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BURLINGTON, Vt. – Vermont State Employees Credit Union is part of a unique alliance here dedicated to raising public awareness of Vermont cooperatives. Launched by local Cabot Creamery, the Vermont Alliance of Cooperatives was initially formed to just promote October as Co-op Month, but the group hopes its joint awareness efforts will continue throughout the year and more cooperatives will sign on. “For the past four years we’ve been positioning ourselves as not for profit natural cooperatives and when this opportunity presented itself we had to be a part of it,” said VSECU Business Development Yvonne Garand. “On the national and state level CUNA and the leagues do a great job of promoting the credit union movement and I think the missing link to connecting with more consumers is the co-op angle. Credit unions are about members pooling their resources to benefit each individual so why not extend that to working with other co-ops- who knows how big it can be. It makes perfect sense” Garand adds that although members and non-members ranked being a co-op last as an important business attribute in focus studies, both groups said they would choose a business if it were a co-op because they like the principles of co-ops. “Our focus group findings stunned me and I started wondering if we haven’t been our worst own enemy,” said Garand. “So we’re now incorporating the word co-op into more of our marketing messages to help consumers make that connection between co-op and credit union.” As its first move, the alliance has pooled its resources for a new advertising campaign to promote co-op services via television spots and educational handout materials. In addition the alliance members will each host a series of individual events such as International Credit Union Day to further build awareness of the good co-ops do throughout the month of October. In Vermont some 300,000 consumers here belong to cooperatives, of which 260,000 are credit union members and Garand says those numbers are hard to ignore.

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