Credit unions are no different than any other human organization where jammed-packed schedules and agendas as well as life’s ups and downs can rattle everyone loose from the very foundation on which the organization was established.
Such preoccupations and distractions can act like a cancer, disjoining everyone from the critical operating principles and core values that give purpose and identity to the credit union. Lose touch with those principles and values, and the credit union stands the danger of losing touch with its heart and soul.
A sure way to mitigate such risk is to develop and set in place a few practices that can help keep the organization anchored securely to its heritage and roots.
Here are seven ways – seven ideas – that can help your credit union recapture and secure its identity as a cooperative organization.
- Always devote a segment of employee orientation to the origin and history of cooperatives; not just credit unions, but cooperatives as well.
- Begin all large group (staff and executive) meetings with a brief, two-minute discussion of one of the cooperative principles and how it influences the life of the credit union.
- Launch a quarterly member appreciation day for staff by inviting a member or charity who has benefitted from the credit union’s support to share their personal story.
- Hold monthly staff lunchtime presentations by local cooperative executives discussing the value of community involvement and support. Record the presentations for teller access.
- Form a cooperative association with a local community development credit union, helping it succeed in areas such as marketing and IT.
- Enhance board agendas to instill a deeper appreciation for the cooperative business model: launch an annual initiative inviting an officer or chairperson of a local coop to share their appreciation for the seven principles during a board presentation; have your credit union reciprocate by doing the same for the local coop’s board.
- Launch a community engagement program that encourages and incites staff to volunteer their time to community programs directed at serving the underserved. Invite staff to share their experiences with the board and their fellow employees through internal newsletters or at group meetings.
Such initiatives will produce endless dividends. Use any one of them to mark the United Nation’s International Year of Cooperatives, build staff morale, forge new relationships within the community, enhance the brand awareness of your credit union, and above all, keep your credit union grounded to the values sustained by its cooperative roots.
Walt Laskos is a Credit Union Development Educator and principal of The Laskos Group, a brand management, PR and communications consultancy.