Speaking to a general session audience Monday, February 24, 2014 at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC), National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) Executive Director Gigi Hyland stressed the importance of creating awareness of credit unions as consumers’ best financial partner.
“Time and time again in my 23-year credit union career, I’ve been faced with this question from my friends, neighbors and community members: ‘Yeah, there is a credit union in my community. I don’t really know what they do. Don’t you have to join or something?’,” said Hyland. “As a credit union system, we are not the best at creating awareness about who we are and what we do. We must change that.”
Hyland shared three tips on how credit unions can create awareness:
Credit unions should strive to become part of the “strategic architecture of their communities’ financial literacy efforts.” Hyland noted that one way of doing this is for credit unions to find “unlikely” partners in their community such as nonprofits, local government, other cooperatives, farmers’ markets, food banks, asset-building coalitions, etc.
Credit unions should be strategic in their philanthropic efforts and ensure they are connected to improving consumer’s financial lives. Additionally, credit unions should connect the business of the credit union – saving, lending, education, other financial products and services – to the charitable donations made by the credit union.
Credit unions should lead efforts to improve their community’s financial well-being. Hyland noted that this could be done in a variety of ways and pointed to a few examples such as: holding a reality fair for high school students; holding a retirement fair for community members to help them plan for retirement; and providing robust financial information in the credit union’s branches and website to help consumers see credit unions as a “trusted source” to find information on their financial questions.
“Creating awareness is powerful and plays a large role in realizing the vision we are discussing here at GAC,” said Hyland.
Hyland also noted that creating awareness of credit unions complements other Unite for Good action steps. For example, by creating awareness, credit unions are also working to remove barriers by showing what credit unions could do if barriers were removed. Additionally, credit unions foster service excellence by setting a standard for delivering products and services that consumers use to select and stay loyal to a primary financial institution.