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Credit unions are discovering the value of member advisory councils. These groups can act as sounding boards and referral networks to hone new product offerings and to find new members, employees, and directors.
Councils vary in purpose, composition, and types of activities. But credit unions using this approach have learned there’s one overarching guideline to follow when creating a council: Think not only about what your credit union hopes to gain, but also about how your members can benefit from the council.
Local Government Federal Credit Union (LGFCU), Raleigh, N.C., has 28 advisory councils with 476 members. The councils play a critical role in helping the credit union stay connected to 189,000 members statewide.
LGFCU has a contractual agreement with Raleigh-based State Employees’ Credit Union through which LGFCU provides services to LGFCU members at State Employees’ branches.
“We have no storefront,” explains Sandy Green, volunteer development officer at the $1 billion asset LGFCU. “We rely on people who believe in the credit union to go out to tell others about the benefits of membership.”
LGFCU has had member councils dating back to the mid-1980s. But they got new life in late 2006 when Green was hired to oversee volunteer development full time.
“Volunteers on our councils are ‘virtual’ volunteers,” she explains. “I send regular e-mails to let them know what’s happening at the credit union, and we send out the occasional survey.”
In-person meetings occur twice a year—once in the spring when council members gather in Raleigh, and again in the fall during a round of meetings held in different parts of the state.
Council members also receive The Wing, a quarterly newsletter targeted to them. And they can contact LGFCU anytime to offer feedback and suggestions.
Examples of suggestions implemented so far include creating a youth website, developing a volunteer orientation program, and placing an LGFCU sticker on the doors of State Employees’ branches to enhance LGFCU’s identity.
In 2008, LGFCU launched a youth council, called "Our Generation-Speakin’ Up," made up of middle- and high-school students who meet twice a year.
A private Facebook-like page is being developed to facilitate the exchange of ideas and information.
All 28 advisory councils are vital to LGFCU, Green says. “We have 60 employees. But by having another 476 sets of eyes and ears out there paying attention to what’s going on, we absolutely serve our members better.”