Community Service

Is CU History Still Relevant?

Our history helps build the framework people rely on when they think about CUs.

October 15, 2013
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On a sweltering summer day in late June 1977, I walked through the back doors of CUNA’s Filene House in Madison, Wis., to begin what is now a 35-year career in the credit union movement. I had been a credit union member since college, but I didn’t have a clue that credit unions were much more than just a different way of saying “bank.”

On that first day I was given a copy of “The Credit Union Movement,” by J. Carroll Moody and Gilbert C. Fite. My boss also told me to spend time browsing through the bound volumes of Credit Union Magazine that went back to the early 1930s.

The magazine was then named The Bridge because credit unions were designed to provide a bridge from economic hardship to economic opportunity.

Now that the movement has surpassed $1 trillion in total assets and the number of members soon will exceed 100 million, does our history still matter? Is it still relevant?

Credit unions have been so successful that Americans of all income stripes and colors have access to cooperative financial institutions whose primary mission is service and not profit. Our current legislative battles are just the latest in a century-long war to extend the credit union option to as many Americans as possible.
 


Just as early credit unions served as a bridge for working men and women to what became the great American middle class, we must continue to evolve as a necessary strategic response to the economic times in which our members live today.

Credit unions’ future will require nimbleness and innovation. Some will argue that looking too often in the rearview mirror prevents us from seeing both opportunities and obstacles ahead. They might argue that history serves only to pigeonhole credit unions as niche institutions designed to play a limited role.

Banks certainly believe that to be the case. Note their perpetual state of hysteria when it comes to anything that hints of credit union empowerment. Their heavy-handed campaign to prevent Congress from raising the cap on member business lending is just the latest salvo in an endless campaign of aggression against credit unions.

Our history as financial cooperatives defines us like nothing else. History provides meaning and purpose to our future.

It’s why the public and Congress supported credit unions in 1997 when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling threatened consumer access to credit unions. That threat triggered a strong and united response that enabled credit unions to pass the Credit Union Membership Access Act in only a few months.

NEXT: The past is essential to the future

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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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