What CUs In The Western U.S. Have Planned For Rest Of Year

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Credit unions in the western half of the United States will be busy as 2005 winds down and the calendar moves to 2006.

Here's a look at what lies ahead:

CALIFORNIA

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif.-The California/Nevada league's $6-million public advocacy campaign-which launched in January of this year-has put radio ads on the air in 28 markets in the two states. The radio spots will continue every other week through November, with print support in the respective state capitals and other key cities.

"We are doing everything we can to educate legislators, as well as opinion leaders such as appointed officials," said Kertman. "Credit unions have been under attack for several years, so the goal of the public advocacy campaign is to build and sustain support from these officials for credit union issues."

According to Kertman, the California and Nevada Leagues have been doing "extensive" research in consumer opinions and attitudes towards CUs during the course of the campaign. He said the leagues will report the finding of the research to their member credit unions this month. "We can say we are pleased with the progress to date, as both awareness and support for credit unions are up by members and non-members," he said.

The separate assessment for continuing the public advocacy campaign into 2006 must be approved when the two leagues hold their combined annual convention at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., Oct. 24-26.

Separately, the California CU League has put a heavy emphasis on education this year. Patrick Solares, the league's director of education and training, said it will have hosted a total of 33 webinars [seminars broadcast on the Internet] by the end of 2005, including 13 from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.

Solares said Webinar topics include management development and compliance with regulatory and other issues, but the real value is availability for CU officials who can't leave the office.

The Nevada league's political action committee (PAC) held a night golf fundraiser Aug. 20. Dennis Flannigan, executive vice president of Great Basin FCU in Reno and chairman of the government relations committee for the Nevada league, said the players used glow balls, flashlights, fluorescent necklaces on themselves and fluorescent markers on the pins and in the fairways of the longer holes.

"Even the experienced golfers found it frustrating-the glow ball doesn't do what normal balls do and there's no depth perception-but it was a lot of fun," he said. "We only played nine holes, because it takes a bit longer than regular golf."

Flannigan said the night golf event drew 52 participants. Golf, plus a dinner and raffle, raised $5,500 for the Nevada PAC.

NEW MEXICO

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.-The Credit Union Association of New Mexico is moving forward with an international partnership agreement with Alianza, a trade organization that represents 26 CUs in several states in Central Mexico, Jodi Garber-Simon, CUANM's communications director told The Credit Union Journal.

"This is really exciting," she said. "We have been working on a partnership with Alianza for a while. It will be a learning and sharing partnership. We will hold a planning session during the fourth quarter to work out the details."

One of the CUANM's goals is to better serve the Hispanic market. Garber-Simon said the international partnership will help the association "better understand the cultural differences faced by recent immigrants."

This month, New Mexico will send a delegation to Hike the Hill in Washington comprised of people who have not made the trip before.

Meanwhile, the New Mexico association has prepared an educational program for International Credit Union Week, Oct. 17-21. The "Make a Difference" program includes two versions of a lesson plan: one for grades kindergarten through fourth grade, and the other for grades five through eight. Garber-Simon said the association will encourage CUs to visit their local schools and do classroom presentations.

"For those who might be hesitant or concerned, we have made it a turn-key, really easy lesson plan. All they have to do is read it the day before so they know what they will be saying in the classrooms."

Last year, representatives from 17 New Mexico CUs reached approximately 1,700 elementary school students. The goal is to exceed that number this year.

Earlier this year, the CUANM's board pledged $1 million over five years to the University of New Mexico's Children's Hospital for construction of a new pediatric emergency wing. Garber-Simon said the association will host a fundraising dinner in Albuquerque on International Credit Union Day. To date, pledges from the state's CUs have totaled $180,000. The CUANM hopes to raise an additional $15,000 at the dinner.

ARIZONA

PHOENIX-In October, in conjunction with International Credit Union Day, the Arizona CU System will launch a statewide public relations campaign with the theme: "Members Make it Happen in Arizona." A 16-page CU publication will be distributed as an advertising supplement in the two largest newspapers in the state, the Arizona Republic and the Tucson State Citizen.

"We did a public relations campaign on a smaller scale last year," said Pat Bodnar, senior VP with the Arizona CU System. "This year, we wanted to reach more people. Between the two papers, we will reach 400,000 households."

Planning for the campaign is in the early stages, she continued. "We are getting credit unions committed to purchasing ads. The publication will include consumer information such as how to join credit unions and the CU difference."

The Arizona CU System is forming a coalition to introduce a financial literacy bill to state lawmakers in January 2006, and exploring payroll deduction guidelines to raise funds for its PAC.

COLORADO

ARVADA, Colo.-John Dill, president of both the Colorado and Wyoming CU Leagues, said the coming months will see a focus on four strategic areas: advocacy, communications, education and training, and their for-profit businesses. The latter category includes CU Resource Group, a new initiative designed to help small to medium-sized CUs that was launched earlier this summer.

"CU Resource Group is fully funded. It primarily is in Colorado now, but we plan to expand," he said. "We help in two main areas: HR/healthcare and IT/technology. It is a vehicle by which targeted credit unions can control their own destiny by using the CUSO to help them achieve economies of scale through joint purchasing."

Meanwhile, changes to the league's governmental affairs committee will make it much easier to focus on "the health and growth of credit unions in Colorado," he said.

In Wyoming, the league is lobbying for more financial education in the state, as well as an increased limit for small claims court activity. Dill said the latter will help low-income people.

With many state leagues launching advertising campaigns, Wyoming and Colorado are considering their own. Grace Stanton, the Colorado league's SVP-marketing and communication, is heading the branding task force.

"We are in the process of looking at the feasibility of pursuing a branding campaign," she said. "We are looking at funding options, and investigating whether branding credit unions would make the movement grow and prosper. It is in the beginning stages."

IDAHO

BOISE-Kathy Thomson, vice president of the Idaho Credit Union League, said that while it is in the midst of planning, much of its efforts in the coming months will be focused on its February 2006 state governmental affairs conference.

"We host an event for the state legislators," said Thomson. "They are in session only during the first quarter. We get to know them, brief them on credit unions and what we have to offer members. In addition, we teach attendees of the conference the importance of political involvement."

During the fall the ICUL is hosting three workshops on CEO compensation, plus sessions on marketing credit cards for profit, IRA training and compliance.

HAWAII

HONOLULU-Dennis Tanimoto, president of the Hawaii Credit Union League, said the biggest upcoming event for the Aloha State's CUs is the regulatory and governmental affairs conference, expected to draw 200 people.

The Hawaii League held a planning session in late August to prepare for its October board meeting. The primary agenda item will be to put a five-year strategic plan in effect in response to a member needs and satisfaction survey conducted earlier this year. Of the 97 CUs in Hawaii, 94 have federal charters, said Tanimoto.

"The strategic plan has three areas of emphasis. The first is advocacy efforts to get certain legislative and regulatory issues passed. The second is education: we need to make sure credit union staff members and volunteers get the education they need in a changing environment. Third, information: we need to get information to credit unions in a relevant and timely manner to make sure they are fully informed in the credit union world."

WASHINGTON

FEDERAL WAY, Wash.-Washington's CUs have begun airing two TV spots as part of a cooperative ad campaign, according to Stacy Augustine, SVP-policy and public advocacy. The spots began running in September.

"The first commercial highlights the convenience of shared branching," she said. "It is targeted to a younger demographic because we want to bring them in through shared branching. The older demographic already knows what credit unions are, but young people don't. The ad portrays credit unions as cool, consumer friendly and different from banks." The second spot covers the credit union difference.

A voluntary contribution campaign by Washington's credit unions has raised $530,000 to date for the television advertisements.

On the government relations front, the WCUL is building support for legislation it will be supporting in 2006 regarding the sales tax on the value of all assets when a CU converts from a federal to a state charter. "The tax is a disincentive to conversions," Augustine declared.

OREGON

BEAVERTON-Much of the emphasis this fall for the Credit Union Association of Oregon will be on politics, said Pamela Leavitt, the CUAO's SVP-governmental affairs and public relations.

In addition to a PAC golf tournament and a CEO Summit, it is also doing a Hike the Hill at which "we will emphasize what credit unions in Oregon do for low-income residents and people who want to start small businesses, since that's a big part of CURIA," she added.

During the Congressional recess in August, the CUAO hosted meetings with several U.S. legislators, Leavitt said. During the final quarter of the year, the CU Association of Oregon will offer three webinars and 12 in-person educational seminars on a variety of topics.

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