Archive for category History & Philosophy

A Reflective Celebration

Posted by on Thursday, 23 August, 2012

This post originally appeared on, where CUNA regularly provides articles related to credit union topics for their CU Community page.

From Joe Day:

Members Matter Most“Members Matter Most” – it’s time to let out the secret. Working for cooperatively owned financial institutions, we all know that every action we take at our credit unions is in the direct interest of our members. This member-focused attitude is also what sets us apart from other financial institutions. On October 18, the credit union movement will celebrate International Credit Union Day® (ICU Day) and will have the chance to share our message with the world.

“Members are the focal point this year, just as they are every single day in credit unions,” said Joanne Sepich, CUNA’s ICU Day coordinator. “While credit union staff always put members first, ICU Day is an opportunity to remind members that credit unions are different by design—members are what make credit unions unique and set them apart as for-people, not-for-profit, cooperatively owned financial institutions.”

The first International Credit Union Day was established by the Credit Union League of Massachusetts in 1927. Originally “Credit Union Day” (CU Day), was established on January 17 in honor of the great “Apostle of Thrift,” Benjamin Franklin. Unfortunately, at the time when CU Day was established, the credit union movement in North America was just getting started, and it was hard to celebrate a movement most people had never heard of. Inevitably, CU Day faded away.

Twenty-one years later, in 1948, the centennial of the first credit union arrived. By then, about five million people belonged to 12,000 credit unions in the United States and Canada. Credit Union National Association (CUNA) decided that it was time to give CU Day new life this time with a national celebration set aside on the third Thursday of October. We have been celebrating ever since.

Today, credit unions and associations in every part of the world celebrate with open houses, contests, picnics, fairs, festivals and parades. Others hold athletic competitions and essay or art contests for young members. Public gatherings with visiting dignitaries have effectively attracted media attention and public involvement, as have educational and public service events.

Since ICU Day generates a lot of positive attention every year, it seems only logical that our movement will continue to grow; the reality remains an uphill challenge. Still, many members of the general public do not know what a credit union is, where their nearest credit union is located, or the advantages credit unions offer over other financial institutions.

According to CUNA’s Credit Union Environmental Scan (E-Scan) :

  • About 37% of all nonmembers are “not at all familiar” with credit unions.
  • 69% of consumers ages 18-24 claim to be “not at all familiar” with credit unions.
  • About 18% of all Americans are either unbanked or underbanked.

These trends are indeed troubling, but they are not irreversible. To help inform potential members of the financial advantages of joining a credit union and direct them to credit unions where they are eligible to join, CUNA and the leagues developed This website initiative has many features designed to help consumers make the “smarter choice” including information that details the significant differences between banks and credit unions, a credit union locator to find the nearest credit union they are eligible to join, a live feed of the most important credit union news stories and testimonials from real members on their experience with credit unions.

Together with International Credit Union Day and, we can work toward bringing to light the best kept secret in the financial services industry. As we celebrate ICU Day in October, take a moment to reflect upon not only the positive difference credit unions make around the world, but also the large number of people missing out on the party. Remember, it is never too late to start writing invitations.

How does your credit union plan to celebrate International Credit Union Day in 2012?

Joe Day

Joe Day, Director of Business Development at Credit Union National Association.

Does this sound familiar?

Posted by on Wednesday, 7 September, 2011

This post comes to us from Josh Allison, Relationship Development Manager for Horizon Credit Union in Spokane Valley, WA. Josh will be presenting at CUNA Community Credit Union & Growth Conference, October 24-27 in San Francisco, CA.

It’s a recent email Josh sent to the Credit Union Development Educator email list serve. After reading the post—and the subsequent email discussion it generated—The CUNAverse team thought it would be great to share Josh’s thoughts with you, our readers…

From Josh Allison:

Josh Allison

Josh Allison

Good morning CUDE network!

Last night I saw a commercial for Lending Club. The premise? Simple. Some people deposit money so others can borrow at better rates. Or, as the website says: “Companies like Lending Club are cutting out the middle man − banks − to offer consumers the opportunity to lend money directly to others and obtain a higher return.”

Sound familiar?

A few weeks prior to that, I saw a TED video from the founder of Kiva. The premise? Simple. Some people deposit small amounts of money so micro loans can be made for budding entrepreneurs around the world. So, some people loan money so others can borrow it at more favorable rates. By the way, in her TED talk, Jessica Jackley mentions that she saw an “unmet need” for lending, which is why she started Kiva.

Sound familiar?

And a few months ago, I saw an article on a new program called ride share. The premise? Simple. Members “pool” together and share a ride. You become a member and benefit from the “ride community”.

Again, sound familiar?

Key words being used in all of these ideas include:

  • Community
  • Need
  • Club
  • Membership
  • Pool
  • Join
  • Together
  • Benefit

These words have historically belonged to the credit union movement. And now we’re sharing them with trendy new companies? Lending club explained their “club” concept in 31 seconds and I got it. Are our members “getting” our concept?

Two questions:

1. Are we articulating our CU difference and community concept, as well as these companies are…and in a way that resonates with a growing number of consumers who value this type of “community”?

2. Are we leading this new consumer trend for “mutual self help” or following from behind?

Josh Allison, CUDE

Relationship Development Manager | Horizon Credit Union


Interested in hearing more from Josh Allison?

You can learn more about this topic from Josh and many others at the CUNA Community Credit Union & Growth Conference, October 24-27 in San Francisco, CA.

Peer-to-Peer Lending and the Credit Union Tradition (Pt. 2)

Posted by on Monday, 29 August, 2011

In this, the second part of a two-part series, Matthew Cropp outlines his opinion on how peer-to-peer lending may help credit unions capitalize on the the social capital of their members. Don’t miss Matthew’s first post on the topic, here.

From Matthew Cropp:

When Alphonse Desjardins and Edward Filene began spreading credit unionism in North America at the beginning of the twentieth century, their primary motivation was to stop loan sharks from preying on those of modest means.

Have you seen The True Story of Credit Unions comic book?

At that time, most banks felt that small consumer loans were too risky and costly to be worth providing, and so, when they needed credit, working people often had to turn to loan sharks who would charge hundreds, or even thousands, of percent interest. Such debts could quickly spin out of control and immiserate borrowers, who would often end up paying many times the loan’s principle.

Thus, to bring affordable credit within reach of millions of people, the early credit union model functioned to leverage the social capital of members by requiring that credit unions have a narrow common bond. In practice, this often took the form of a workplace, church, or neighborhood; essentially, any community in which people regularly interacted with each other in roles other than that of “credit union member.” The social knowledge generated by those relationships was then used by the organization’s credit committee to determine whether or not to approve a loan.

The volunteers on the credit committee were respected community members who were elected democratically by the membership as a whole, and they generally viewed their role as an important trust. Thus, while commercial banks shied away from borrowers of modest means, credit unions were able to leverage the social capital of their “host” communities in order to fill the gap by providing low-interest loans to their members.

However, as the banking industry grew and became more sophisticated following the Second World War, the consumer credit niche that credit unions had dominated became more and more competitive. Pressured to provide increasingly complex and capital-intensive services in order to remain relevant, the nexus of the credit union movement’s growth shifted from the creation of new credit unions to increasing the size of existing credit unions through mergers. In 1969, the number of individual institutions peaked at 23,761 before beginning a steady, continuous decline.

At its core, this transition from small, tight-knit organizations to the large, community-based credit unions that form the bulk of the contemporary movement represented a profound trade-off.

On the one hand, the new credit unions could leverage economies of scale in order to provide newly developed services that would be far beyond the means of a traditional credit union to offer. Conversely, as they added an increasing diversity of membership groups to their common bonds, the social capital that the new credit unions could leverage for the accurate provision of credit rapidly declined, and the responsibility for determining credit-worthiness shifted from the volunteer credit committee to the professional loan officer.

On net, however, the benefits of economies of scale seemed to trump the losses that came with decreasing institutional social capital, and so the trend towards larger and larger credit unions has persisted down to the present.

The recent (re)emergence of p2p lending suggests that, for credit unions, the economies of scale vs. economies of social capital trade-off may no longer be necessary.

This does not mean a return to the simple credit unions of old; indeed, the nature of “community” has radically changed for many people since the first half of the twentieth century. Back then, there were numerous institutions that people expected to remain part of for large parts of their lives: the life-long employer, the church parish where one was both baptized and laid to rest, etc.

In the modern, globalized, intensely interconnected world, however, the flexibility of many people’s careers and lives means there are few large, geographically stable communities in which they are deeply invested that can be tapped by credit unions for social capital. Community still exists, of course, but its webs of trust and obligation are widely distributed and far more protean than in previous eras.

As such, fully leveraging the social capital of credit union members while also retaining the benefits of economies of scale requires a re-examination of a subtle aspect of credit union identity. In the past, credit unions were founded as institutions that provided their host communities with the infrastructure necessary to financially reinvest in their constituent members. However, as credit unions grew in size through mergers, the institutions’ identification with any particular community decayed, and with that identification went the ability to mobilize that community’s social capital.

What has remained is a commitment to serving the member as an individual rather than as a member of a specific community.

It is this contemporary commitment that provides a powerful opportunity for credit unions to re-engage with the social capital of their members. Instead of being devoted to the development of an already existing community, credit unions might see their current mission as facilitating the development of the plurality of communities in which their members are participants.

There are a variety of ways to approach this goal. In my opinion an obvious one is for credit unions to construct infrastructure that allows their members to lend directly to each other on a peer-to-peer basis. By providing expert guidance and systems designed to make originating, receiving, and collecting such loans a relatively simple process, credit unions would be empowering their members to fully leverage their idiosyncratic social knowledge of each other to increase the availability of credit, especially for people in their communities for whom loans at reasonable rates are currently out of reach.

Though utilizing a novel approach, I would argue that such a program would, in fact, be carrying on the vitally important work, begun by Desjardins and Filene more than a century ago, of credit unions harnessing the power of social capital to improve the lives of under-served and marginalized populations by making available affordable credit.


Matthew Cropp is author of the blog Credit Union History and earned his MA in History at the University of Vermont.

Peer-to-Peer Lending and the Credit Union Tradition (Pt. 1)

Posted by on Wednesday, 24 August, 2011

This is the first in a two-part series from Matthew Cropp, budding historian and author of the blog Credit Union History. Look for his second post in the coming days which outlines Matt’s opinion on how peer-to-peer lending may help credit unions capitalize on the the social capital of their members.

From Matthew Cropp:

In recent years, the emergence of “peer-to-peer” (p2p) lending has been one of the most interesting and discussed trends within the world of financial services. A number of for-profit companies, such as and, have sprung up which allow individuals to make loans directly to each other (minus a service fee), and the open-source project Rain Droplet has been pioneering the provision of such services on a quasi-cooperative basis. The fast-growing industry, which has originated hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, has even been recently featured in the New York Times.

The reason to which much of the media ascribes the success of this phenomenon is that p2p lending represents technologically facilitated dis-intermediation of the provision of credit. By cutting out a large percentage of the bureaucratic apparatus that separates the person with surplus savings from the individual with need for credit, the story goes, “depositors” can receive higher rates of return and “borrowers” lower rates on loans than either would get from a traditional financial institution.

While true as far as it goes, a myopic focus on this dynamic neglects another factor that has been key to the explosive growth of p2p lending: “social capital.”

According to the sociologist Robert Putnam, social capital is the idea that “social networks have value. Just as a screwdriver (physical capital) or a college education (human capital) can increase productivity (both individual and collective), so too social contacts affect the productivity of individuals and groups.”[1]

In the case of the provision of credit, social capital is key to determining the riskiness of a particular loan in two vital ways.

First, it allows for the lender to more accurately assess the riskiness of a borrower. At a traditional financial institution, the relationship between the loan officer who decides whether or not a loan is extended and the potential borrower is generally characterized by a low level of social capital.

Working with such sources as credit scores and interviews in which borrower attempts to put the best face on his or her situation, even the most skillful professional will be left with a great deal of uncertainty that has to be priced into a loan. As a result, many borrowers must pay more than would be necessary had their financial institution access to perfect information, and some deserving borrowers are excluded from credit altogether.

By contrast, the information that a lender who is also a personal acquaintance of a borrower has to work with can potentially be far more comprehensive. Not only can the p2p lender see the same “objective” measures as the aforementioned loan officer, but he or she can also factor in the idiosyncratic knowledge that can only be gleaned from observing the potential borrower in a variety of social situations over time.

Thus, while a borrower with a bad credit score might be rejected by an institutional lender, an acquaintance who better understands the full context of that number might judiciously decide that the borrower could, in fact, meet the desired obligation, and thus decide to extend him or her credit.

In and of itself, such an informational advantage would likely be sufficient to drive the growth of p2p lending. However, its effect is augmented by the fact that greater social capital doesn’t simply allow for more accurate predictions of default risk; rather, it actively reduces that risk.

When an individual defaults on a loan originated by a large institution to which he or she has little social connection, the consequences are predictable and almost entirely economic. That person might have certain objects repossessed and will have more difficulty obtaining institutional credit in the future, but the fabric of relationships that constitute his or her social life remains relatively unaffected.

In addition to carrying the economic consequences outlined above, defaulting on a loan from an acquaintance can have profound social consequences. Not only can it disrupt the valued relationship with the lender (including access to the resources and opportunities that said relationship provides), but the default can also spill over and affect the defaulting borrower’s relationships with mutual acquaintances. Unless there is a very good reason for the default (such as an unexpected job loss or catastrophic health event), those mutual friends would interpret the default as an injustice inflicted upon the lender and might thus socially punish the borrower in a variety of ways.

As such, borrowers are incentivized to work far harder to continue servicing p2p debts than they would debts originated by impersonal financial institutions.

By leveraging social capital in these ways, it is clear that, all other factors held equal, p2p lenders can rationally provide cheaper credit than can impersonal financial institutions. However, when recent journalistic reports have contextualized the practice as a new phenomenon that is entirely dependent on recent technological innovations, they’re ignoring a fundamental fact: that, for its first fifty-odd years, the growth of the credit union movement was driven by the very same dynamics, and that it can, in fact, be understood as having pioneered p2p lending.


More to come in Matt’s next post, including his opinion on why social capital in today’s world can help credit unions.

[1]Bowling Alone, 18.


Matthew Cropp is author of the blog Credit Union History and earned his MA in History at the University of Vermont.


The Credit Union Link to James Arness

Posted by on Thursday, 9 June, 2011

While driving home from the grocery store last week my girlfriend mentioned James Arness had passed.  It was sad news to hear, but not necessarily because I was an avid viewer of Gunsmoke or a fan of Mr. Arness’ acting.  It is very sad to hear of his passing because he has a significant link to credit union history.

Here’s how…

In 1977, ABC aired the “epic” western mini-series, “How the West Was Won,” staring James Arness, Eva Marie Saint, and Bruce Boxleitner.  The mini-series garnered a 50-share.  Due to the huge response, “How the West Was Won” returned in 1978 as a TV series.

During the 1970s, CUNA sponsored the National Advertising Program (NAP) an effort to pool credit union resources in order to create advertising campaigns and purchase advertising spots on a national scale.   At the time, the campaign claimed to reach over 325 million people through its combined magazine and television efforts.  As of 1978, the “crown jewels” of the campaign included award winning Tournament of Roses Parade floats and purchasing commercial spots during the “How the West Was Won” mini-series.

Continuing into the future, the NAP secured additional ads during the TV series and participation in the 1980 Winter Olympics.  Appeals for continued support stated the cooperative philosophy: “We have all reaped the benefits because we have all shared in the effort.  Our success shows that all kinds of people getting together can get things done.”

James Arness’ image was used by the NAP for counter displays, newspaper and magazine ads, stuffers, posters, and badges.  Below are some of the “Bullet Proof” ideas offered by the NAP at that time. You might find them helpful for your credit union:

  • Stage a “Credit Union Pardner Day” around the Old West theme at the credit union; encourage staff to wear bandanas and ten-gallon hats, to promote a new service at the credit union.
  • “Deputize” your credit union staff using sheriff’s badges to promote “How the West Was Won.”
  • Sponsor a Western night featuring a Western band or singers for your Annual Meeting.
  • Set up a canteen with coffee in the credit union encouraging pardners to feel welcome.
  • Sponsor a “Chuckwagon Dinner” at the credit union selling tickets for the event and conduct a contest for the member who brings in the most new members during the “HTWW” viewing time.
  • Organize a “possee” to clean up the neighborhood.  A good public relations effort for your credit union.

With the passing of James Arness the credit union movement loses another iconic figure.

James Arness, May 26,1923-June 3, 2011.

Women in the Early Credit Union Movement

Posted by on Wednesday, 18 May, 2011

Women were crucial to the success of the early U.S. Credit Union Movement. Credit unions would not be where they are today without they’re leadership, courage, and talent.

This article, originally written by Gabriel Kirkpatrick, highlights a few of those women who helped shape credit unions here in the United States. Their contribution cannot be overstated.

Written by Gabriel Kirkpatrick:

Gladys Bergengren

Gladys Burroughs Bergengren

Besides being the wife of the credit union pioneer and his constant chauffeur to meetings, she organized credit unions in her own right and earned a membership in the Founders’ Club. After Roy Bergengren’s death, she represented the family at many functions, including the dedication of the Filene memorial in Boston, the dedication of the Bergengren Credit Union School in Fiji, and the dedication of the Bergengren Memorial Museum Library in Filene House. She attended many CUNA annual meetings and had an active interest in the movement until her death at the age of 96.

Julia D. Connor

An administrative secretary in the Farm Credit Administration in Philadelphia was hired by Claude R. Orchard, Director of the Bureau of Credit Unions, in 1934. She distributed information on organizing credit unions to interested groups and was an enthusiastic spokesperson for credit unions. In February, 1938 she went to work for the Pennsylvania Credit Union League where she was employed as the first full-time executive. Most of her time was spent organizing credit unions and seeking league affiliation for credit unions which already existed. She collected dues, maintained statistics, and prepared reports of league and credit union meetings. She finally resigned in 1942 because of failing health. She had endured some prejudice in her position with the league. One director remarked: “It’s pretty hard for a bunch of men to let a woman get out in front and lead them.” Her replacement, a man, received a salary which was more than double what she had received, and he was also promised an 18% increase after five years.

Agnes C. Gartland

Agnes C. Gartland

In 1928, she was hired by Roy F. Bergengren as his assistant at the Credit Union National Extension Bureau (CUNEB). Bergengren spent so much time on the road that Agnes was virtually in charge of the office during his absences. She became manager of the League Central Committee which was the forerunner of CUNA Supply Cooperative. When the national association moved to Madison, Wisconsin, she moved with it. There she continued to work as Bergengren’s assistant and was also the manager of CUNA Supply Cooperative for its first few years. In 1938 she returned to Massachusetts where she became the managing director of Massachusetts CUNA, retiring from her position in 1959. She continued to assist other credit unions and leagues as well. Her correspondence with Bergengren, after he retired to Vermont and was organizing credit unions there, is one of the main sources of information we have on the progress of the credit unions from the vantage point of those no longer in the forefront of the national movement.

Frances P. Habern

Frances P. Habern

Began working for the Massachusetts Credit Union Association in September, 1919. In 1921 she was elected secretary-treasurer of the Massachusetts Credit Union League. She edited a column, “The Pioneers”, in The Bridge for several years. This covered significant events, questions, and accomplishments of the Massachusetts League. She was the major source of information for member credit unions, and she fielded questions which came to her. She organized credit unions and followed up with each of them to be sure they became fully operational. She attended Chapter meetings and offered her services to anyone needing them. She continued to work for the league until her death in 1938.

Gertrude Shelby Mathews

As a writer for the cooperative movement, several articles on cooperative credit appeared in Harper’s under her husband’s name, but later she wrote a series of articles under her own, including one on the caisses populaires in Canada. She was an active promoter of cooperative principles throughout her life.

Louise Herring, "a mere girl"

Louise McCarren (Herring), 1909-1987

Was sent to the Estes Park Meeting in 1934 by the Kroger Company (much to the dismay of Roy Bergengren who thought she was too young and referred to her as “a mere girl”). In fact, she was the youngest delegate to the meeting. She proved herself, though, by taking an active part in the conference. Returning to Cincinnati, she organized the Kroger Company Credit Union and went on from there to become managing director of the Ohio Credit Union League and assisted Bergengren in organizing the Michigan League as well. She remained the Managing Director of the Ohio League for nine years. Bergengren wrote of her, “I am inclined to think offhand that Miss McCarren would do a better job as managing director in Ohio than almost any man who could be available. The only argument I can see against her is my hoop-skirted thinking.” She married and raised five children while continuing her interest in credit unions. Over the years, she helped to organize more than 500 credit unions and continued to manage the Cincinnati Arts Credit Union for many years. In 1976, she was recognized by the Ohio General Assembly as the “mother of the credit union movement in America.” Then in 1983 she was inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame, alongside Edward A. Filene and Roy F. Bergengren. Several of her children also became credit union employees.

Dora Maxwell

Dora Maxwell (Steigman), 1897-1985

The most prominent woman in the early credit union movement, she learned about credit unions through her interest in the cooperative movement. In 1920, she helped organize a community church credit union in New York. This brought her to the attention of Roy Bergengren, who was looking for talented people to help him organize credit unions in each state. He helped her to organize the Brooklyn Postal Employees Credit Union and she went on to organize more on her own. In 1931, Bergengren asked her to work as a field organizer for the Credit Union National Extension Bureau (CUNEB). She was one of the signers of the CUNA constitution and bylaws at Estes Park. When CUNA was established in Madison, she worked as a field representative and wrote a column, called “Howdy Gals”, for The Bridge. She also wrote the column, “What About it” for a time. She became the Director of the Organization and Education Department of CUNA. By 1947 she had risen to be in-line for the Assistant Manager position at CUNA. Ultimately, she resigned because other directors would not accept the idea of a woman being managing director. She returned to New York State and continued to work for the Eastern District as a credit union organizer until 1955. CUNA’s Social Responsibility Recognition Program was named after Dora Maxwell and recognizes credit union involvement in community projects and activities.

Angela Melville

Angela Melville

A field representative for the National Credit Union Extension Bureau (CUNEB). She organized credit unions, primarily in the South (Kentucky and Tennessee) particularly among women’s groups, the poor, miners, postal workers, and railroad workers. She helped organize several leagues and chapters. Her service with the credit union movement was short-lived, but she nevertheless achieved much for CUNEB, including writing the first guide to credit union practice, Some Hints as to Usual Credit Union Practice, which ran through many editions and was the only publicity item for the movement for years. Angela Melville eventually moved to Jamaica where she became active in the credit union movement there.

Lillian Schoedler walking with Edward A. Filene

Lillian Schoedler

Administrative assistant to Edward A. Filene during the last six years of his life, she accompanied him on his credit union trips around the United States in 1933, 1934, and 1935. She set up meetings between Filene and credit union leaders in each state. She took extensive notes on all the credit union meetings and maintained lists of everyone he visited. She was an active participant at the Estes Park Conference and left a detailed record of proceedings there. She also accompanied Filene on his last trip to Europe and was with him at his death in September 1937. After Filene’s death, she sorted and archived his papers, eventually turning them over to the Twentieth Century Fund. They were ultimately presented to the CUNA.

What do the International Year of Cooperatives, Dragon Tales, & the Detroit Robocop Sculpture have in common?

Posted by on Wednesday, 6 April, 2011

From: Sarah Arthurs M.Ed.

Some of us are of the Dragon Tales generation. We either watched Dragon Tales (a cartoon for 3-to-7 year olds) as kids, have children who have watched Dragon Tales, or maybe even sat with grandkids and flew to Dragonland.

One of the dragons has two heads, Zak and Wheezie. As you can imagine the plot often involves their having differences of opinion and the two needing to come to a common decision.  Zak is the calm and tidy one, while Wheezie is more excitable and carefree—known for saying “LOOOOOVE IT” when she approves of something.

It is my observation that the credit union community has a lot in common with Zak and Wheezie; we are like a two-headed friendly dragon.

One of our heads is our established, institutional, hierarchical nature with obligations commitments and structures.  All good!  Our other head is our grassroots beginnings, our member driven agendas, our democratic infrastructure and commitment to socially progressive community friendly values.  Also all good!

From the one head we get stability, resources, infrastructures, from the other we get energy, ideas, relevance and responsiveness.  One provides the answer to the question HOW, the other the answer to the question WHY.

As we look toward the International Year of Cooperatives we need to benefit from the contributions of both of our heads. This can happen through the use of web, social media, and in-person network and strategy sessions.

There are a number of internet crowd-sourcing platforms we can use to harness the power of social media and ask our members, staff, management, and directors how they would like to use the IYC to raise the profile of credit unions as well as celebrate and expand the contributions that we make to our communities.  A successful web platform would empower users to make suggestions, develop ideas, and vote for their preferred ideas.

Crowd-sourcing through social media allows us—in a manner concurrent with our member focus—to begin engaging our members in the IYC experience. It also allows us to demonstrate our commitment to democracy and the input of members by involving them in the process of determining what we might do. Most importantly we can benefit from the wisdom, creativity, and ‘on the groundness’ of members and front line staff.

In-person networking and strategy sessions are a good way to move from the idea generating stage to action plans, timelines, and collaborative partnerships.  Through social media we can enable the two heads of our friendly dragon to collaborate and benefit from the unique and complimentary assets of each. We can enjoy both the “LOOOOOVE IT” factor and the infrastructures and resources of our established organizations.

And where does the Detroit Robocop sculpture fit in?  In just 6 days citizens and friends of Detroit created the idea of the Robocop sculpture, shared it through social media, and were able to find enough resonance to raise more than the $50,000 project required.

Just imagine what we as Credit Unions could do to make the International Year of Cooperatives a significant experience for Credit Unions and the communities we support as we benefit from both of our heads.

Sarah Arthurs M.Ed., C.Psych. is Director, First Calgary Savings; Director, Credit Union Central of Alberta; and a member of the Prairie Sky Co-housing Co-op.  Send Sarah an e-mail at sarah.arthurs[at]

A Historic Night in Wisconsin

Posted by on Thursday, 10 March, 2011

The Disclosures

Last night I witnessed history go down by the Wisconsin state capitol and it had nothing to do with politics.

It was the release party for the first ever “thrift-rock” album.

The album titled (Hey, We’re) The Disclosures features songs and lyrics by the  Madison duo The Disclosures.  The album deals with credit union history, financial education and cooperative structure.

Just got my signed CD!

Our CUNAverse team is super excited to see one of our founding members, Christopher Morris, who is now Director of Communications for the the National Credit Union Foundation, combine his love of music with the credit union industry in such a cool way.

The other half of this fabulous duo is Chad Helminak, Web Producer/Member Development Strategist for the Wisconsin Credit Union League.  On The Disclosures website Helminak share’s  “We had a blast writing and recording our songs and hope that comes through on our album and live performances.”

The Morris Girls - how could I not buy a CD from these adorable girls, well played Christopher!

The release party was attended by a bunch of credit union land folks, friends and family of Christopher and Chad.  We were treated to a live performance of all of the songs off of the album.   A great time had by all, including some folks outside of the industry that found it pretty entertaining to hear songs about credit unions.  Hoping some of them were entertained in to moving their money from their bank to a credit union!

The album is currently available for download on major digital music stores such as iTunes, and others. Physical copies of the CD are available online through the The Disclosures’ website

A Poem About a Credit Union

Posted by on Thursday, 10 March, 2011

We thought this was pretty cool. And since today is March 10th, we thought it would be appropriate to share it with you.

The poem below was delivered in honor of the 5oth anniversary for Dubuque, Iowa’s St. Mary’s Credit Union on March 10, 1984. Msgr. Sigwarth, who crafted the composition, was Assistant Priest when St. Mary’s Credit Union was organized in 1934 and later returned as Pastor.


On the 50th Anniversary of St. Mary’s Credit Union, Dubuque, Iowa

We thank you officers and all good Credit Union men
Each year you made things blossom again.
And now you have gone, just way up there –
Seven times a Millionaire!

Not for Charity or for Gain,
That was the slogan in your campaign,
But for Service unto others
Mindful that we all are brothers.

Service for all those who borrow
To build brighter days for to-morrow.
And for members a fair return
On the interest they would earn.

And each year, all hale and hearty
You put on for members a grand old party.
When to prove you were liquid still,
You left the amber liquid spill.

And now your Golden Jubilee –
Fifty Years of Victory!
We thank you officers and all good Credit Union men
May God Bless all of you, time and time again.

– Msgr. Anthony W. Sigwarth, March 10, 1984


Credit Unions and International Women’s Day

Posted by on Tuesday, 8 March, 2011

Did you know today is International Women’s Day (IWD)?  March 8th, 2011 is also IWD’s 100th anniversary.

So, what is it? IWD is a day to raise awareness for women’s issues and celebrate the impact of women today, and throughout history. IWD is recognized as a national holiday in countries like China and Bulgaria and even Google is commemorating the day.

The first official IWD was in 1911. Rallies were organized across the world to raise awareness for women’s rights to work, hold public office, and vote while speaking out against discrimination.

Google commemorates International Women's Day with new Google logo

Today, describes that modern IWD events range from business conferences and government activities to local women’s craft markets and theatric performances. These events continue to focus on women’s emancipation and equality issues while recognizing women’s various economic, social, and civic achievements throughout history.

There is an excellent article from the Harvard Business Review blog The Conversation which explains—and champions—the role of women as important players in helping to alleviate poverty across the world.

The article is a must-read, focusing on how, “Leveraging the power of women as the gateway to household stability became a fundamental premise of the microfinance business model….” You can read it here.

On this, the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day the article lends a unique perspective on the important role women play in personal finance and is relevant to credit unions here in the U.S., the microfinance efforts of the World Council of Credit Unions, and the empowerment of women everywhere.

The credit union movement is the beneficiary of incredible contributions from women past and present. Women such as Dora Maxwell and Louise Herring advanced the credit union cause and left behind an indelible mark on the movement. Their work is to be celebrated and always remembered especially on a day such as this.

In that spirit, let us celebrate the impact of women on todays credit union front lines–from tellers to volunteers. Credit unions would surely not see the level of success they do today without their tireless contributions.

Indeed, the women who are credit union members are to be celebrated as well. In the United States and abroad women can be considered the backbone of personal finance for the family unit as the Harvard Business Review post implies. In many cases not only do they manage the family finances, women must make the necessary sacrifices to maintain household financial stability.

Therefore reaching women with personal finance education is important. Here in the states CUNA’s Center for Personal Finance developed the Women & Money Seminar-in-a-Box series to help credit unions address specific issues important to their female members.

So let’s celebrate the women in the credit union movement–and in our personal lives–for the contributions they’ve made and the battles they continue to face on this, the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.

Do you have a co-worker, volunteer, or credit union member who you’d like to recognize during International Women’s Day? If so, leave a comment! We’d love to hear your stories.