On October 15, 2015, credit unions and their members across the globe will unite to celebrate International Credit Union Day, an event meant to honor the credit union movement’s impact, history, and achievements. And this is one big party, with 217 million members from over 57,000 credit unions in 105 countries!
Celebrated on the third Thursday of October since 1948, this special day aims to honor those who have dedicated their lives to the movement; recognize the hard work of those working in the credit union industry; raise awareness about the great work that credit unions are doing around the world; give members the opportunity to get more involved; and express member appreciation.
Fueled by the planning efforts and resources of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) who partner to bring ICUD ideas and materials to credit unions each year, the celebrations of the day (or week, or month) are vast, varied, and creative. They often include events and festivities like open houses, contests, member appreciation days, parades, picnics, fairs, special promotions, athletic competitions, essay/art contests for young members and much more!
Every year, a unique theme is selected by WOCCU and CUNA to bring a kind of focus and purpose to that year’s celebrations. The 2015 theme, “People Helping People,” is modelled after the age-old credit union philosophy of helping others and paying it forward. In local communities as well as on a larger global scale, credit unions and their members will be embracing “People Helping People” in traditional and innovative ways.
Redwood Credit Union (Santa Rosa, CA) celebrates ICU Day each year as a day to recognize their members and remind them of the benefits of belonging to a credit union. They also promote credit union awareness in the general community through press releases and ads in their local newspapers.
This year, RCU will donate 25 cents for every Visa credit or debit card transaction to Credit Unions for Kids which supports Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, including their local Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California. “We’ve been doing the CMN donation program for a couple of years now, and each year we see a spike in the number of Member card transactions on that day. In 2013, we contributed over $27,000 and in 2014, over $33,000 as a result of our ICU Day promotion,” said Robin McKenzie, SVP, Marketing & Communications.
In addition, RCU will be giving away water bottles and reusable tote bags in their branches, and running a special Member referral contest for a chance to win $2,015 between the referrer and referee. “We also produced a short, celebratory video featuring employee testimonials and an ICU Day greeting, which will be shared online and through our social media channels beginning Wednesday, October 14,” added McKenzie.
When asked how they embrace “People Helping People,” McKenzie expressed that it’s a vital part of RCU’s overall culture. “ICU Day is just a great opportunity to celebrate how this philosophy sets us apart from other financial institutions.”
A recent example of RCU putting these words into action has been their response to the devastating wildfires in their neighboring counties just one month ago.
RCU partnered with their local newspaper to initiate a fund to help the many victims who lost their homes, businesses, vehicles and other property in the fires. To date, people in their communities have contributed more than $1.8 million to the fund, and so far they have used these monies to:
Provide gift cards for replacing school clothes and supplies to over 350 students, teachers and school staff who lost their homes
Assist first responders who lost their homes while battling the fires and protecting the community
Provide monetary grants to 241 residents who lost their homes to assist with urgent needs such as food and shelter
Provide a grant to help animal and livestock owners to replace enclosures leveled by the fires
RCU is continuing to work with the local politicians and agencies to help residents and rebuild this community while also offering interest-free personal loans, low-rate auto and RV loans, payment relief and other financial assistance to help the fire victims with their needs.
“ICU Day is an opportunity to thank our 250,000 Members for their participation in our cooperative, and to raise public awareness of the many benefits credit unions offer our communities, including affordable financial services and free financial education. Credit unions were founded on the philosophy of ‘people helping people,’ and we continue to be passionate about serving and investing in our local communities,” said McKenzie.
As the state trade association for Georgia, Georgia Credit Union Affiliates (Duluth, GA) has a statewide ICU Day initiative going on throughout October, called Switch to Save. The concept is that consumers across the state should switch their loan to a Georgia credit union to save money.
The month-long campaign allows members and potential members to bring current loan statements to participating credit unions to evaluate whether switching will save them money. Some credit unions will also offer special loan options throughout the month.
Additionally, Gov. Nathan Deal has designated October 15th as Credit Union Day in Georgia when many credit unions will hold festivities and customer appreciation events.
“Georgia credit unions offer advantages like lower loan rates, fewer fees and excellent service to their members all year round,” said Mike Mercer, President and CEO of Georgia Credit Unions Affiliates. “International Credit Union Month is just one way for credit unions to highlight those benefits to people who may not be aware of the advantages of credit union membership, while also expressing gratitude to their current members.”
In addition to receiving the highest marks in the financial services sector, credit unions also serve the greater community through charitable donations and volunteer efforts, raising $3.4 million for Georgia charities in 2014 and donating the equivalent of more than $593,900 in volunteer labor around the state, according to GCUA.
“When it comes to People Helping People, we embrace this all year long with our volunteering at community events, hosting shred days, supporting local organization with donations,” said Liz Mumford, VP, Marketing/PR. “To date we have donated over $11,000 to local as well as national charities, such as special Olympics and the Red Cross.”
The CU also has a program where they help members improve their credit scores by providing personalized credit reviews. Likewise, Barbara Gunterman, Membership and PR Officer, does a great deal of community financial literacy work through a teaching program called Beat of the Street in which she provides financial education to homeless or recently housed. “We also take part in the League’s Connecticut Financial Reality Fairs teaching high school students about money and budgeting and what to expect when they go out into the real world,” added Mumford.
“We always work to follow the ‘People Helping People’ theme,” said Nicole Kaylor, Member Service Representative. “Striving to help our members achieve financial success is our mission.” With an older membership, GEM tries to support them in many ways from monthly statement balancing to holiday treats, to acknowledgment of personal life cycle events. The GEM Jeans Day fund supports Toys for Tots, Horn of Plenty, or provides for families in need. “This year we created our first membership cookbook to commemorate our 75th year - part of the proceeds will be donated to the Domestic Violence Center while a portion goes toward our scholarship fund,” added Kaylor.
Contact your credit union to find out how they’ll be helping others and spreading the credit union word on October 15th in honor of International Credit Union Day 2015!By Cyndi Cohen