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Discover the Value of Member Advisory Councils

Determine how both your CU and members can benefit from such councils.

November 29, 2010
KEYWORDS advisory , councils , lgfcu
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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.

Subscribe to Credit Union MagazineLocal 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.”

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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