The credit union movement is steeped in a rich history of collaboration across divides. For nearly two centuries, financial cooperatives have encouraged people of every race, gender, and belief to come together and give their all towards the betterment of their communities. It’s about people helping people. That’s why credit unions always offer a platinum lining.
This year, on October 18th, we’re celebrating International Credit Union Day’s platinum anniversary, a chance to look back after 70 years and be thankful for the lives and communities that have been improved by the unique principles and actions of our movement. What are some of these unique principles and actions?
1. Credit unions stand for financial inclusion, equal benefit, and financial sustainability through our service to members. What does this mean? It means that anyone can be a credit union member! Some credit unions have specific guidelines for membership in their charter. At Clackamas, if you live, work, worship, or go to school in Clackamas County – you’re eligible for membership!
Investing for equal benefit means that members invest in the organization through being active members. When co-ops profit, members profit – small investments reward in the long run. It also means that credit unions strive for their services to improve the economic and social well-being of all members.
Because members are investing their funds and actively contributing to economic growth, credit unions take financial sustainability very seriously. A prime concern is financial strength, adequate reserves, and internal controls that ensure continued service to membership.
2. One of the biggest things that makes credit unions different is our structure. Credit unions are owned by the consumers who use their services – so all members are owners of the cooperative financial institution. Credit unions are autonomous, private enterprises serving and controlled by their members.
What goes hand-in-hand with being member owned? Credit unions are member controlled! We are democratic – members elect their board representatives and participate in governance. Elected representatives are accountable to the membership. Credit union members enjoy equal rights to vote – one member, one vote. This voting principle is designed to ensure that the cooperative institution responds to the demands of its wider membership.
3. At their core, credit unions are about people helping people – this comes from a deep-rooted commitment to social responsibility. Financial literacy education is a main component of this commitment. Credit unions provide relevant education to their members, and employees share that education with the public. Credit unions want to provide members with skill sets and knowledge that allows them to make informed decisions regarding their finances.
Credit unions support the growth of a just, healthy, and prosperous community within which the credit union and its members reside. Credit unions aim to be contributing members of their communities. This includes supporting local non-profits financially and by volunteering, and participating in community events.
Another piece of social responsibility is network cooperation. In keeping with their philosophy, credit unions and other cooperative institutions cooperate with one another at local, national, and international levels to best serve their members and their communities. This vision embodies building, defending, and growing a global community that improves lives through cooperative financial institutions.
We will be celebrating the 70th anniversary of International Credit Union Day in our branches on October 18th. Stop by your local branch, grab a cookie, and celebrate your membership!