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Seven Principles Blog
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In 1844, a small group of weavers from Rochdale, England created the blueprint for how their newly-formed cooperative would operate and serve the local community. These values, known as the Seven Cooperative Principles, serve as the operating guidebook for credit unions and cooperatives throughout the world. This blog was created to honor that legacy and to showcase the everyday efforts of credit unions in the Carolinas that embody the cooperative mission and purpose.


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Principle 7: Fort Bragg FCU provides "thank you" cards to local Fisher House

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Friday, February 07, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 10, 2014
Pictured: David Elliott (FBFCU) and Fisher House Manager Lorie Southerland.

Principle Seven: Concern for community. Since credit unions are locally-owned financial institutions, they are committed to investing in the community. 

Fort Bragg Federal Credit Union (FBFCU) and the Armed Forces Financial Network (AFFN) gave $1,000 in prepaid AFFN ‘Thank You’ Cards to military families at the Fort Bragg Fisher House. These cards are in $50.00 denominations and may be used everywhere AFFN point-of-sale is accepted worldwide.

The cards will help military family members with everyday living expenses as they reside in their "home away from home” at the Fisher House. The Fisher House is designed and decorated just like a real home, which brings comfort to those who stay there.

"The Fisher House accommodates people who are in need while their families are receiving medical care from Womack Army Medical Center,” stated FBFCU President/CEO David Elliott. To learn more about the Fisher House, visit

Tags:  Fort Bragg FCU  Principle Seven 

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Guest Post: The Fifth Principle – Education, Training and Information – by Terri Hendrix, SC Telco FCU

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Tuesday, February 04, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Principle Five: Education, training, and information. Credit unions provide financial education to their members as well as the communities they serve.

(Editor’s note: SC Telco FCU Community Relations Manager Terri Hendrix recently traveled to Brazil as part of the World Council of Credit Unions’ International CU Leadership Program (ICULP). Hendrix shares her key takeaways from this visit, which took place January 13-24, 2014 at numerous SICREDI credit union locations in the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Parana, Brazil.)

Terri Hendrix (far left) of SC Telco FCU is pictured with Brazilian & US credit union representatives during her recent visit to Sicredi Central, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
Participating in World Council of Credit Unions’ International Credit Union Leadership Program exchange with Brazil opened my eyes to the value of providing cooperative education and training to members.

In Brazil, credit unions view themselves as cooperatives first and financial institutions second. For example, after joining each member is invited back to the branch for an orientation on cooperative principles and is versed on the responsibilities of being a credit union member (and not just products/services/rates of the credit union).

After the orientation, if the member likes this ‘cooperative’ method and wants further involvement, they can sign up for additional courses that prepare them to serve as nuclei coordinators. These coordinators share information from the management and board throughout the membership base, and provide feedback to credit union management. Depending on the size of the credit union, a nuclei coordinator group could have as many as 800 or 900 members.

The nuclei coordinators take their tasks very seriously. Despite term limits for this volunteer position, credit unions have a steady pipeline of educated members willing to serve. Credit unions in Brazil don’t neglect the children either. They are in hundreds of classrooms each year teaching the next generation the benefits of exercising the cooperative principles.

This sounds like a really good idea, one that we should implement immediately. But then other thoughts began to creep in: ‘Why would we want to educate our members on what a cooperative is?, ’ and ‘Would members accept the responsibility of ownership in the credit cooperative?’

Those are interesting questions, but I wonder what our credit union system be like if we all concentrated on educating members regarding the rights and privileges of cooperative ownership? It seems to me one benefit would be a more engaged membership when it comes to legislative threats. Members who understood what a cooperative is and how it is different would be lighting up the phones, email, Twitter and Facebook demanding THEIR cooperative not be federally taxed! Our efforts nationally would be enhanced 10-fold!

This education can also help with strategic planning and direction. Wouldn’t it be easier for credit union boards and management to outline a strategic path when the membership itself has communicated upwards what they need and want? Members would better understand what the credit union is capable of offering to them in the form of services and products. And don’t forget individual member growth and advancement because of this sense of duty to learn and make better financial choices for themselves and their families. A strong, knowledgeable membership base can only make the credit union itself stronger.

Many credit unions do an excellent job of educating and informing their members, but we need to teach the cooperative principles – to members and non-members alike. Our young people need to know there is a better alternative for financial services, one that puts them in the driver’s seat and offers a fair shake in return for making a commitment to cooperate.

Credit unions that live by this principal of cooperative education and expect members to take ownership seriously will in my view be the better for it. Maybe like the Brazilians we need to say, "A vida é melhor quando é cooperativa”Life is better when we cooperate.

Growing up in the rural northwestern corner of Spartanburg County, Terri learned at an early age the positive impact that credit unions could have on the average working family. Her mother, an industrial nurse at the local carpet plant, was a member of the credit union. Through the years this small, local credit union financed her first car, made college expenses manageable through savings, and gave her a solid financial foundation on which to build a life.

Since those early years, she has spent most of her adult life promoting the benefits of credit union membership. In addition to her job duties on the state and local level to promote SC Telco in a positive image, Terri, a Credit Union Development Educator/ International Credit Union Development Educator has participated in the World Council of Credit Unions' International Credit Union Leadership Program in Brazil; served as a technical adviser to credit societies in Malawi, Africa, and hosted credit union interns from Latvia, Lithuania and the Dominican Republic. Terri is also a credit union advocate, serving on the Governmental Affairs Committee for the Carolinas CU League. She also serves as the CULAC trustee for South Carolina.

Tags:  Cooperation  Principle Five  SC Telco FCU  World Council of Credit Unions 

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Principle 5: High school students get a dose of financial reality from Members CU

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 16, 2014

Principle Five: Education, training, and information. Credit unions provide financial education to their members as well as the communities they serve.

Principle Seven: Concern for community. Since credit unions are locally owned financial institutions, they are committed to investing in the community.

 Jon Hamby tells students what their food options are at
the "Gotta Eat” station. It is up to the students to decide
how much to spend on groceries and dining out.
Davie High School hosted four Financial Reality Fairs for a total of 174 High School Students. The program called Mad City Money, sponsored by the Winston-Salem based Members Credit Union, is a two hour interactive simulation that provides students with a glimpse of what it’s like to be an adult managing personal and family finances.

The program first took place on Monday, January 6 for 48 students and then was repeated three times on Thursday, January 9 for 40 to 46 students at a time. Each student was given a new identity with a family, occupation, salary, debt, and medical insurance co-payments and challenged to make financial decisions to meet their family’s needs. (Note: see event coverage in the Winston-Salem Journal by clicking here.)

"Financial literacy is important for high school students because in the very near future they will be responsible for their own finances, and many of them have very little knowledge of how to manage money or what their everyday expenses will consist of,” remarked Paula O’Rorke, Business Education Teacher at Davie High School. "The pressure from direct marketing solicitations to take on credit card debt, and the trend in student loan obligations make it even more important for students to understand the impact debt will make on their lives.”

To demonstrate how debt affects their lives in the simulation, students were instructed to visit nine stations regarding housing, transportation, clothing, food, day care, entertainment, discretionary items, savings contributions, and credit card payments to buy what their family needed while staying within a budget. They were also required to purchase items based on the size of their family and the age of their children. At each event there were 20 to 24 volunteers and many of them played the high-pressure sales person role at a station, encouraging students to buy higher priced items.

According to Jon Hamby, a volunteer who sold grocery and dining out options at the "Gotta Eat” station, students were surprised at the cost to feed a family. "Most of the students realized that feeding their family is more expensive than they thought and chose the least expensive option in order to stretch their monthly budget,” said Hamby.

The goal for participants was to stay within their budget but have no more than $100 in their checking account after they completed all of the reality fair requirements. During the simulation, students were encouraged to visit the Members Credit Union station to make contributions to a savings account, open a retirement account, pay down credit card debt, and seek advice if they experienced financial trouble or had more than $100 left in their checking account. Eric Stiff, VP at Members Credit Union volunteered at this station.

"One student started out at the entertainment station and bought over $3,000 worth of vacations. I explained to him why he needed to return some entertainment items and live within his budget,” recalled Stiff. "I think the light bulb went off and he realized that he must pay his obligations before spending money on entertainment. When he returned to the credit union station at the end of the session he had over $1,000 to put into savings and he paid off his credit card debt.”

Members Public Relations Director Carla Kimel shared that these events provide several takeaways for students. "The hands on experience provided by the Financial Reality Fair made budgeting a tangible concept for students. Students from the financial management and math classes that participated were able to take what they have learned all year in school and apply that knowledge to a real life situation. Many students were surprised about the cost to raise a family and considered expenses that they have yet to deal with in real life."

Members Credit Union has also coordinated financial reality fairs with High School Students at Surry Central High School and seventh graders at North Davie Middle School. There is also an in-class financial literacy seminar program available for educators that can’t offer two hours for a reality fair during the school day. To find out how you can work with Members Credit Union to bring financial literacy to your school or youth program call 336-748-4594.

Tags:  Members Credit Union  Principle Five  Principle Seven 

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Principle 6: Cooperative effort to bring national CUDE program to the Carolinas

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 16, 2014

Principle Six: Cooperation among cooperatives. Credit unions work together to improve services to members and build sustainable communities.

The Carolinas Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE) group, which represents a coalition of nearly 50 CUDEs in both Carolinas, will assist the National Credit Union Foundation in hosting the first-ever Winter DE program later this month. The event takes place January 21-28, 2014 at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill.

A staple credit union program for more than 30 years, CUDE training is open to everyone from new employees who need a credit union orientation to seasoned executives who need to recharge. Participants cite many benefits of attending DE training, including:

  • Acquiring skills in credit union outreach initiatives, problem solving, technical assistance, team building, and public presentations.
  • Becoming a part of a networking group including over 1,000 graduates across America and 30 other countries.
  • The realization that local issues are indeed global – and that credit unions grow stronger by working cooperatively.
  • A new understanding of how to promote cooperative principles and credit union values as distinct advantages in today’s competitive financial services marketplace.

Assisted by volunteer facilitators and mentors from across the country, NCUF will provide the CUDE curriculum to 48 participants, including three from Africa. Sixteen participants from North and South Carolina will also participate in the Winter DE class.

The Carolina CUDEs will provide volunteer support to the National Credit Union Foundation throughout the week-long event, including transportation and on-site facilitation of the core curriculum.

"We’re thrilled to be able to offer a third CUDE program, and sincerely appreciate the Carolina DEs for their assistance in coordinating this new offering,” shared Lois Kitsch, NCUF’s Program Director for the CUDE Program. "Credit unions succeed by working together, and their volunteer efforts will impact the lives of each person attending Winter DE.”

The CUDE program concludes with project presentations and graduation on Tuesday, January 28. Credit union staff are welcome to attend this event, which takes place from 10:00 am until 3:30 pm. For more information, please contact Lois Kitsch.

Tags:  Credit Union Development Education  National CU Foundation 

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Principle 3: SAFE FCU returns $2 million to members

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Friday, January 10, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 10, 2014

Principle Three: Member economic participation. The more members use the credit union, the more both the members and the cooperative benefit.  

SAFE Federal Credit Union members received extra benefits December 31, 2013 when bonus dividends and loan interest rebates totaling $2.0 million were posted to accounts. Deposit accounts, including certificates, received a 20 percent bonus based on dividends received in 2013. Loan accounts (except credit cards) received a 7 percent interest rebate based on total interest paid in 2013.

"The unique structure and philosophy of credit unions makes it possible for our Board of Directors to declare year-end bonus returns,” said SAFE President/CEO Beverly A. Gagne. Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives owned solely by members, so borrowers and savers alike share in the earnings, she explained, adding that credit union balance sheets are not affected by the volatility of the stock market.

"We are delighted to be able to provide this ‘extra return’ to our members, on top of the competitive rates they have received all year,” Gagne continued. "We can’t think of a better way to say to our members that at SAFE, membership matters.”

SAFE has paid bonus dividends annually for the past 18 years and loan interest rebates for the past eleven years.

"We appreciate our members’ support of SAFE and thank them for making 2013 successful despite the rocky economy,” added Gagne. "While some other institutions have been severely tested this past year, SAFE reported solid earnings, core financial strength, and loan growth. This is just one of the ways we share our success with the members who made it possible.”

Tags:  Pee Dee Chapter  SAFE FCU 

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