WASHINGTON — The membership growth task force, appointed by former CUNA Chairman Allan McMorris, reported five specific focus areas and urged credit union leaders and employees to share some of their member growth success stories at GAC last week.

Head of the task force and President/CEO of the Texas Credit Union League Dick Ensweiler reported that credit unions obtain only 15% of their potential membership right now. In a breakout session at GAC McMorris said, “It seems to me that there’s a big slice of the pie out there that we should be trying to serve.”

The first of the five focus areas that the task force reported on was national image and awareness. Gail Gustafson vice president of financial services of Rivermark Community Credit Union spoke for the task force on the subject and said that they first looked at branding but decided that each credit union is unique and would have to have a unique brand so they switched to a national awareness campaign.

The next step Gustafson said is to research and determine the target areas and promote and test the campaign. Gustafson said that the task force has tried using YouTube to test a campaign, but needs to notify people that its out there in order to get more feedback.

President/CEO of the Maine Credit Union League John Murphy reported on the second focus area: efficiency and back office issues. He said that freeing up resources is extremely important for membership growth and that there are many great examples of collaboration success that can be helpful in that area. Using a common DP system and collaborating with a credit union that has similar asset size and membership with no field of membership overlaps proved to help create a successful collaboration Murphy said.

The third focus area, markets, had three target groups that the task force found credit unions should go after to expand membership. Youth, immigrants and ethnic groups, and the underserved were the three target groups and the force suggested that credit unions understand each group and approach them in a way that is familiar to them.

“If we’re going to get to them we need to go to them,” Ensweiler said. Youth should be approached using online methods such as MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube. Immigrants/ethnic groups will be more comfortable approaching a storefront that a large building with a sign that says “protected by the Federal Government” Ensweiler said. For the underserved President/CEO of Guadalupe Credit Union Winnona Nava reported on the market focus area for the task force and advised, “Get involved in their communities and reach out to them.”

State Employees Credit Union (Md.) President/CEO Rod Staatz spoke about the fourth focus area, growth metrics. Growth metrics involves developing a method of measuring and reporting on membership growth. Staatz highlighted the saying “What gets measured, gets done.” Staatz also said that one of the next steps is for CUNA to develop a standards report with key measures and descriptions of best practices.

The final focus area was best practices so credit unions can share methods for achieving member growth that have worked.

“We’re going to figure out who’s growing fast, adjust the figures, and then we’re coming for you,” Staatz said.

One of the next steps in this area is to compile some of these best practices and get the good ideas out to credit unions on a daily basis.

Ensweiler said that they plan to obtain feedback in the spring and hold a summit in July at NAFCU’s conference.

–lsiegriest@cutimes.com