Like credit unions, country music was once a ‘best kept secret,’ and the now-mainstream country music industry has some lessons credit unions can leverage, NAFCU President/CEO Fred Becker told an opening session audience on the final day of the trade organization’s Annual Conference in Nashville, Tenn.

“Country music is no longer just the music of the South. It’s the music of the nation. Instead of telling its audience, ‘You come to us,’ country music said: ‘We’ll come to you.’ We need to do that too,” Becker said.

Credit unions must use technology to bring the cooperative to its members, he said. Not only is mobile banking a necessity, but members also want location services, alerts, budgeting tools, analytics and connectivity to social networks like Facebook.

It’s also crucial for credit unions to develop personal connections with members that are relevant and meaningful, and to emphasize the distinct credit union culture difference.

Becker referenced the $146 million Vacationland Federal Credit Union of Sandusky, Ohio, which launched a community service and financial literacy-focused group called the Change Agent Squad. Composed of local high school and college-age students, the group meets on a regular basis to learn about financial issues and ways to improve their local community. Charity projects include work to benefit The Humane Society, The United Way and a local food bank.

Becker quoted Vacationland Marketing Coordinator Bryce Roth: “We came to the conclusion that because credit unions are based in the community, we have a responsibility to give back to the community…and we take that very seriously.”

Credit unions must also modernize to keep pace with the changing times, Becker said.

The NAFCU chief cited numerous examples of credit unions that were using new technologies like online banking, iTunes rewards for members, technology bars, and pod branching, as well as “tried and true” concepts like financial literacy events to attract new members and to improve the bottom line.

Even as regulations proliferate and revenue streams dwindle, opportunities still abound for credit unions, he said.

“Consumer dissatisfaction and overall frustration with the economy are more intense than at any time in modern history. A migration is underway, with accounts and money moving from mega-banks to true value – and that is credit unions,” he said.

NAFCU reported that attendance at this year’s Annual Conference is the highest since 2007, with nearly 2,000 people gathered for the event.