What do we do now that Bank Transfer Day has come and gone? How do we show what makes credit unions relevant to consumers today? Industry folks can clearly define the difference between a bank and a credit union. But if you ask the average consumer, what might their response be?
I visited my local Occupy movement in Olympia, Wash. I asked them what the difference is between banks and credit unions and how credit unions could continue to show the difference in our communities after Bank Transfer Day.
As we sat down to begin the interview, there was a leaflet on the table explaining the difference between credit unions and banks. Smiling inside, I asked Treacy, the local Occupy food coordinator, about his expectations of credit unions after Bank Transfer Day. He shared that he had been a member of a credit union for years and is well-educated about the difference.
“Tell the public about the benefits of belonging to a member-owned cooperative. Continue to give back to your community,” he said.
“I know my credit union gives back, and I expect them to market their giving. Tell me, the consumer, about what you're doing. I want to be your champion. Keep actively sponsoring programs that fill needs in the community.”
“We expect the credit unions to facilitate education programs for unbanked, less fortunate people in our community who really need it."
Three overwhelming themes: help educate people, keep caring about what happens to other people and keep bettering our communities. Consumers are demanding that we give back, that in all three of these areas we serve our communities. These consumer demands can be found in the very operating principles designed to guide credit unions.
The positive impact that a local cooperative has on each respective community should be measured by the level of engagement in local giving. Individuals have a responsibility to provide support to each other in their communities and credit unions embody that idea.
The idea of giving back is not a new concept, but what is new is the consumer demand to put your money where your mouth is. What does your credit union have to show? How do you give back to your community? Your members want to know.
Jessica Perschon-Rhodes is a team leader at Washington State Employees Credit Union, Olympia, Wash.
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The Crash Network is a grassroots organization composed of several hundred young credit union professionals. Its activities include meetings, mentorships online collaboration and development projects. Opinions expressed are the personal views of the author.