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BOULDER, Colo. – U of C Federal Credit Union is taking the vote directly to members. From April 19-29 the credit union’s six branches served as “voting booths” as members were encouraged to take part in the board elections. Information on the board candidates and voting materials could be found in branch lobbies during regular branch hours. “During the strategic planning session last year the board re-evaluated the annual meeting and we really talked about what we wanted to accomplish with it,” said U of C FCU Board Chair Jean Hauser. “What we realized is we wanted to touch more members and by emphasizing the democratic process it speaks to what the credit union means to members and how we are different than a bank. So we asked management to come up with something.” Hauser added that faced with a relatively flat annual meeting attendance of the same 200-250 members some changes were necessary with raising awareness of the democratic process an important objective. “We also wanted to get more involvement and volunteer participation,” said U of C FCU President/CEO Bill Sterner. “It goes back to a fundamental belief in an active democracy. Some may be happy with the status quo but we believe it is worth the effort to have informed, truly active members and what better way to show the credit union difference. They are not shareholders they are owners who have a big say in how their credit union is run.” Like the majority of credit unions, typically in past years, the board election has been carried out at the credit union’s annual meeting and by mail-in ballot. “This new election process is a result of our board of directors’ longterm commitment to represent the voices of our account holders,” said Sterner. “Using our branch network provides easy voting access and assures that the democratic process reaches as many eligible account holders as possible.” To help “get out the vote” the credit union marketing team wrapped its brand of active, outdoor lifestyle into graphci representation of how credit unions are different. Working with management and the board the team came up with five elements of distinction- locally owned,cooperative, not-for-profit, volunteer leadership and service philosophy. “As we discussed these differences we decided to play on the theme of the `road less traveled’ because we recognize that members have a choice and there is a clear difference between banks and credit unions,” said U of C FCU Marketing Vice President Rich Jones. “The idea was to focus on the value of credit union membership beyond products and services.” The trail image and five elements were displayed on the Web site, lobby posters and brochures, statement inserts, inLighten screens and newsletters. With the idea of getting to know the board, the Web site also featured detailed candidate profiles including headshots. Staffer education and involvement were key to making this campaign work says Sterner. To further encourage member participation in the election process, U of C FCU hosted two events that gave account holders a chance to meet their volunteer leadership and board candidates-Meet Your Volunteers and Member Appreciation Day. While voter turnout results won’t be out until after May 8, Jones says he thinks the promotion is already a success. “This volunteer awareness campaign has already had a positive impact,” said Jones. “Every year we put out a call for volunteers and barely get a response – this year we had 22 members step up and say they want to be involved and be associated with this organization. From those 22 we gleaned three excellent candidates for board posts this year so to me that is a huge win. A larger candidate pool allows us to select the best of the best to serve the credit union and make it stronger.” Hauser adds that the increased number of volunteers helps to further reinforce the board’s dedication to diversity. “We’re one of the few boards with term limits- no one can serve more than three terms for a total of nine years. We recognize that the board needs to be more a reflection of our membership and the more diversity on it the more different perspectives and ideas are brought to the table,” said Hauser. “And these events have been a great opportunity for the board to meet and talk directly to members and learn just what they want. We’re discussing the possibility of expanding on that in the future. Another benefit of this focus on our democratic process is if we can make members understand the credit union difference then when the bankers attack the movement’s tax exempt status the members will stand up and can list off reasons why we shouldn’t be taxed.” The new board election system does not eliminate the annual meeting. Hauser says it will just be a low-key event. Sterner says the credit union is exploring the option of providing members ballots that can be mailed in as an absentee ballot. “We want to keep improving on this and my guess is it will take about three years to get a really good read on this new process -you know what they say by the time the staff gets tired of it people are starting to be aware of it,” said Sterner. “What’s most important is members getting involved whether as volunteers or in the democratic voting process.” [email protected]

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