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I think that the Volunteer dilemma is related obliquely to the current brouhaha of converting credit unions. I call this an “Identity crisis.” It is a natural evolution of some credit unions that look, smell and act like banks; so that is what they become. Add to that the natural human need for preserving economic interests, and we see other manifestations of the identity crisis. Everyone seems to be interested in looking out for number one, and the members take the brunt. We no longer know who or what we are. We do not know who owns the credit union. Is it the NCUA, is it the trades, could it be the CEOs or volunteers? No, the credit union belongs to the members, but no one seems to remember that. What we need is something to re-establish just what a credit union is, and the rest of the puzzle will fall into place. We need to adhere to the basic principles upon which we are founded: A safe place to save money for a reasonable return and get loans at reasonable (competitive) rates; not for profit, but for service; one member one vote; and member owners. We need what I will call a Sunshine Act for Credit Unions (i. e., SACU pronounced SACK YOU). This will require that we once again reaffirm the fundamental basis of the movement. That is, credit unions are financial cooperatives: from, by and for the members. We seem to forget that both the professionals and volunteers in the credit unions have a legal, moral, ethical and fiduciary responsibility to our members first and foremost. We are not in the business of redistributing our members’ money to non-members. If that was our basic objective, we would be called a government or at least a governmental agency. The volunteers must remember that they represent the members’ interests, not their own. Too many volunteers have become complacent with the status quo, even though they give it lip service at every opportunity. They like the prestige and status that goes with the position. They look forward to the jaunts to exotic places, so that “they may better represent their constituents.” Just what can a volunteer learn at the London School of Economics that cannot be learned at the Wharton School? And I am not talking about state-chartered credit unions, where we may find a whole set of different circumstances. One state-chartered credit union I heard about spends about $400,000 per year on their volunteers. I believe it even includes longterm care; does that give you an idea of longevity and inbreeding? There seems to be a symbiotic relationship between too many CEOs and longterm volunteers. This result is in the volunteers letting the CEO make all policy decisions. In many cases the chairman has no idea of what mail comes into the credit union for board action. The professionals do not own the credit union, and they have little justification to call it their credit union. They are not entrepreneurs in the classical sense, because true entrepreneurs put their personal fame, name and fortune at risk in making a success of a venture. The trades do not own the credit unions because they exist to serve, and are funded by the credit unions they are supposed to serve. NCUA does not own all the federally-chartered credit unions either, because if they did they would be in violation of law, in that they would be regulating themselves. We must realize that “not for profit” does not mean “after milking the earnings for as many expenses as can be legally justified.” This is not what is meant. Likewise, “one member, one vote” and “member owners” do not imply that members may only exercise their ownership and voting right in electing volunteers. In many instances, the members have no discretion or choice of whom they get to vote for. This is usually decided by a committee of the board, which is dictating in many cases, through the Nominating Committee, just who will be elected by limiting who may run. On the other hand, just what policies do the members vote on? None that I can think of; they don’t even get a vote on a merger partner, if they are members of the acquiring credit union. We talk about a safe place to save at a reasonable rate of return and loans at competitive rates. Yet, in many cases, we see that we are just meeting the bank rates, which we use as the rationale for keeping dividend rates as low as we can. On the other hand, we charge as much as we can on loans to just beat, but not always, the bank rates. Building capital seems to be the ultimate objective. I know one volunteer that calls the Undivided Earnings the Stupidity Fund to cover any mistakes made by management. “But for service” is the most ambiguous of the basic principles. Have you ever looked at the fees we charge for “services?” I know the argument that we must make those using the service to pay for it. But we don’t have the same altruistic motive in paying our savers a rate commensurate with the risks they are taking for letting us use their money? If we are going to contribute tens of thousands of dollars to non-member related endeavors and activities, return the money from whence it came – our members. I think the way to once again establish the credit union movement to its former glory is for the NCUA to mandate, or Congress to legislate, reporting requirements that would keep the owner/members, voting members, fully informed of where their money is going. NCUA will dictate the makeup of national organizations, assuring that any organization avowing credit union representation will have a given makeup of volunteers. The members would also know who is benefiting from their money, and to what extent. So I propose that the members be told yearly, in totally unambiguous terms and figures, just what expenses their credit union experiences by major categories. For example, including but not limited to: salaries, pensions, travel and training, trade association dues, etc. Election procedures should be standardized for all credit unions to provide for the most democratic, multi-disciplinary approach. Related here would be the requirement for each credit union to publish data similar to commercial, public corporations comparing their performance to their peers. Members would also be given the right to vote on controversial changes in the way their credit union operates. Only with a totally informed and franchised membership can we truly return to the original ideals of the credit union movement. And thus can we avoid the impending implosion being cause by the lessening influence of the volunteers. Then we would not have questions about representation of volunteers at the national level – volunteers will be sought as equal members of the family. Stan Kluckowski Director SSA Baltimore FCU Baltimore, Md.

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