Just before the New Year rings in, I’m reflecting on how proud I am of our industry. I am particularly impressed by how credit unions serve their members on the micro level but also partner and collaborate both locally and nationally to help each other and our communities. We come together in so many positive ways and exhibit a commonality of purpose that more and more people–especially disenchanted bank customers–take notice.
During 25 years as a credit union executive, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many credit union executives at the local trade association, on advisory boards, professional organizations and roundtables. Where I’m located in the D.C. metro area, local credit unions and their associations have worked together on cooperative advertising to help raise the awareness of the credit union difference.
Credit unions also effectively ban together to participate in community outreach programs to help those in need. Many credit unions and trades are active in local charity work, sponsoring bowling or golf tournaments, or wine auctions to help community groups. There are thousands of volunteer hours dedicated to serving our communities.
A unique example of community outreach that unifies credit unions, and their business partners, for a common purpose on the national level is the Credit Union Miracle Day Family of Races, which benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. This is the 11th year of our successful partnership that sponsors races to benefit charity. As credit unions choose to participate in the Family of Races, they realize the benefit of getting national exposure in the media and on Capitol Hill and see the local impact since their contributions go back to their local children’s hospitals.
The Family of Races can be described as what I like to call a three-legged stool with a win for all. First, there are the credit unions that participate, nearly 100 now from 13 states, small and large. Second, there are the children’s hospitals across the country that are helped by the credit union sponsor contributions and fundraising. And third, there are the runners, thousands of consumers, who compete in elite runs and see the words “credit union” plastered everywhere.
Right now, the Family of Races includes the flagship 41-year old Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten-Mile Run, the course of which winds around the magnificent memorials in Washington. There is also the second running of the Credit Union SacTown Ten-Mile Run, held at the California state capital in Sacramento and supported statewide. And, there are two Freedom Runs for our overseas troops serving in harm’s way, one at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait and the other at Army Garrison Wiesbaden in Germany, supported by the Defense Credit Union Council. The Freedom Runs are valued morale boosters for our brave service members. We anticipate that other states will be joining the Family of Races, starting in 2014.
By coming together on a broader scale we leverage our power and present one big check from credit unions to all who are watching. Collectively, we have donated over $5.5 million in our 11-year history, $515,000 in 2012 alone, all of which goes through the umbrella Credit Unions for Kids program making credit unions the third largest donor to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals behind only giant retailers WalMart and Costco.
Credit unions and vendors involved in this unparalleled partnership will soon be basking in the glory of receiving the National Credit Union Foundation’s prestigious Outstanding Program Award during CUNA’s GAC in February. They can be proud of the fact that the Family of Races is the single largest fundraising event in the country for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
In this somewhat acerbic political environment, we can be a positive, unified force and showcase the way credit unions cooperate for common causes. Our collective message–as financial cooperatives, credit unions are different–is amplified. As we talk and visit with our local and national legislators, we can provide concrete examples , such as the Family of Races, of the ways we do cooperate and care for our communities. It can be considered a form of natural cooperative advertising.