Best, Charitable, Clarified, Media (& Odd) Practices

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Well, we asked for it.

Several months back The Credit Union Journal invited readers to submit their own "Best Practices." We weren't looking for a specific type of best practice and we didn't divide the pie up according to asset size, believing a good idea is a good idea.

It's interesting to keep in mind that while there has been a good deal of discussion (albeit more of a lament) within the credit union community about the erosion of cooperation, credit unions continue to show-with a few exceptions-a general willingness to share their best practices with one another. After all, no bank publication features banks stepping forward to share with other banks their best ideas and strategies. Indeed, many banks require as part of their contracts with various vendors a non-disclosure agreement preventing the provider from even blowing its own horn.

It may well be that some very good Best Practices do not appear in the Special Report that begins on page 15 because some credit unions may be cooperatives but see no reason to cooperate, and they, too, have laid down the law with their vendors.

But I think you'll agree that the 22 other Best Practices you will find just a few pages away represent some unique approaches to common challenges, many of which were developed in-house with little more than a good idea and a shoestring budget.

Our goals in providing this Best Practice package to readers were twofold: first, to recognize credit unions for their innovative approaches, and second, to bring those ideas to other credit unions for their own implementation and tweaking where applicable. The latter, especially, has been at the core of The Credit Union Journal since our inception. In fact, we like to think of it as our own Best Practice.

In the Sept. 19 issue, I noted that UniWyo FCU had been taking some heat from members after it pledged $1-million to the University of Wyoming. The donation comes to about $77.12 per member, and I asked readers what they thought-should credit unions make donations on behalf of members, or return the money and let them do what they want with it? That column generated a number of interesting responses from readers, including UniWyo FCU CEO Larry Knopp, who pointed me in the direction of the credit union's website, where it has assembled numerous FAQs about the donation. If you're interested in seeing how the credit union explained its decision to members, and the changes it has made since announcing the decision, go to www.uniwyo.com and click on the "About Us button.

Related to the above, many credit unions have begun to put marketing dollars behind sponsoring sports teams and stadiums, and one credit union that recently did so declined a Credit Union Journal reporter's question on how much was being spent. If you're spending your members' money, especially on a broad initiative, you have an obligation to those members to tell them where their money went. They still own the place, after all.

In the Oct. 3 issue I profiled former NCUA Board Member Debbie Matz on her thoughts as she exited the agency. As part of that interview I quoted Matz as saying that among the most pleasant surprises to her when she joined NCUA was that the regulator "really understands the differences in credit unions and respects the fact that a credit union is not a credit union." Matz asked that I clarify the second part of that statement to ensure credit unions understood her to mean that each credit union is treated individually and not as part of some blanket approach.

As reported on page 1, Utah's bankers have again teamed with the American Bankers Association to challenge a field of membership approved for a credit union in that state. At issue, specifically, are expansions to serve low-income communities and the underserved. Once again credit unions find themselves on the defensive, and in this case, incredibly, it's for serving people the banking industry doesn't want! While this case will be battled in the courts, it seems to be quite the opportunity for credit unions to turn this around and put banks on the defensive.

Credit union spokespersons need to leverage every media opportunity to drive home the point that banks are attempting to ensure that those who already have little money have even less. When banks counter that there are also middle- and even upper-income people in these areas, credit unions must stress that credit unions are cooperatives, not charities, and it is the presence of members who have funds to deposit that allows a credit union to loan those funds back out.

Finally, Visa recently reported that if all the Visa check card transactions completed over the past year were paper checks, they would weigh 7,135 tons. Visa didn't release word on how much paper was used to issue the press release with that information.

Frank J. Diekmann is editor of The Credit Union Journal and can be reached at fdiekmann cujournal.com.

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