Ben Rogers from The Filene Research Institute posted a comment on this post asking what XYZ credit union could do to be more cause oriented. It got me thinking, what does it take to be cause oriented?
Consider your cause the way you would your brand. In fact, as a credit union, our cause should be a major part of our brand image. The best way to draw people in is to show how you are different from a bank; rate and fee changes aren't going to do that.
The first step in being cause oriented is to figure out who it is you serve. Do you serve a certain business/industry or do you serve a geographic location? You might not think it makes that big a difference, but different demographics require tailored products, services, and community involvement efforts.
Once you know who exactly you are serving it comes down to knowing what they want to see. After all, we are serving them, not the other way around. Talk to people, ask questions, find out how they are "wired". Do they want to see you offering small business support, beautifying the area, offering loans to people who can't get them at a bank, or taking care of a homeless problem in their community.
Once you have that information, change is required. What use is collecting all this information if you just say you support your field of membership without actually shifting your position to serve those people. It isn't just a numbers game (although in the financial industry it always comes down to that) it is a creative process to create products, programs, and events tailored to your members and potential members.
Be a catalyst for change and people will join you because they support what you believe in. An advocate for a cause will have a much more meaningful, involved and *cough*"profitable"*cough* relationship with your institution than somebody who joined to get a free gift. That isn't to say there isn't a place for free stuff, but it shouldn't be the only reason people come through your credit union's door.
Don't be afraid to be different, that's kind of the point here. If you do something different in a way people can see, it will draw more eyes to your cause and, in turn, to your credit union. There will always be a place for touting high deposit rates or low auto loan rates, but that isn't going to make people say, "ohhh so that's what the credit union movement is, that's awesome! I want to be a part of that!" When people start talking that way, you know you've done your job as a cause oriented institution.