HELENA, Mont. – Despite the demise of the CU Association of the West, other groups throughout the U.S. are successfully serving as umbrella organizations for state credit union leagues. One of them, the Member Service Group, is a consortium of 13 state leagues that originally was established in the late 1990s to primarily help smaller leagues "work together to find solutions to common situations and problems." "That's really the same purpose that we have right now," said Tracie Kenyon, chairman of the group and president and chief executive officer of the Montana Credit Union League. "We've been meeting to see if there are ways we can share economies of scale and expand service offerings. We share best practices." Originally started with leagues from North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, the Member Service Group expanded a few years later to include Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado and Utah. Last year, leagues in Arizona and Hawaii joined in. Kenyon said the while the Member Service Group has a formal business structure, it is still relatively informal in terms of its activities. She said the group serves up "cafeteria style" offerings to the leagues, allowing them to pick and choose which projects or activities in which to become involved. The group has tried to steer away from a "one size fits all mentality," she said. "There are some things that we're working on that will appeal to some of our members," Kenyon said. "Other projects will appeal to a different set of members. Then there are some that will cross over. "We're not trying to put together anything extremely formal that involves all 13 of us, unless all 13 want to do it and it does fit in with our separate corporate strategies," she added. "Every league does have a different feel. We all have different goals. Our credit unions are different and we're certainly trying to accomplish some of the same things – education, government relations, public relations – and we're trying to share some of the best practices, trying to come up with ways that we may be able to share on those particular fronts. But it's not a mandate that anyone be involved or participate," she said. "At this point we're developing some ideas and programs that, if they fit into a particular league's goals and strategies, they'll be available for them," she said. "If they don't, that's perfectly understandable. It's my hope as chairman of the Member Service Group that one or two of them will fit with each of our participating leagues because I certainly want them to have value in their membership." Leagues do not pay dues to belong to the group, although they do pay a fee upon joining, Kenyon said. She said one of the more successful projects in her three and a half years at the league involved obtaining a grant from the National Credit Union Foundation to encourage consumers with no ties to any financial institution to join a credit union. State leagues that participated in that program were Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Utah, California and Nevada. "When we get together and share ideas, it seems like there are some good things that can come of it," she said. Unlike the CU Association of the West, which touted its educational programs across state lines, Kenyon said that was an area in which the Member Service Group has not been involved. It has looked at the idea of contracting with speakers to go into each of the state leagues in an effort to reduce those costs, but has not considered consolidating calendars to hold joint meetings. Some of that sharing, however, takes place on a more regional level, she noted, such as the sharing of educational programs between Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., or eastern Montana and western North Dakota. Also, three leagues in the Member Service Group – Idaho, Montana and Wyoming – have held a mountain regional roundtable for about two decades. "Rather than create a super educational calendar, I think what we're trying to do is get tools in the hands of our education directors and to make their jobs easier within their own states," Kenyon explained. "Our organization exists to make operations smoother at a league," she said. "It's really about assisting the league structure and furthering the individual missions of the 13 leagues involved. I think that's why we've been successful for as many years as we have." -


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