Taking your Credit Union Membership from Crowd to Tribe

This entry was posted by Wednesday, 8 February, 2012
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To us ‘credit union folk’, the value of membership is rooted in our core. We know that membership to a cooperative means ownership. It means we are a part of something greater, a community of shared interest, we’re among friends. To those who are new to cooperatives, or are just now discovering the value of membership and ask us to define it– we sometimes struggle to share the warm and fuzzy feeling that we get just thinking of words to describe it!

I’ve started reading the book “Tribes” by bestselling author (and also past CUNA’s ACUC speaker), Seth Godin.  On the book-flap, Godin describes a tribe as, “any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea.” The book’s concept is to focus on leadership with a different spin, tribe leadership.

Win this book by sharing your examples below

As I page through the book, I am flooded with the Credit Union and cooperative parallels to tribes.  I’m amazed at the interchangeability between ‘organization’ and ‘tribe’ and ‘membership’.  However, on page 30 it really started getting sticky. Godin defines the difference between crowds and tribes.

Crowds and Tribes, he outlines, are…

“Two different things:

  • A crowd is a tribe without a leader.
  • A crowd is a tribe without communication.

Most organizations spend their time marketing to the crowd. Smart organizations assemble the tribe.”

How are credit unions ‘assembling the tribe’ versus ‘managing a crowd’?  How are we showing potential tribe members we’re exactly what they’re looking for?  On paper, it’s apparent that credit union membership trumps taking your money to any other financial institution. The 7 cooperative principles alone should convince any person off the street to move their money to a CU on the spot. To find out how credit unions are assembling their tribes, I started my search with ‘credit union principles’.

To my delight, I found a variety of great examples of doing it right:

Be Engaging – My favorite example of ‘assembling the tribe’ is how the crew at Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union   uses the principles as the foundation for their credit union’s blog – http://www.7principles.coop/ . The blog seems to serve as a primary communication valet for the CU’s tribe. This crowd has turned tribe with a widespread communication hub (I can also see they’re ‘liked’ by 895 Facebook friends). Also, their new ‘tribe leader’ is also featured in a recent blog post! 

Be Entertaining – One of my favorite CU videos by gira{ph}. This video spells out our CU Principles clearly in black and white (with a little red, too).

Be Fun – A great way to bring together your CU staff ‘tribe’ is to create an enjoyable work environment.  Have you seen this debut video from The Summit FCU last week? It must be gratifying to work for CU that can crack a joke, make fun videos, and capitalize on the latest craze!  With nearly 4,000 views in less than a week, the fun is definitely far-reaching.  Another fine example of assembling the tribe.

What is your CU doing to change your membership from crowd to tribe? 2012 is the International Year of cooperatives, what better opportunity to shout from the rooftops the benefits of credit union membership. Is your credit union taking this unique opportunity to engage your membership? We would love to showcase how your credit union is assembling the tribe (of membership, of staff, of potential membership).  Please share your best practices below and be automatically entered to win a copy of “Tribes” by Seth Godin. 


CONTEST NOTES: Contest begins today and ends on Wed., Feb. 15th at 11:59PM (ct). Winners will be chosen by a random number generator. Make sure you leave an email address where you can be contacted.  The winner will be notified via e-mail and will also be announced on the blog.  The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants received.  No purchase necessary to win. Void where prohibited.      This competition is offered by Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and is open to anyone who comments on this post and is at least 18 years of age. Employees of CUNA and family members of such employees are not eligible to enter.   CUNA shall not have any liability for any malfunction of or damage to the prize. The award winner may be responsible for applicable state or federal taxes on the value of the contest prize

3 Responses to “Taking your Credit Union Membership from Crowd to Tribe”

  1. Rhea

    We are working on getting our Facebook page active and engaging for members.

  2. Perhaps what is missing is a discussion of how the consumer benefits from being part of the the “tribe”. An important question to explore is ‘Does the consumer WANT to be part of your “tribe”?’ especially given that he / she are likely part of several other ‘tribes’.

    Being engaging, entertaining and fun is terrific advice, but is that what Credit Union members & prospective members want / need from their Financial Services provider? And let’s not forget that engaging to one person is downright boring to another. Focusing on consumer needs / wants is absolutely essential, even if this means changing the culture at a given CU. After all, a CU is nothing without its members!

  3. @ Rhea – Great to see that you are working not only on getting your facebook page up, but focusing on making it engaging for members. This is a great source of gaining insight into what is important to your members.

    @ Serge – Thanks for the comment. I agree that what is interesting to one person may not be to another (as does the saying “one mans trash is another’s treasure”). The same goes for ‘what do CUs offer that covers your members’ (collectively ‘a tribe’) needs?’. Practicing frequent discussions/polls/surveys/focus groups to establish the needs of membership is a good practice for any credit union (and all other organizations) to provide superior service. To provide exceptional service, you may want to think bigger. A great way of finding out what your membership wants and needs is to establish a communication channel – tribal communication :)

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