To Add Members, Think ‘Bold’ and ‘Local’

Learn the secrets of five CUs that have experienced dramatic membership growth.

August 20, 2014
KEYWORDS growth , membership
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Capital Communications FCU headquarters


By attracting younger members, Capital Communications Federal Credit Union in Albany, N.Y., was able to lower the average age of its members to 38—well below the national average age of almost 49.

The $1.1 billion credit union achieved that youth movement with comprehensive college planning services, financial education, and monetary rewards for students.
Two full-time employees manage the College Bound program, which has helped about 3,000 families navigate the complex application, preparation, and funding process during the past two years.

Paula Stopera, Capital Communications FCU“I would venture to say College Bound is maybe the best program in the country for credit unions in preparing families for the college journey – not just the expense, but what to be prepared for, how to position yourself to be accepted,” Capital Communications Federal CEO Paula Stopera says.

The credit union also oversees financial education efforts in 73 area schools that are coordinated by volunteer groups such as parent teacher associations, and opened a high school branch run by a teacher from the business department and students from the class. That initiative has brought in 5,000 new young households over the last five years, according to Stopera.

Also, Capital Communications Federal gives student members $10 for every above-average report card, and this year distributed $57,000 in scholarships.

“That’s a big win for us,” Stopera says.

The credit union has tripled its membership to 112,000 during Stopera’s 10 years as CEO, and boasts a 2.9 products per household ratio, per Raddon. “We’ve grown significantly through our youth programs,” she says.

Considerable room for growth remains, thanks to a strong local economy based in scientific applications. Capital Communications Federal bought a mortgage subsidiary three years ago to service the influx of first-time home buyers and members interested in refinancing.

“Our challenge is to keep up with it all. We’re very fortunate that we’re very busy,” says Stopera, who aims to instill credit union principles in young leaders in her organization.

“You can have a very successful business without focusing on profits,” she explains. “If people are taken care of, the profits will come.”

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