5 Niche Trade Associations: Room for Everyone
When credit union trade associations are brought up in a conversation, national organizations like CUNA and NAFCU are usually the first to come to mind. But, there are plenty of smaller niche groups serving the industry.
These include groups that cater to credit union operational topics such as marketing, CUSOs and technology, as well as organizations that specialize in fields of membership, such as teachers, police officers and scientists.
Here’s a look at five specialty trade associations that work with and for credit unions:
The National Council of Postal Credit Unions
The National Council of Postal Credit Unions is the only trade association dedicated exclusively to the education and networking of postal credit unions.
“Postal Credit Unions are some of the oldest credit unions in the United States. Many of them have charters that pre-date the Federal Credit Union Act,” said Kevin Yaeger, NCPCU board chairman and president/CEO of the $38 million Post Office Credit Union in Madison, Wis. “In fact, the U.S. Postal Service was instrumental in chartering credit unions around the nation in the 1920s and early 1930s.”
Each year, during the group’s annual meeting and convention, postal credit unions have an opportunity to hear from, and provide input to, top management of the Postal Service. Last year, Patrick R. Donahoe, postmaster general, spoke to the group. The conference program includes credit union topics and strategic updates from the Postal Service.
“As a whole, postal credit unions have been impacted in two ways, consolidation within the credit union movement and plant closures and downsizing by the U.S. Postal Service,” Yaeger said. “Many of our member-credit unions have switched to community charters in order to sustain growth, while remaining focused on their postal base. In recent years, some of the smaller postal credit unions have been merged into larger non-postal credit unions. The consolidation issue has been a standing item on our group’s agenda for years and we’ll continue to keep a close eye on how changes at the Postal Service will impact our member-credit unions.”
Next: Developing Montana
Montana Credit Unions for Community Development is the charitable arm of the Montana Credit Union Network, helping to implement programs that improve the social and economic well-being of Montanans. Located in Helena, Mont., it delivers programs reaching consumers and credit union members across the state.
The MCUCD provides marketing and technical support to the credit unions for each of the programs it administers. Currently, MCUCD’s efforts center in financial and consumer education, free tax services and matched savings accounts.
MCUCD works directly with credit unions and community organizations to support programs that strengthen and educate members and the community. When a credit union or partner calls looking for help to prepare for a classroom financial education presentation, this organization provides them with appropriate tools and resources. In addition, they advocate at the state level to encourage lawmakers to support programs that help Montana families.
Debra Kelly, compliance manager at the $88.5 million Sky FCU in Livingston, Mont., said her credit union belongs to the organization because “they have a genuine desire to reach out and help – in so many areas – with their member credit unions and the communities and members that the credit unions serve.”
Next: Focus on Firefighters
The National Coalition of Firefighters Credit Unions offers its services to all credit unions primarily serving firefighters and their families. Formally founded in 2008 by 25 credit unions after meeting since 1999, paid membership is voluntary; funds received go toward providing conference scholarships and access to benefits.
NCOFCU offers educational conferences and scholarships, networking opportunities with credit union colleagues through its website, “Firefighters Credit Union Community”, access to a membership database, shared policies and procedures, discussion forums, an exclusive CEO listserv network, an exclusive volunteer listserv network, and member discounts on services.
“After attending many conferences, serving as a volunteer director and firefighter and later CEO of a firefighter credit union, I found myself sitting in rooms filled with people I really didn’t know, and not much in common with,” said Grant Sheehan, the group’s CEO.
“It was then that I decided to look to putting the directors and staff of firefighter credit unions in the same room. From that point on, the attending firefighters and staff found that the brotherhood of firefighters and CEOs bonding and an open roundtable sharing of ideas and solutions was a terrific benefit that they have not found at any other conferences they have attended,” Sheehan said.
Next: For Volunteers Only
What makes the National Association of Credit Union Chairmen unique is that it is an all-volunteer group dedicated to the education and networking of volunteers. Those who attend the annual Roundtable Forum prepare detailed white papers and provide in-depth Call Report data. While the topics change every year, the format has not changed in more than 30 years.
“All trade groups face challenges regarding membership in difficult economic times but we consistently get comments like ‘I can only attend one conference a year and this is the one that I always take back ideas from’,” said Chuck Smith, chairman of the $264.5 million First New York Federal Credit Union in Schenectady, N.Y.
“This is powerful in that unlike most conferences, where we simply are part of a huge audience and get ‘talked at,’ NACUC Roundtables require us to come to the small group discussions prepared to contribute. Participants are encouraged to prepare position papers on each of the roundtable discussion questions prior to the conference," Smith said.
Next: All In For Auditors
The main objective of NACUSAC is to provide education for supervisory committees that is very specific to the all-volunteer committees’ needs. The group also includes internal auditors and other credit union staff, as well as board members, at its annual conference. Staff and board members are also permitted to participate in webinars hosted by the group.
“Most of the CPA firms that specialize in credit unions have a training conference; however, their primary focus is normally only to present their staff members and market their services,” said Gerry Dunning, who chairs the group and is also a supervisory committee member at the $1.2 billion Caltech Employees FCU in Pasadena, Calif. and the $1.1 billion Partners FCU in Burbank, Calif.
“At NACUSAC we have our annual conference where NACUSAC controls the agenda for the program and we bring in speakers from multiple CPA firms and Supervisory Committee members to present topics that are timely for the committees,” Dunning said.