Thursday, April 17, 2008

BCBNE – The Tweets

On April 5th, as most of you already know, I attended BarCampBank NE. While in the sessions I tried my best to do some live tweeting of my favorite quotes. I went back and read them and found that they contained some information that I missed in my original recap of the day. Taking a cue from Morriss Partee, Here are a few of them and what I took away from them.

During our first discussion session, David Inverarity posed the question, “shouldn’t we have a system so that our members get a say in where our donations go? It is their money after all.” This struck a chord (might I say an epic power chord) with me.

Where does all this donation money come from? Well, from the members of course. This money would usually be redistributed out to members in the form of dividends. Because we use it for donations, the members don’t technically get a return on it. It is money that would otherwise go back into their pockets, so why shouldn’t we consult them as to where we donate their money?

Later in the morning, Ron Shevlin offered some sage insight. It might even be my favorite quote from the whole day. As I mentioned previously in this post, Gene Blishen had just finished describing how Mt. Lehman Credit Union offers large tents to members for weddings or other gatherings. Ron chimed in saying, “Its not about the stories we tell members, its about the stories they tell themselves.”

What is it about your brand that keeps people coming back? What story do they tell themselves in their minds that makes them choose you over the bank down the street? Everybody has a reason for using the same brand over and over. We, as credit unions, talk about the importance of telling your brands story, but it is even more important to create stories that the members tell themselves.

Later in the evening, my final tweeted quote came from Morriss Partee during a great conversation concerning the merging of credit unions. He posed the question “will P2P lending move in to fill the void as the number of small credit unions and community banks decreases?”

There is a general push for credit unions (and banks too) to get larger and larger. Many credit unions are merging with smaller institutions and the small credit union seems to be somewhat of a dying breed.

There is a need for a feeling of community. It is the reason social networking has exploded the way it has. The same goes for P2P lending. People like to feel like they are part of a unique social circle and companies like Zopa and Prosper are catering to that through social lending.

As the number of small credit unions decreases due to mergers and other factors, P2P lenders may move in to pick up the people who seek a personal touch in their banking. How can a large credit union hold on to that personal service with so many members?


Anonymous said...

Hey Andy!

Thanks so much for sharing these additional thoughts!

I was so happy when David brought that up. That's something I've been advocating for several years for credit unions. I originally had that idea after learning about Berkshire Hathaway.... with them, the CEO Warren Buffett, lets his SHAREHOLDERS determine where the contributions go. If that makes sense for a for-profit corporation (which it does), why in the heck wouldn't it also apply to a member-owned non-profit?

I'd still love to see a recap of all your tweets from the day. :)

Christian Mullins said...

Andy, those quotes were excellent, and I'd already forgotten them, but not their impact. I completely agree on the merger topic. It almost feels like an unfortunate inevitability that many credit unions will merge themselves right out of what many members feel is the 'credit union market'. My hope is, as time passes, that credit union mergers will ebb, with new credit unions filling their void. If not, social lending, or some other future entity, will take their place.

Anonymous said...

Andy: I agree with you on getting members involved on community activities and donation direction. Blogs could be a great way to do that.

I do have to say after working at a CU and being in charge of the social responsiblity program and donations it can be an awesome task.

I do think that is where board members (who are the members' voices, too) can help guide donation direction. You have to be prepared to list a few guidelines -- certain focuses -- adopt a schools, youth finance education, League projects, Ening Hunger, Special Olympics, helping those of modest means, Coats for Kids, walks, cooking crepes at a French festival, buying playground balls for schools, Chamber projects, golf outings, March of Dimes, Seniors Plus, helping with taxes at a EITC event, Animal Shelter, etc.

In charge of community relations, my time was also spent at these events before and after work and on Saturdays. I enjoyed it very much. I met new people and learned so much from speaking at schools to helping women in a shelter get back on their feet. I also spoke to a group of people from Somalia. Giving back to the community gives so much to the staff too! CUs need to get employees involved too.

We had a focus on family events - since we had the word family was in the name at the CU I worked at. Having that focus helped manage the request for donations. I can say for a medium size credit union I would have 5-6 calls a week for donations...from members' kids going to cheer camp to the local theater group asking for donations. I would suggest having some guidelines set to help the CU donate the members' $$ in the best way.

And CUs can submit their work to their Leagues' Dora Maxwell and Louise Herring Award Programs.

Debra Trautman

Andy said...

Thanks for the comments!

Morriss, I couldn't agree more. It doesn't make sense for credit unions not to consult their members (owners) on how they distribute funds.

Christian, excellent comment, I don't think credit unions can sustain the amount of mergers that are currently going on. Eventually things will fizzle out or some credit unions will have a change of heart and realize that they might be doing more harm than good by absorbing these small institutions.

Deb, what an awesome comment. You point out that we ought to be looking at our membership and our target audience, seeing what their values are and contributing to places that align with those values. There are so many worthwhile causes, we cant support them all, but we can try and help the ones our members would like us to.

Anonymous said...

It is so true that I must have at least 5 requests come my week weekly.
Interestingly enough, we do have criteria established for helping us manage the incredible amount of requests for donations, but the criteria was established internally, rather than asking members! Food for thought!