Editor's Note: CURE (Credit Union Retired Executives) is sharing advice with Journal readers based on questions it receives and responses from the numerous retired CU execs it has recruited. For more info: www.curetiredexec.com.
Q: A CEO asked for help in justifying the need for community involvement to his board of directors.
A: Community involvement-people helping people-is what credit unions are all about. It's not only our mission, it's also about doing the right thing, about feeling good because we're coming together to help others. That feeling of unity and mutual support is the foundation of strong communities everywhere that in turn can help even more people.
It doesn't matter whether your credit union has a community charter or not, participating in the community is critical to sustaining the mission and vitality of the credit union. Banks participate because they are required to do so under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), whereas credit unions participate voluntarily because it is the right thing to do, for the members, the community we live in, and the future-of both the credit union and the credit union movement.
Costs are justified because the returns are not only in membership growth but also in the image and stature of the credit union within the community.
Although it does not directly affect every individual member, the cost is an investment in everyone's future-members, community, credit union, and the credit union movement. It's the same principle behind contributing toward education: even if we have no children of our own, we contribute because it's good for everyone.
The image of the credit union is enhanced and the members and employees feel good about the credit union, which in turn creates an esprit de corps that results in an incredibly positive atmosphere for everyone. The credit union is a role model, an agent of change, within the community; we lead the way in showing others that a happy, productive society results from our core mission: people helping people.
It's so easy to pull back during hard times, but that's exactly when the need is the greatest. When times are hard, it's the credit unions that have stood up for the underserved. And it's the credit unions that must stand up for their communities and those in need.
Community involvement pays dividends in so many ways on so many levels-all seemingly intangible, yet all with tangible results. Good will, an institution to be admired and emulated as a positive role model, an institution that members and employees can be proud of, and of course, the good feeling and team bonding that results from working together to help others.
Let's remember who we are and what we stand for. During hard times more than ever, we need to remember our mission and reach out to those in need. What we give always comes back to us multiplied many times over, as together, we show the credit union difference-and make a difference in our communities everywhere.