Credit unions claim to be cooperatives and often brag about how this industry works together for the common good. Some even denounce the use of the word industry to describe credit unions, preferring community or movement.Then why can’t the “community” come together for a national branding campaign? Now is the most opportune time in recent history to expand awareness of credit unions. It’s time to push egos aside and truly put credit unions’ money where their collective mouths are.And for the love of credit unions, do not avoid using the term “banking”‘ in that campaign. Fact: Everyone knows what that is. What else are you going to say? Credit union-ing?Additionally, there seems to be a lot of infighting for a movement that prides itself on its cooperativeness-between large and small, corporates and natural person credit unions, major credit union trade groups, the list goes on. On the one hand, there are credit unions that are willing to share business plans, back-office services and the like, with seemingly no ulterior motive. However, credit unions as a whole must examine exactly how deep their commitment to the cooperative system they tout is. Is it more than skin deep?The decision will determine the future of credit unions. Also potentially detrimental, even disastrous, to the credit union movement would be accepting TARP funds.Some credit unions are hurting very much; just see our page 1 story regarding the merger of Suncoast Schools and GTE for proof. The corporate credit unions have made headlines for months with their losses. But, using TARP funds as a Band-Aid does not solve the larger, systemic problems and can only mean trouble for credit unions in the long term.Last I checked credit unions were democratic institutions, not socialist. Credit unions are not expected to provide handouts to members in trouble, and neither should they expect it from the government. Differentiating between a TARP loan and a capital infusion as the banks are receiving will not matter; the term is tainted in the eyes of the American public. Not only would credit unions be cast by the public as just another industry looking for a quick fix the taxpayers will have to shoulder, but these same taxpayers will give lawmakers a piece of their minds come election time.If credit unions are to survive relatively intact, they do need to find a solution from within. Many people at the regulators, the credit union trades and within credit unions, far wiser than me, are studying the problem and solutions from all angles. I am confident that from within this brain trust, the credit union movement can cooperatively arrive at a workable resolution.In the meantime and even after a permanent plan is in place, this will mean the loss of many credit unions either through merger or liquidation. What’s wrong with that? Yes, it’s sad that some well-intentioned credit unions will fall by the wayside, but in the end, it should lead to a stronger, healthier industry. Just like in nature, some animals will die in times of famine and drought-typically the weak-so that the species as a whole can survive. Even so, thousands will remain to carry on the credit union tradition and philosophy.Which brings me to volunteers. If board and committee members are truly volunteers, then they should not be compensated with trips to far-off, exotic destinations under the guise of education. When Henry Wirz wrote us (see page 16) that his credit union was holding its board planning session at a local college, it was like a East-West Coast mind meld. I’ve said several times recently that I don’t understand why credit unions and their related organizations cannot hold their educational meetings in local high school auditoriums or at community colleges. Not only would it be cheaper, but it would probably boost studiousness. That’s truly serving as sound stewards of your members’ money and in keeping with the cooperative spirit.–Comments? E-mail [email protected]

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