Colo. CU League Now Association; Out-of-Staters Can Join

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Armed with a new name, the Credit Union Association of Colorado is expanding its ability to add member CUs and preparing to launch a branding campaign.

John Dill, president of the CUAC-formerly known as the Colorado CU League-told The Credit Union Journal a bylaws change passed at the April 21 meeting will "allow out-of-state credit unions, under some circumstances, to join as full members" of the association.

"They must have a brick-and-mortar presence in the state, and they must be members of good standing in their own league," Dill explained. "We have a number of credit unions in Colorado that have multi-state presences."

Bill Sterner, president of U of C FCU and incoming chairman of the board for the CU Association of Colorado, said the provision requiring membership in another league was designed to ensure those leagues did not feel as if the Colorado Association is trying to take its members. "We want everyone to be at the party," said Sterner. "If credit unions have members here, we want them to be on the team."

According to Dill, who also serves as CEO of the Wyoming CU League, the two states soon will launch a branding campaign. "We need to get the credit union story out there," he said. "Branding will be increasingly more important."

In recent months, Dill continued, a task force comprised of CEOs from a cross-section of Colorado's credit unions examined issues related to a branding campaign and made recommendations. Several town hall meetings were held in locations across the state to allow CUs to ask questions and voice concerns. The major issue was cost, he said.

One advantage Colorado and Wyoming CUs have compared to those in California and Nevada (who are in the second year of a public advocacy campaign) is Colorado and Wyoming CUs are "able to do branding for business purposes, while California and Nevada credit unions had to drive support in case of bank attacks," said Dill.

Because Colorado and Wyoming CUs have a relatively good relationship with banks in their states, the branding campaign does not have to address that issue, he added.

Sandra Neves, president of Fitzsimons Community FCU in Aurora, Colo., served as chair of the task force that examined the branding campaign. She said the biggest surprise of the beta campaign was the general public does know much about credit unions. "They just don't know why they should join," said Neves.

The CU Association of Colorado also is expanding its political activities, Dill said. Two years ago, it hired Peter Kirchhof as senior VP-governmental affairs and public policy. Kirchhof brought 18 years of lobbying experience with the Colorado state legislature into his new post.

"We wanted to reinvigorate governmental affairs and reassert ourselves in the state capital," said Kirchhof. "There is a lot of activity that affects business in the state capital, and we want to make sure credit unions operate in an environment to make them successful."

"As the 'new guy,' I see credit unions are good at campaign grassroots on an issue-by-issue basis," Kirchhof continued. "Credit unions get thousands of people at rallies. We are trying to change the mindset to get people to do it every day."

To that end, the Association in February hired a grassroots advocacy manager, Chris Kemm, who will oversee organizing and educating CU members and mobilizing them to write e-mails and letters to representatives. "We are building a plan that will allow us to be proactive, not just reactive," said Kirchhof.

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