I’m not sure that everyone who is a credit union member is familiar with just what it means. Do you know why you’re a member? You probably are, if you’re sitting down to read this. But I would hazard the guess that there are many others who don’t really know why they’re a member.
For some, it might be where their family has been banking for decades. For others, it might be because their employer supports one. And for others, it might be that the credit union is right down the street.
All of those are valid reasons for being a credit union member, but there are other things that make it something to be proud of. As a credit union member, you are in an elite group making a real difference in your community.
And that community can be whatever size you want it to be. Credit unions make a difference in their local neighbourhood, but by working with other credit unions across the province, the country, or even the world, they make a difference wherever they are needed.
And at their core, credit unions act as financial cooperatives involved in offering banking services to their members.
They aren’t the only type of cooperative enterprises out there (coops for short). There are worker coops, food coops, farming coops, etc. The list goes on.
The Seven Cooperative Principles
Did you know that there is actually a set of cooperative principles maintained and shared by the International Cooperative Alliance. These seven principles are:
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Member economic participation
- Autonomy and independence
- Education, training and information
- Co-operation between co-operatives
- Concern for community
Let’s spend some time looking at each of these principles to understand it in the context of your local, much-beloved credit union, where you feel at home the moment you walk in the door.
But before I continue, I want to take a moment to acknowledge this handout prepared by Synergy Credit Union in Saskatchewan – the birthplace of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. But again, that’s another story…
Seven Cooperative Principles
Voluntary and open membership
What it means to you: No matter what your financial situation looks like, the door is open, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
Isn’t it nice to know that when you walk through the door, you’ll be accepted for who you are? I know I appreciate it.
Democratic member control
What it means to you: You help call the shots by electing a board of directors. One member equals one vote. This is local democracy in action.
And when you get your invitation to attend the general meeting and vote for your board of directors, you have just as much say as the person sitting next to you, no matter how much either of you have invested in your credit union. Not exactly the message you would hear if you were to go to one of the big bank’s annual meetings.
Member economic participation
What it means to you: Better rates, lower fees and services that benefit the entire credit
union. The more that members participate, the more there is to go around.
This is something else you don’t see from the banks. When things go well, the only people cheering are the shareholders.
Autonomy and independence
What it means to you: As a financial co-operative, your credit union is controlled by real members like you, instead of outside shareholders.
Power in your hands and in those of your neighbours. That’s a comforting feeling.
Education, training and information
What it means to you: Access to financial literacy tools and resources. Credit unions believe that education contributes to personal growth.
Lessons in personal finance, for saving, borrowing, or investing, help you live more stress-free and on top of your games than you would otherwise. And besides, don’t you think the coffee and donuts are a nice touch?
Co-operation between co-operatives
What it means to you: Your credit union strengthens the co-operative movement by partnering with organizations that share the same important values.
There is comfort in the knowledge that there are credit unions like yours all across the country (and around the world) out there sharing your values working with you to promote those values.
Concern for community
What it means to you: Knowing that your day-to-day banking translates into benefits for charities, local businesses and the entire community.
By being a member of your local credit union, you are contributing to your community. Whether that is through supporting local business or contributing to local charities, you’re supporting your own community.
What does all this mean?
If you are a member of your local credit union, stand up and be proud. You deserve the credit. (Get it? Teehee)
This is a message to be shared. In the same way that we share these values.