I enjoyed Mike Welch’s column on the subject of Membership Growth in the March 20th issue (“Slowdown in Membership Growth Makes No Sense.”) As a long time board member and active volunteer, it is a question my fellow volunteers, staff, and I have been pondering for some time. While on-going mergers may well be good for the industry’s bottom line and in many cases for member service they do not add to a membership base. Neither do expanding membership by charter enhancements i.e. Community, SEG, and under served, etc. add to a membership base. While we all probably purge inactive accounts on a regular basis, the numbers involved by themselves are not significantly driving membership down. From my perspective, adding to existing field of membership (FOM) especially via the means of under-served, SEG, or Community only further unrealistically raises growth expectations. While we have been in an expanding FOM mode for some 12 to 15 years, many of us have been slow to fully understand and appreciate the new world we entered. We seem to still think because credit unions are the best game in town, everyone knows this, understands it, and believes it so just put up a sign, open the door, and stand back they will come. Are we foolish or what? When many of us were single sponsor CUs, automatic growth was basically true; open a new plant, new office, or add employees (not in today’s economy) offer good dividends and loan rates along with payroll deduction and the business just naturally came our way. Now we need to understand the consumer has options at every turn; CU, Bank, Thrift, brokerage, Money Market Account, not to mention the Worldwide Web, etc. Far too many of us have been behind the curve in marketing as well as understanding our potential members’ needs and options. Too many of us think one mailing, one ad, one site visit and potential members will automatically run to join. Our lack of new membership in my view is caused many times by our own self delusions about how good we are and not understanding the consumers’ options and needs. If we want growth we need to spend more time knowing ourselves and our operation and potential members’ needs and wants. We need to cut back on turf wars just for the sake of laying claim to an area and potential members. We need to get to the hard work of cultivating existing membership fields. When a retailer moves into a new area, if successful, they have done the market research, set up a realistic development budget, and then gone to work which includes knocking on the customers door via all means possible until they have the new customer. We need to do the same thing. We need to keep contacting the potential new member until they sign up or give a definite no. We need to understand the `no’ even better then we do the `yes’ which gets us a new signed up member. Marketing is the tool, and while it’s expensive it’s is the only way to grow membership especially in today’s competitive world. William H. Rupp Jr. Director UnityOne Federal Credit Union Fort Worth, Texas

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