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LATHAM, N.Y. – The New York State Credit Union League is facing the same problem most leagues around the country are dealing with – a diminishing number of credit unions, especially small ones, due to mergers and consolidation. Now the league has launched an initiative to help stave that trend and has received a $31,216 grant from the National Credit Union Foundation to fund a portion of its “Making a Strategic Connection” project designed to support the growth and development of small asset size CUs. The pilot project will be conducted in partnership with the New York Credit Union Foundation. It is a three-dimensional program that will include planning workshops, the development of a functional marketing plan, and a comprehensive financial forecast. In the first year of the project, the league is planning to work with 15 CUs experiencing slow membership growth, low loan growth and stressed profitability. Over three years, NYSCUL is predicting it will work with 45 credit unions or 14% of the current population of small credit unions in New York. There are 551 CUs in New York State – down from 643 in 2000 – total assets of $36,454.7 billion and total with members 4,127,675. Tracy Conner, vice president of professional development and member services for the NYSCUL explained that for the past several years as the league worked on strategic planning with CUs, it found many of its small affiliated credit unions didn’t have the funds to do formal forecasting. That germinated the idea of how the league could help small credit unions work toward success if it was able to get funding for the project. A mailing to credit unions about Making a Strategic Connection went out Feb. 28. Credit unions affiliated with the New York State Credit Union League that want to be considered for the program have to meet two of the three following criteria: * have less than $10 million in assets as of year-end 2004 * have a net worth-to-total assets ratio greater than 10% as of year-end 2004 * have a return on average assets greater than 0.25% as of year-end 2004. Conner said, “Credit unions that want to be considered for the program have to be capable of helping themselves and have the ability to commit certain resources of their own, including being able to develop a marketing campaign. We want to be able to help them, but they have to be capable of doing some of the work themselves.” The consulting service department of the league will assist participating CUs through the planning process. By the time the CUs complete the program, they’ll have a strategic plan, a two-year marketing plan covering three key campaigns a year promoting membership and loans, and a two-year financial forecast. Each plan will be customized to each credit union based on their membership, financial goals and other key issues. In addition, CUs taking part in Making a Strategic Connection will have to complete three CUNA Certificate Program Modules. To make sure credit unions that participate in the program are following through, a league project manager will review financial forecasts on a bi-annual basis to help CUs stay on track with their plans or adjust them as necessary. Credit unions have until the end of March to apply for acceptance into the Making a Strategic Connection program. Conner said the NYSCUL will begin holding strategic workshops in June. Although the site for the workshops still has to be determined, she said the league wants them to be as convenient and accessible as possible for credit unions, noting that since there are two large concentrations of CUs in New York State in the Buffalo and New York City areas, it is likely the workshops would be held near those cities. “The creation of an effective strategic plan is a significant management tool. It sets forth the future of the credit union and shapes the environment it operates in,” said Conner. -

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