit union is a better, fairer deal. But do not fail to educate them about the cooperative difference. Tell them about the opportunities to do good in your community through your credit union. Suggest ways to volunteer, to spread the credit union word, to run for a board or committee position, maybe even to make a career.
The opportunity before us is to revitalize our movement and ourselves, to bring in young and not-so-young people who can become cooperators in the full sense of the word. It’s never been more true: Philosophy is good business. In associations, we are taught that the value of acquiring a new member is not simply this year’s dues, it’s the value of a long-term relationship.
On Oct. 31, 2011, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon officially proclaimed 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives. This is our time. Let us now waste the opportunity.
National Federation of CDCUs