Member engagement advocacy, and the questions to ask to improve it
By Seth Brickman, QCash
If the last couple years have taught us anything, it’s the unpredictable nature of the world in which we live. The ever-vulnerable state of the American economy and international relations necessitates that credit unions be particularly receptive to the always-changing needs and desires of their members.
In highly-commoditized industries like finance, credit unions must emphasize their cooperative, member-owned philosophy of business through superior service and heightened member engagement.
And they need to be, because for-profit banking institutions are always on the prowl to find ways to delegitimize the credit union movement or prick holes in the fabric of the advantageous financial inclusion and health programs cooperatives offer. Fortunately, the very DNA of the credit union movement represents all the financial tools and services we need to fend off their disinformation campaigns and positively affect the underserved in their communities.
In an economic downturn, relationship banking, or member-first banking, is more important than ever. It requires credit unions to continually reexamine, reconsider, and reprioritize the member assistance provided, especially as digital banking channels have come to dominate members’ daily banking habits. According to J.D. Power’s 2022 U.S. Retail Banking Study, consumers value and remain more loyal to those financial institutions that offer a more meaningful experience and make concerted efforts to support them during tough economic times. The study found that 63 percent of individuals said if this level of support is provided by their financial institution, they “definitely will not switch [financial institutions], and 78 percent says they definitely will reuse.”
Member engagement only enhances credit unions’ distinctness
Even as 78 percent of consumers are satisfied with their financial institution and the support they receive, engagement is still falling short.
Just 54 percent of consumers agree their financial institution tries to engage with them to understand their needs, even fewer(43 percent) claim there is someone at their primary FI they consistently speak with when they need solutions to financial questions. Whether those findings suggest the need for enhanced digital communications accessibility or in-person counseling, organizational executives must continually explore further avenues for member engagement and better institutional advocacy, overall.
Questions to ask to enhance credit union advocacy
Nationwide polling confirmed credit unions are better at improving financial well-being for their members than banks.
“It’s incredible to see that the average consumer, who knows how hard it can be to make their money work for them, recognizes credit unions as the best partner to keep them financially well,” said CUNA Chief Economist Mike Schenk. “The data has been there to show the billions of dollars credit unions return to their members and their communities, but it’s very meaningful to see folks recognize credit unions as a force for good.”
As stated earlier, however, the credit union movement is consistently challenged by other, far more wealthy, for-profit institutions. If cooperatives wish to advocate for their ideals and interests by staying faithful to “people helping people,” change and innovation must be a constant. That change must center around organizational leadership answering questions like the following:
- How much more money do your members find they have in their pockets or account holdings by virtue of your credit union’s very existence in their neighborhoods and communities?
- How well is your credit union serving your members, especially those living in rural or economically depressed areas? How well are you serving your members at every income level and quality of credit?
- Has your credit union considered applying for CDFI status?
- Does your credit union serve an inordinately high rate of ethnically-diverse populations? How does diversity strengthen your community?
- How many jobs and careers has your cooperative created in your neighborhoods and communities?
- How much has your credit union contributed to your communities’ gross domestic product?
Every cooperative should schedule consistent time to measure the answers to these questions. Doing so not only offers a more accurate measurement of success for your cooperative in the credit union market, but it directly advocates for the value credit unions deliver to their members. By understanding their direct impact on their membership and communities, credit unions can plan and execute the initiatives, DEI efforts, and reporting updates that will improve their financial health goals.
QCash Financial, a CUSO, is a fintech firm that is mission-driven to empower financial institutions in their quest to improve the financial well-being of their communities by providing loans to their members in under 60 seconds without the use of a credit score. The QCash platform is the best tool for advancing financial inclusion and access for credit union members.